Back to Top

Celebrating Polar Bear Day: A historical look at Klondike

Klondike is a popular figure across campus. He is always seen at community events, welcoming guests to campus for fun activities. (photo/Office of Communications & Marketing)

Klondike is a popular figure across campus. He is always seen at community events, welcoming guests to campus for fun activities. (photo/Office of Communications & Marketing)

International Polar Bear Day is observed on February 27. It’s a day to learn more about the endangered species and conservation efforts to preserve the arctic animals.

Polar bears weigh up to 1,400 pounds and can reach a height of nine feet. Their large front paws, slightly webbed, assist in their ability to swim hundreds of miles away from land. But because of global warming, sheets of ice are shrinking, forcing polar bears to swim for longer periods of time, leading many to die from starvation and exhaustion.

Animal rights organizations use this day to raise awareness of the declining number of polar bears. Fans of the furry creatures celebrate these beautiful animals—including Ohio Northern University students, faculty and staff members.

Born on March 16, 1923, ONU’s own Polar Bear, Klondike, is the official mascot for the university. Klondike was chosen as the mascot after an overwhelming vote by the student body to personify the spirit and weather of ONU, replacing the original mascot—a goat.

The late G. Walter Eighmy, a 1926 alumnus, gave this eyewitness account of the birth of Klondike on campus:

It happened at Lehr Auditorium. President Albert Edwin Smith, Dr. Thomas J. Smull, Dr. James Otto Newton, and other members of the faculty asked the student body for suggestions to name a university mascot. After several recommendations, I remember a football player, Anthony Muto, who sat behind me, stood up and said, ‘I suggest the name of Polar Bear. It is big, strong and is all white for purity.’ After much applause it was unanimously approved.”

Klondike’s mascot costume has changed eleven times since 1923. ONU’s brand design with the polar bear has also changed significantly six times throughout history, with the most recent graphic displaying Klondike’s paws—a symbol that ONU leaves its mark and handprint in students’ hearts.

Klondike is a popular figure around campus. Members of the campus community, alumni, prospective students, and visitors frequently spot the mascot at community events to cheer on the Polar Bears toward victory. While the identities of the students behind the mask remain a secret until commencement, it’s always fun to see the white fur ball hanging around campus.