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Dick Jacobs, ASU's Original Sun Devil Mascot, Dies At 91

MARK BRODIE: The original Sparky is dead. Not the mascot itself, but the first person to put on the Sun Devil caricature. His name is Dick Jacobs. He died Tuesday at the age of 91.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: When Arizona State University was looking for someone to don its newly designed mascot in 1951, Jacobs was the only student to show up. His audition included handstands and somersaults.

BRODIE: Jacobs was an ASU gymnast in 1951 when he became the first ever Sparky. And he didn’t disappoint. He was known for doing handstands. But not just anywhere. Care to take a guess where he dared perform the devilish feat?

GOLDSTEIN: In the stands?

BRODIE: On the goalpost. He did handstands on the goalpost! When have you ever seen a mascot do that?

GOLDSTEIN: I have never seen that.

BRODIE: I have not either. After graduation, Jacobs hitchhiked across the world and wrote a book about it. He was the gymnastics coach at Carl Hayden High School and served as a coach and athletic director at schools around the world.

GOLDSTEIN: The original Sparky, Dick Jacobs, passed away this week. No word yet, Mark, if Sparky’s weapon of choice — the pitchfork — has been lowered at ASU in his honor.

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Paul Atkinson produces The Show, KJZZ’s award-winning daily news and culture program. He rejoins the newsroom after working with KJZZ’s development team.Prior to returning to KJZZ, Atkinson served as communications director for the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and assistant director of strategic marketing and communications at the ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. He earlier directed communications at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU.In his first stint with KJZZ, Atkinson reported and hosted for KJZZ and produced the station's public affairs program, KJZZ’s Here and Now.Paul spent nine years reporting and producing “Arizona Horizon” on KAET, Phoenix‘s PBS station. He was a general assignment reporter at Phoenix CBS television affiliate KPHO and ABC television affiliate KIVI in Boise, Idaho. He also reported and anchored at NBC affiliate KYEL and ABC affiliate KSWT television in Yuma, Arizona. Atkinson worked as a video editor and tape coordinator at KGTV in San Diego and as a field producer for CNN and CNN Spanish in Washington, D.C.Atkinson earned his master’s degree in mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University, where he led a nationally ranked speech and debate team.Atkinson has volunteered with numerous nonprofits and schools over the years and served with many community and professional organizations. He’s won more than three dozen journalism awards, including regional Edward R. Murrow and Emmy awards, and a national Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. Atkinson has also been recognized as “Best Reporter of the Year” by the Arizona Associated Press Broadcasters Association for his work at KPHO.He lives in Gilbert with his wife, son and assortment of rescued animals.