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The Story of SPIRIT

Josh Kramer on Wednesday, 17 February 2010. Posted in Athletics

If any of you have been on a tour, I'm sure you have heard from your tour guide the following story about our mascot, the tiger:
Dave Page and President Mark Ellingson with
Bengal tiger cub, SPIRIT.

"After the 1955-1956 undefeated men's basketball season, the coaches and teams wanted a fiercer, more collegiate mascot than the "Techmen" that we used to be. The Tiger was adopted. We bought a tiger for $1,000 and named him "SPIRIT", which stood for Student Pride in RIT. He came to campus events and sports games until he became too big, at which time he was kept in the Senaca Park Zoo. We couldn't get another when he died becasue of the endangered species act, so we now have RITchie."

I learned this story and thought nothing of it. Today, while procrastinating writing a lab, I stumbled across a story in the RIT archives written by David Page, which gives a lot of insight to the story of SPIRIT. Dave was a 1966 RIT graduate and one of the students most intimately involved with SPIRIT's story at RIT.

An ad-hoc "Tiger Committee" was formed, and they borrowed $1,000 from Student Government to buy the baby Bengal Tiger to be our mascot. He was to be brought to campus until he became too big, and once that happened the plan was to get a mate so that there could always be an RIT tiger.

To repay the $1,000, the plan was to sell "shares" of the tiger for $1 apiece. Three hundred were sold the first week, and the rest were easily sold once the tiger arrived to campus.
Andy Davidhazy is credited with coming up with the name SPIRIT.

Several students were traned to be SPIRIT's handlers, and spent a lot of time with him. Dave recounts entertaining SPIRIT in between appearances during sporting events. "Often that meant his chasing me around the unused Clark gym during the hockey periods. SPIRIT loved his time on campus and was very comfortable with students. He truly loved being with people. He and I became good friends."

Later that school year, SPIRIT was diagnosed with a calcium deficiency. Dave went to the zoo to be with SPIRIT during his final time, and he died on Sept. 28 1964, less than a year after his inclusion in the RIT community.

Another tiger was purchased, but the breeding program never got off the ground.

Today, you can honor SPIRIT's memory by spreading his story, saluting the bronze tiger statue (at least in your mind), and cheering on our RIT TIGERS!!!

Imformation taken from The article is about halfway down the page, right next to the same picture seen in this blog.  I would recommend reading it - I have not done it justice

Comments (2)

  • Blenda


    16 February 2010 at 23:46 |
    This was a very nice story! Thank you!
  • David Page

    David Page

    23 March 2010 at 21:48 |
    Josh Thanks for spreading the story of SPIRIT. He was a joy and you would have loved him too. Rodger Kramer was the real force behind the idea of getting a real Tiger to replace me. I was just the original RIT Tiger in a suit much less sophisticated than the current bunch of RITchies. As such, I got to be the point man for all the publicity photos and play with Spirit during his "down time" We became very close friends. If you look closely you can see Rodger's shoulder in the photo above as Spirit. You (and any one else interested can see more on the Archives "Spirit of RIT" website:

    By the way, It is good luck to rub the Bronze Tiger's NOSE before an exam. It will also make his nose look like Spirit who rubbed hes nose raw on the cage bars,in sadness, when we would leave him at the zoo.

    All the Best,

    David Page PH-66

    RIT Tiger (retired)
    Director, RIT Alumni Association

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