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Contest to redesign MIT beaver mascot costume ends in a tie

Seniors Jessica Wu and Solar Olugebefola are co-winners of the Beaver Costume Design Competition and will work together to create a new costume for MIT's mascot.

The winners were announced by Ted E. Johnson, assistant director for programs for the Campus Activities Complex, after a meeting with the contest judges. Each received a $400 prize.

Ms. Wu created two beavers for the comic strip Dammed for Life in the Tech during her sophomore year. "When I heard about the contest, I just knew I had to enter them," said Ms. Wu, who received the SB in architecture in February. "When I found out I was one of the winners, I felt so honored. I mean, how many people get a chance to help design their school mascot?"

She hasn't decided what to do with the cash prize yet. "It's not often that people actually get money back from MIT," she said. "I'm sure eventually after alumni association donations, loan repayments and MIT tuition for my future children, it'll all go back to MIT somehow."

Mr. Olugebefola, who will receive the SB in materials science and engineering at Commencement, previously worked on posters and displays that depicted the beaver. "I thought I might have some good ideas about what the beaver should look like in the future," he said. "Also, I figured it would be a good challenge to try to make interesting modifications without being too radical." The prize money will go toward his summer rent.

Both winners will meet with Director of Student Art Edward McCluney in mid-June to discuss the project and share the observations of the panel of judges before developing the ultimate design. Under this timetable, the costume could be constructed during the summer and debut in the fall.

"Our students realize that they are not simply replacing the old Beaver costume, but they fully realize they are creating a fresh image, a new concept in keeping with MIT's evolving philosophy as we enter the new millennium," said Mr. McCluney.

The current costume, which first appeared in 1977, is frayed from years of wear. The pants and tail are hot and awkward to wear and the pap�er mach� head can be stifling, fits awkwardly and is uncomfortable.

The beaver (unnamed, although some refer to him as TIM) was adopted as the MIT mascot in 1914, at the suggestion of the Technology Club of New York. In presenting two mounted beavers to President Richard C. Maclaurin at the club's annual dinner, Lester D. Gardner (SB 1898) said, "The beaver not only typifies the Tech man, but his habits are peculiarly our own." He then quoted an excerpt from William Temple Hornady's textbook, The American Natural History: A Foundation of Useful Knowledge of the Higher Animals of North America (1906): "Of all the animals in the world, the beaver is noted for his engineering and mechanical skill and habits of industry. His habits are nocturnal; he does his best work in the dark."

Contest judges represented the Association of Alumni/ae, the Association of Student Activities, the CAC Advisory Board, the CAC Program Board, the Campus Activities Complex, the Dormitory Council, the Graduate Student Council, the News Office, the Office of Academic Services, the Office of the Dean for Students and Undergraduate Education, Residential Life and Student Life Programs, the Student Art Association, the Undergraduate Association and the Varsity Club.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 32).

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