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Patron Saint of UT Engineers

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Patron saint of UT–Austin engineers, Alec (shown here with Dean T.U. Taylor) bore years of kidnappings and even amputations. Though a mere shadow of his original self, he inspires an annual April Fool
On April Fool's eve in 1908, five mischief-bent University of Texas engineering sophomores "borrowed" a small wooden statue from Jacoby's Beer Garden near campus. The next day, one of the group, Joe Gill, publicly christened the statue Alexander Frederic Claire and declared him–a jovial, beer-quaffing, medieval Dutchman wearing a crown–the patron saint of UT engineers. Gill credited Alec, as he came to be called, with building the Egyptian pyramids and other mighty public works of antiquity. A year later, Alf Toombs, another gifted student orator, added participation in the Creation itself to Alec's résumé.

Thus launched, Alec embarked on a colorful, action-packed career replete with kidnappings, rescues, amputations, and even an arrest for vagrancy (a charge that brought a pardon from Texas Governor James E. Ferguson). The UT law students (sometimes referred to as "out-law-yers"), rivals of the engineers, loomed large in Alec's escapades.

Although T.U. Taylor, the College of Engineering's charismatic first dean (1906-1936), recognized the value of a high-profile mascot and promoted Alec with zeal, he permanently altered the saintly corpus. In 1918, he had the statue's right leg cut into small strips branded "Celafotrap" ("part of Alec" spelled backward), and sent one to every UT engineer serving in the war with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.

Over his long lifetime, Alec has been oft-repaired, restored, decommissioned, revived, copied, and impersonated. These days, the original Alec–sadly reduced to torso and hands only–resides, securely bolted down, in a hermetically sealed display case in the UT–Austin College of Engineering Library.

Read 3294 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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