The orgin of Nittany is questionable. However, most people believe it to come from a Native American term meaning, "single mountain."The description applied to the mountain that separates what is today Penns Valley and Nittany Valley, with its western end overlooking the community of State College and Penn Sate's University Park campus.
Nittany Mountain is part of Pennsylvania geologic ridge-and-valley province of the Appalachian Mountains. To the northwest, it is approximately paralleled by Muncy Mountain (more popularly known as Bald Eagle Ridge), and between the two lies the Nittany Valley. Nittany Mountain rises as high as 2,077 feet above sea level, and towers 800 feet or more over the valley.
Joe Mason and the Mascot
The Nittany Lion as Penn State’s mascot originated with Harrison D. "Joe" Mason ’07. At a baseball game against Princeton in 1904, Mason and other members of Penn State’s team were shown a statue of Princeton's famous Bengal tiger as an indication of the merciless treatment they could expect to encounter on the field. Since Penn State lacked a mascot, Mason replied with an instant fabrication of the Nittany Lion, "fiercest beast of them all," who could overcome even the tiger. Penn State went on to defeat Princeton that day. Over the next few years, Mason's "Nittany Lion" won such widespread support among students, alumni, and fans that there was never any official vote on its adoption.
The Nittany Lion is essentially an ordinary mountain lion (also known as a cougar, puma, or panther), a creature that roamed central Pennsylvania until the 1880s (although unconfirmed sightings continued long after that time). By attaching the prefix "Nittany" to this beast, Mason gave Penn State a unique symbol that no other college or university could claim.
Nittany Lion Shrine The Class of 1940 presented a gift of a Nittany Lion sculpted from a large block of Indiana limestone to Penn State in 1942. The work of noted sculptor Heinz Warneke, the crouching, powerful figure is now the popular Nittany Lion Shrine, located near the Recreation Building on the University Park campus. It is said to be the most photographed site on the campus.
Nittany Lion Inn The Nittany Lion Inn, which opened its doors in 1931, offers traditional Penn State hospitality in a beautiful setting on the University Park campus.