Bethel’s new mascot poses with a young fan.

The air was charged with energy and excitement during the first chapel service of the year. Students cheered and the room came unglued as Vice President for Student Development Shawn Holtgren ’95, Ph.D., made the big announcement.

“Would you like to meet someone new?” Holtgren asked the student body.

His question was answered by thunderous applause, which only grew as the Pilot made his first grand appearance as Bethel College’s new mascot.

The Bethel mascot represents a nautical pilot: a well-trained mariner experienced in handling a ship through difficult currents, storms and tempests, navigating it through calm and rough seas alike.

“We really needed a character to give an identity to our school,” says Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Lightfoot ’78. “A mascot at Bethel events and community events will help with promoting our institution.”

I talked with some students a few days after the Pilot was introduced, and many seemed intrigued by the new mascot. Here are a few of their comments:

“I think it looks interesting,” says sophomore Emily Sargent.

“I really like it, and I’m excited to see it at the basketball games,” says senior John Thornton.

Several students had attempted to speculate on what the big announcement, hinted at on social media in the days leading up to the big reveal, would be. Ideas ranged from a change in the school’s dancing policy to new dining options.

“I wasn’t expecting a mascot,” says sophomore Emily Peacock, “but I thought it was cool.”

Bethel College fans were encouraged to submit name ideas for the new Pilot via Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag, #NameThePilot. The following week, some of names included “Stormin’ Norman,” “Pepe the Pilot,” “Ralph,” “Wilhelm,” “Peter” and “Pete.” Suggestions will be considered until Sept. 5.

Coach Lightfoot believes the new mascot will benefit the athletic department.

“It is important to our brand and our athletic logo to put a moving, walking character in place,” says Lightfoot. “It will be fun to see at our events.”

The mascot made his first official appearance at the men’s soccer season opener on Tuesday, Aug. 26, and made a few friends along the way.