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90 Years of the Huskies: The Story of Roongo

Whether it is riling up the crowds at football games or making an appearance supporting an on-campus event, Roongo the husky is a frequent sight to many on campus. Last Friday, the university hosted a birthday celebration, marking 90 years of husky history for Bloomsburg campus. In that time period, Bloomsburg saw five live dogs and five costumes take on the role of the beloved mascot. 

It all started on October 9th, 1933, when a vote was held to decide on a mascot for the athletic teams of Bloomsburg University. In a near-unanimous decision, the student body voted for the husky, chosen for qualities of determination and grit. 

The vote was initially proposed by art professor, George Keller. Keller had a love for animals and began raising huskies at his home in town. It was one of these huskies that he would donate to the school. A name was chosen by faculty members, Elna H. Nelson and John Koch, who decided to combine the school’s colors, and so the first husky was named Roongo I.

In fact, there would be a total of two other live huskies who would take on the mantle of Roongo I. The first appearance at a pep rally in October before the first home game against Indiana. Roongo, the first, would represent various sporting events while sporting a maroon blanket with huskies written in gold letters on its sides. Unfortunately, Roongo I caught pneumonia and died on November 27, 1935. Roongo I would be followed by three more of Keller’s huskies named Garou, Roongo II, and Metik.

Roongo III would arrive on campus in May of 1950, serving for nearly a decade. However, soon the cost of providing for Roongo III would rise to $600 a year. CGA ultimately handed Roongo III over to Phi Sigma Pi in 1958, who cared for her until her death in 1959. She would be the last official canine mascot of Bloomsburg.

Then, from the time of Roongo III’s death until 1979, there was no mascot for Bloomsburg. That was until October 6th, 1979, when the first husky mascot costume was unveiled at Redman Stadium. However, this costume was not known as Roongo, instead being referred to simply as The Husky. The first costume would be in use for four years until 1983, when at a Parent’s Day football game, a new costume was revealed. However, this one proved controversial as it did not resemble a husky, sporting a bright gold coat and white belly with a large B with three maroon polka dots. In an article written by The Voice, it was referred to as the “Golden Weasel.”

Two more suits would follow in 1985 and 2002. Paul Clifford wore the suit and played the role of The Husky for 2 1/2 years from 1994 to 1996. He got his start playing football, where he was given the chance to wear the costume for the following basketball season before returning to wear the costume for the next two football seasons.

“It gave me the opportunity to represent my university in a different way,” Clifford said, before mentioning that some of his favorite moments were stealing the other team’s flags at sporting events. 

Then in 2005, the suit known throughout campus today was revealed after being flown to Redman Stadium in a helicopter. This costume also marked the official return of Roongo, with the suit being given the name. University Archivist Robert Dunkelberger spoke about the new suit, citing that it emerged after Bloomsburg’s current logo was created.

“They finally decided to order a costume that looked like our logo so the two would match up,” Dunkelberger said. 

Bridget Hilferity, Bloomsburg’s head swim coach, was offered the chance to be Roongo in March of 2015, when the women’s basketball team was in the PSAC quarterfinal. She would ultimately wear the costume on and off for about five years. In that time, she had a lot of fun memories.

In an email, she stated, “…[W]hen Bashar [Hanna] was named the Bloomsburg president and we had the welcome party… I was Roongo for that special occasion.”

On Roongo’s 90th birthday, she said, “Roongo is an old man. Roongo turning 90 is amazing. The 90th birthday shows pride and passion for BU.”

Max Duretz, wore the costume for four and a half years as the longest tenure in the school’s history. Speaking of his time, he said, “It meant everything. Just being able to have such a unique experience and role while attending Bloomsburg was something I wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world. Yes, we were just small division two or three school, but I treated it like I was in the pros. I could have been a mascot anywhere, but I fell in love with the job at Bloomsburg.”

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Caleb Brown, Howl Editor

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    Dave Gerber ‘60Feb 22, 2024 at 5:53 PM

    I was there in 1956 to 1959. I loved Rungo I and hoped I could have been his care taker. Little did I know the history. Love it.