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An interview with Tim the Beaver

MIT’s longtime mascot reveals his early history, highlights of his career, some classy dance moves, and the plans for his 100th birthday celebration.
The beaver makes its mascot debut in <i>Technology Review</i> in 1914.
The beaver makes its mascot debut in <i>Technology Review</i> in 1914.
MIT Historical Collection

MIT’s longtime mascot, Tim the Beaver, turns 100 in January. Tim crouched down for a tell-all interview with Slice of MIT and discussed his first days as mascot, the origins of his name, and his modified MIT motto.

Slice: You turn 100 in January 2014. How are you feeling?

Tim: Considering most beavers rarely live past 10 and I’m pushing triple digits — I feel great.

Slice: Where do you live?

Tim: I live in a beaver lodge near Kendall Square, not too far from my cousins Flat Tim and Sloanie Tim.

Slice: Wow, so there are a lot of beavers in the area?

Tim: Not at first. After I was born, there were no other beavers in Massachusetts until 1932, when the state reintroduced them into the wild. Now there’s more than 70,000, which makes tracking down Commencement tickets pretty hectic.

Slice: You were adopted as MIT’s mascot in January 1914. Can you talk a little about the early days?

Tim: I was so young back then — I had barely gnawed my first tree! I do remember Lester Gardner, class of 1898, proposed me as mascot to then-President Maclaurin at an alumni meeting in New York City.

A few alumni — I won’t say who — were hoping for a kangaroo or an elephant. But the beaver is nature’s engineer — and it’s indigenous to North America! 100 years later, it’s still a perfect match.

Slice: Who named you Tim?

Tim: Great question — beavers don’t actually have first names. No one started calling me Tim until the late ’90s. Before that, I was called Bucky, Chipper, and Eager. I’m not particular. Tim works just fine.

Slice: According to MIT’s records, you didn’t make an official visit to campus until 1977, when you joined the Class of 1927 at their 50th reunion. Where were you between 1914 and 1977?

Tim: Just because it wasn’t an “official” visit doesn’t mean I wasn’t there. Remember when the Brass Rat was first designed in 1929? I was there. I helped carry the first piano to the top of Baker House in ’72. I also exec-produced "The Social Beaver" back in ’56.

Slice: By the way, you look much different than you did 1977. Care to comment?

Tim: I’ve changed a lot since ’77 — we all have. Around the year 2000, I cut down on my bark intake and started eating more roots and twigs. I try to build dams at least three times a week and I take part in as many MIT events as possible.

Plus, I’m dancing more. A lot more.

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