Meet the Highlander: Nicholas Baity
For the past three years, Nicholas Baity '14 has led a double life.
By day, he was an enthusiastic and personable criminal justice major at Radford University. But on nights, weekends and game days, he slipped away to entertain and inspire his campus as the Highlander, Radford's burly, beloved mascot.
After three years behind the curtain, Baity will hang up the costume and say goodbye as he graduates in the 2014 Winter Commencement ceremonies.
"It's really been like being Superman when you pull your shirt off and put on the costume," Baity said.
The Highlander is a fixture at sporting events, university functions, around campus and in the community. For Baity, originally from Forest, Virginia, the job was an unexpected turn in his college career, but a welcome one. With an unshakeable spirit, he's spent his time at RU inspiring others to show their pride in the university.
"It's a community symbol that people can attach themselves to," he said. "Radford has a unique mascot, across the board. The Highlander has a heritage that not many universities have. People can walk away as graduates and say 'I'm a Highlander, this is my mascot and this is what we're about.'"
Baity got the job his freshman year after attending an open tryout. Asked to come dressed showing school spirit, he showed up in red and white candy stripe socks and a "Dread the Red" T-shirt. After a short interview he was asked to put on the Highlander costume and perform for the RU spirit squad.
"I went out there, with no music, and just started breaking it down," Baity said. He got the job on the spot.
In addition to being a fixture at Radford sporting events, Baity appeared as the Highlander whenever members of the campus community requested. He danced on concert stages, appeared at RU Kid's Club birthday parties and even led the City of Radford Christmas parade.
One of Baity's most memorable experiences was joining with mascots from other Big South schools for the conference media day to visit youngsters at a children's hospital. The Highlander and fellow mascots cheered up the young patients, some of whom had terminal illnesses.
"When you can go up to a 5-year-old kid and build a memory with him or her, there's nothing more special than that," Baity said.
Lisa Baity '82, M.S. '85, was not only proud that her son chose to attend her alma mater, but that he became so involved with campus life in the process.
"To watch him work the crowd is incredible," she said. "He is sheer entertainment."
One of Lisa Baity's proudest moments was attending a RU men's basketball game against Virginia Military Institute, where Nicholas' older brother graduated. Watching her son become the Highlander and do his job at an event so important to the family was a special gift.
"I couldn't be more proud of what he has done as the mascot, and as a student as well."
Although he made an impressive Highlander, Baity was a popular figure on campus without the costume, gaining the admiration of teachers and fellow students alike.
"I always found him to be a dedicated and enthusiastic young man," said Tod Burke, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and a criminal justice professor of Baity's. "We will obviously miss having him on campus, but we look forward to having him as an alumnus."
Following graduation, Baity will relocate to Alabama, nearer to his family. He has tests lined up with local law enforcement to find a position among their ranks, before eventually making the move to a federal position.
Going forward, he knows RU has prepared him for the future and that he can always smile upon the past.
"I don't think any one institution can compare to what Radford has to offer," he said. "It has a great community. It has great people who love the university. It's all been more than enough to me."