Written by: Emma Rodriguez
Southern Adventist University’s newly-approved bear mascot welcomed students at this semester’s Organization Showcase, and Student Association (SA) officially introduced the bear at Convocation earlier this month. However, more than three decades ago, Southern had another mascot, not a bear or a duck, but a dinosaur named Dobber. The Accent investigated the history of this unique character’s presence on campus.
The 1991-1992 SA created Dobber as an unofficial mascot. Its bright green fur costume was made by Lezlee Walters, a local seamstress and now Pathways coordinator for the School of Business and Management. However, the mascot was the brainchild of Mike Magursky, who was the Strawberry Festival co-editor that school year. He has since passed away.
Sherrie Williams, then Strawberry Festival director of photography and current communications director for the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, told the Accent about Dobber, whom she described as a popular mascot on campus. The dinosaur appeared at sporting events, parties and other school functions.
Dobber made his debut to the student body at the 1991 Welcome Back Party, where his entrance song was “Walk The Dinosaur” by Was (Not Was). He was also featured in publications like the Southern Accent.
The dinosaur appeared at sporting events, parties and other school functions.
Williams discovered the identity of Dobber through a stroke of luck, she told the Accent. She found herself in the right place at the right time in a room where she knew Dobber had been. It was a hot day, and a person walked in dripping with sweat, and Williams’ first thought was, “That’s Dobber.”
“So I said, ‘Do you enjoy being Dobber?’” Williams said. “They stopped and stared at me, wondering how I knew. I said, ‘It was a lucky guess.’”
After Williams learned who one of the people inside the costume was, she started to be the person to carry Dobber’s tail around.
“There were two people that were inside Dobber, and, along with the SA social vice, those were the only three people that knew who was in it,” Williams said. “We have not revealed who was in Dobber, even to this day.”
In December of 1991, Dobber, Williams and other SA officers were attending Southern’s Christmas party. When it was time to leave, Williams noticed that they were being followed by the other SA officers, curious to know who was inside the costume. Williams and the other “insiders” quickly took Dobber to Williams’ house and hid him in the basement. While people were waiting outside for them to come out, Williams drove off in her car in another direction to lead the dinosaur hunters away.
Although popular, Dobber was not easy to wear. It was Magursky and Williams who drew a sketch of Dobber and talked to Walters about the logistics of making the costume. They discussed how the mascot would be worn, how the person would breathe, how long the tail should be and even the number of chest hairs he would have.
In an interview with the Accent, Walters said, “Dobber was one of several hundred sewing projects I did that year. It was made of bright chartreuse green fur I found at the fur outlet in Rossville, Georgia. It wasn’t solid; it was kinda speckled or mottled with green and yellow, and when I saw it, it said ‘Dinosaur!’ I sewed it and stuffed it into shape.”
Once the costume was finished, it became clear to the SA officers that it was a bit challenging to don. Walters said the fur was hot and heavy, and the wearer sweated buckets. Walters called it a “miserable costume to wear.”
Because of this, wearers were limited to 15 minutes in the costume at a time.
“He zipped up the back, underneath the tail, and you had to get up in him,” Williams said. “There was a snorkel that you would put in your mouth, and it had a long tube that came out his tail. That was how whoever was in it would breathe.”
Dobber’s life as Southern’s unofficial mascot was short-lived. After the school year of 1991-1992, he retired. The exact reason for his retirement is unknown, but it is possible that the heat and discomfort of the costume were simply too much for the wearers. However, Williams revealed that she found Dobber years after graduating, and he remains with her in storage to this day.
“It was probably ten years later when I found out where he was. He was dirty, muddy, and they had lost his clothes,” Williams said. “And so, I was just like, ‘Ok, if he is just gonna rot somewhere, I want him.’ And so, I ended up with him. He lives at my house.”
Despite his brief tenure, Dobber remains a fond memory for many Southern alumni, according to both Williams and Walters. They said he was a symbol of the school’s spirit and sense of community, a reminder that even small things can make a big impact.