Longest Tenured Nittany Lion Mascot Robert Ritzmann Dies At 95

Penn State alumnus Robert Ritzmann passed away at the age of 95 on April 7. He was the oldest living Penn State alum who wore the Nittany Lion mascot, a role he filled from 1942 to 1945, the longest tenure in school history, per his obituary.

During his time as a Penn State student, Ritzmann earned a degree in commercial chemistry in 1944 and a second in chemical engineering two years later. He was the first student to don the famous Nittany Lion costume after the Lion Shrine was constructed and officially dedicated by the university in 1942.

Ritzmann served in the US Navy during World War II before being honorably discharged in 1945. He told the Centre Daily Times in 2014 that he returned to Penn State to complete his second degree and, of course, for one last ride as the Nittany Lion.

“One of the great things about being the Lion, it’s like a masquerade ball,” he said, according to the CDT. “No one knows who you are, so you can get away with anything you want inside that lion. I was an introvert chemical engineer. When I got into that thing, I could do anything, and no one knew who it was.”

According to his obituary, Ritzmann’s memorial service will take place at “a later date” at Faith United Church of Christ on College Ave. in State College. Ritzmann is survived by his sons John and Laurence, his daughter Jean, three half-sisters, one half-brother, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Onward State would like to extend its thoughts and well-wishes to the entire Ritzmann family during this difficult time.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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