Herm on parade! EMU’s mascot makes debut appearance

Herm made his first public appearance in his new costume during a May parade at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. He was escorted by Lauren Jefferson, Jessica Hostetler ’08 and her son Toby, all of EMU’s Marketing and Communication Department (Toby is one of several MarComm children who make honorary “cuteness” appearances whenever needed).

The VMRC parade included 20 “floats,” with departments participating from around the retirement community. The local fire and police departments, as well as James Madison University’s police department, drove vehicles and a few privately-owned antique cars.

Verity Rogers, life enrichment manager at VMRC, said the parade was the second one hosted, the first being a small one at the height of COVID restrictions for complete living care residents. That brought so much joy to residents and staff that “we decided to have another one in the spring but for the entire campus,” she said.

The “Walking on Sunshine” parade theme led to various interpretations, including a “gone fishing” boat, a giant watermelon made from balloons, and an “ice cream float” (with free popsicles). The parade route travelled about two miles around the buildings on the grounds, and residents sat outside or watched from balconies.


Herm makes a slight detour to pay his respects to Sue Cockley, dean of EMU’s School of Theology, Humanities and Performing Arts (standing at right under the tree).


Herm was delighted to see Les Helmuth ’78, former alumni relations director, who had played a major role in the evolution of the blue lion mascot — notice Les is fittingly wearing a lion’s costume as well. (This photo is courtesy of Bekka Harsh/VMRC.)

In 1981, Helmuth held a competition among the students to create a cartoon mascot. Darrell Yoder ’81 won with his blue lion, nicknamed “HRM” for “His Royal Majesty.” With collaborative efforts from Helmuth and Gloria Lehman ’74, a home economics teacher at Eastern Mennonite High School, the first costume is created (and the rest is Herm-story; read more in this Crossroads Fall/Winter 2020 article).

Now executive director of the VMRC Foundation, Helmuth travelled with Mike Piper ’95, CFO of VMRC and Roxy Figueroa-Vargas, VMRC Foundation assistant. Those two appear to be wearing sunflower headgear, in keeping with the parade’s theme of “Walking on Sunshine.”


Herm, a botanical enthusiast, was also thrilled to see some other alumni-sunflowers, though these were of the pedestrian rather than vehicular variety. From left, the Wellness & Community Based Services team, Lolly Miller, Carmen Miller ’96, MDiv ’21, Caitlin Miller Ickes ’06Steve Landis ’77, MA ’87 (Christian leadership)Emily Shickel ’15, and Betsy Hay. (Photo courtesy of Bekka Harsh/VMRC.)


A lion’s eye view, waving to residents at Heritage Haven.


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