The story, as told to me by my father, Wartburg late News Bureau and Sports Information Director, Duane Schroeder went like this:
In the mid-1960s, Wartburg College finally had some consistent success in athletics. Buzz Levick had started his remarkable streak of nine consecutive Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships in a row starting 1966-67 season. Additionally, Lee Bondhus coached the football team from worst to first in 1968 for its first IIAC championship in almost a decade. The IIAC is now known as the American Rivers Conference (ARC).
Local media started to take notice. They also wanted a graphic to illustrate their stories about the Knights’ newfound successes. Duane sat down with his graphic artist at the time to draw up a cartoon knight that would represent the college in the Waterloo Courier, Des Moines Register, the Waverly Newspapers, KWWL-TV and other media outlets to illustrate the story. The knight, running into action, was drawn. The Coat of Arms on his shield was the same as the shield that came with the theatre armor displayed in Knights Gymnasium and worn by a student leading the Homecoming parade on horseback. It was a good thing that the Knight graphic kept the memory of the shield alive. Shortly after that, during a basketball game against rival Luther College, the armor disappeared from its case. It was eventually returned without the shield, which has never been recovered.
The Knight needed a name, just like the Hawk and Badger mascots at Iowa and Wisconsin were called ‘Herky’ and ‘Bucky.’ There is no record for what Duane’s inspiration was, but it seemed that for the first time in his career at Wartburg College he was writing news releases with the word ‘victory’ in the headline. So, to recognize the Knights’ successes, the mascot became, “Sir Victor.”
Duane suggested at social events that the graphic artist used then Athletic Director John Kurtt’s (’53), face for the original Sir Victor. Like many things with Duane, it was hard to tell if he was being serious or not. I will leave it to the readers who know John to decide if there is a resemblance. It would be appropriate since John played on Wartburg’s first Iowa Conference champion basketball teams.
I joke about this with fellow alumni, but I am somewhat proud that Sir Victor’s father is my father. I can say that I have a half-sibling in Sir Victor.
One final note: at the time, Duane was also Secretary-Treasurer of the IIAC. He needed to create programs and publications for the IIAC and his professional organization, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The problem was that several schools in the IIAC did not have their own graphic yet. Duane offered the services of the Wartburg College graphics department, which he also was the director of, to the schools that needed mascots. Thus, in the 1960s, the style of the graphics on IIAC programs looked remarkably similar.
Larry Happel, longtime Sports Information Director at Central College, told me once that he saw programs from that era and could not figure out why the graphic for Central was a masted ship, but that is what Wartburg came up with for “Flying Dutchman,” Central’s nickname in the ’60s. Duane must have borrowed from the title from Richard Wagner’s opera, Der fliegende Holländer, the Flying Dutchman. Of course, now that Central teams are simply the “Dutch”, a ship makes no sense.
One final note, if any reader knows the name of Duane’s graphic artist from the 1960s, let me know in the comments. Since I was in grade school at the time, the name is lost to me although I think I remember a face. This artist is more famous around Division III schools in Iowa than is probably realized.