Published March 23, 2012
From Techmen to Tigers
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The Coming of RITchie

Pretend it’s 1955, and you’re at RIT. Imagine sitting in the stands during the last game of the basketball season. There are only seconds left on the clock, and the last play is being made. Then, the final buzzer blares. Everyone jumps out of their seats as it finally sets in that RIT has won the game and the RIT Techmen have gone undefeated for the season. You’re proud to be a Blue Grey as the team rightfully takes its spot as number one.

Given RIT’s 183 year history, its tiger mascot is fairly new. It was because of RIT’s vicious winning streak in 1955 that Harry Watts, then-head of the RIT News Bureau, coined the nickname “RIT Tigers.” The new nickname became so popular that first year Photography major David Page was given the first faux fur tiger suit in 1962 a costume that would eventually evolve into RITchie, the mascot we know today.

Just one year after Page began wearing his tiger suit, students convinced Student Senate to pay $1,000 to purchase a living Bengal tiger to represent the school. To repay the senate, four brothers from community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO) came together as the Tiger Committee to sell $1 stocks called “Tiger Shares” to students and faculty. The committee sold more than 300 shares in one week, setting a spirited tone for the arrival of a two-month-old, 40 pound Bengal cub, originally called “Tora” and the “Flying Tiger.” After an Institute-wide contest, Tora was soon named SpiRIT, which stood for “Student pride in RIT.” As time went on and SpiRIT became more popular, so did the man in the tiger suit.

As the RIT Tiger, Page was much more than just a mascot: A November 8, 1963 issue of Reporter referred to him as “the human stand in” for SpiRIT. After the cub died at 14 months old the victim of a genetic disorder that’s exactly what Paige became. The RIT Tiger was known for much more than choreographed dances, cheers and jeers. In fact, most of the time, he appeared maskless, allowing the crowd to see the man underneath the small, sweaty Bengal head. He entertained, interacted with the fans and even handled a cage holding the rambunctious cub. When Page graduated in 1966, the RIT Tiger was passed down through the fraternity over the next few years. However, the Tiger began to appear less and less. Soon, he just seemed to disappear.

By the time the Tiger returned to action, not much about the suit had changed. In 1979, the suit still seemed to be covered in the same fake fur covering it had been. Over the next decade, it underwent a few changes. It no longer had the realistic tiger features it once did. By 1989, the Tiger had changed drastically. Though it became more animated in appearance, the suit added paws, whiskers, more accurately spaced black stripes, and a detailed tiger mask that never came off.

It wasn’t until 2005, when the Men’s Hockey team advanced from Division III to Division I, that the RIT Tiger became known as RITchie. The suit changed, again, to a more cartoonish tiger, though the family resemblance to its 1989 counterpart, now called Grandpa RITchie, shines through.

Nowadays, you can find RITchie almost anywhere; a hockey game, ImagineRIT, orientation and even on the quarter mile. Chances are if anything happens at the Institute, RITchie will be there honoring our little Bengal cub by inspiring student pride in RIT.

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