On Milo's birthday, CU Denver celebrates pride embodied in mascot
One year ago, the name meant nothing to CU Denver. But as he celebrates his first birthday, Milo the Lynx, our feline friend with the omnipresent grin, bright green eyes, bewitching ear tufts, dazzling dance moves and enthusiastic Facebook following, has become a campus celebrity and a driving force in the creation of campus unity.
“A senior in high school called me and asked if she could try out to be Milo if she decided to attend CU Denver. So yes, Milo has become a recruitment tool!”
Brett Lagerblade, Club Sports Coordinator
“I sleep with a stuffed Milo. I really do. True story.”
Lubna Mazin, Student Government Association, Vice President
“I personally have a new Milo wardrobe. I’ve got the T-shirt, the polo, the cardigan, the hat. First time in my 18 years here that I own CU Denver wear.”
Joanne Addison, PhD
Chair, Faculty Assembly and Associate Professor, English Department
“Of course Milo deserves a party. He’s united everyone on campus and made us proud to be part of this community.”
Lauren Lynch, Student Event Programmer, Office of Student Life
“I love Milo. He symbolizes our students’ efforts to build a sense of community at CU Denver.”
Raul Cardenas, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Milo: A long time coming
The idea of a mascot had floated around CU Denver for at least six years before 2011, when Ronson Fox, Student Government Association president, and Natalia Gayou, chair of events and planning, decided to put some teeth into the talk. What followed were months of meetings, focus groups, surveys, votes by students, faculty, staff and alumni, more focus groups, more discussion and ultimately the vote to name the Canada lynx as CU Denver’s official mascot animal. The wild cat had disappeared from Colorado in about 1973 but was reintroduced into the state in 1999.
Integrative biology student Juliana Valera won a campus competition to name the new mascot with her hybrid suggestion of “Milo,” combining “Mile High City” with “Lower Downtown,” a name that reminds everyone of CU Denver’s unique location in the heart of Denver.
“Milo has been a great addition to our CU Denver community,” said Chancellor Don Elliman. “I think it’s particularly telling that he was born from the initiative and creativity of our students.”
Milo: The staff and the entourage
Since his debut in February 2013, Milo has become so popular that he needs a staff and entourage. Lagerblade schedules Milo’s appearances and coordinates six (soon to be seven) performers who “channel” Milo for the public. Since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, Milo has made about 85 appearances at everything from the Block Party, where he sported 70’s tie-dye in honor of the university’s anniversary, to a special visit with dancers from Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Lagerblade anticipates he will appear at 150 events by the end of the school year.
Milo’s “handler” helps him navigate in crowds, gives him breaks when he needs them and carries water to help him rehydrate during demanding appearances.
Lagerblade’s regular job involves developing and managing the nascent club sports program (“Club Sports is my first child. Milo is my second child.”), and initially he thought a mascot might not succeed in a school that lacks intercollegiate sports. “I realize now that’s not the case,” Lagerblade said. “Having Milo is about school pride, with or without sports.”
Milo: The momentum
One of the first things Joanne Addison, PhD, did in her new role as chair of the faculty assembly was invite Milo to visit the first faculty meeting of the year. The faculty members were “pleasantly surprised” by the guest appearance and welcomed Milo with a round of applause.
“There is an emerging vibrant campus life [at CU Denver],”Addison said. “Milo is the image of that and so it’s important that faculty be connected to him.”
Addison remembers voting for Milo in an effort to support students’ efforts to build a campus community. But she confesses that she never would have predicted how quickly Milo has gained traction at CU Denver. Now, when she visits her colleagues on the Boulder Campus where, she says, it seems that half the faculty members are wearing Buffs gear or carrying Buffs coffee mugs, Addison can sport her Milo the Lynx wardrobe, sending a message about a new trend at CU Denver.
“[Milo] is a sign that we’re all headed toward the same goal—our desire to help students learn and be successful,” she said.
Junior Lubna Mazin confesses that she had hoped the mascot would be a “bigger animal—maybe a moose or an elk.” But Mazin says that Milo has grown on her. “When he walks into a room, people’s faces light up,” Mazin said. “He draws people out, he makes everyone laugh, and he pulls people from different backgrounds and different areas of study together.”
Sophomore Lauren Lynch organized the committee to celebrate Milo’s first birthday. She believes that CU Denver students, many of whom commute to campus, are looking for ways to connect to each other, to events and to their school. “When people see Milo’s face and feel his energy at different events, the culture shifts,” Lynch said. “Milo makes it easier for students to get involved.”