Birthday gala raises scholarship funds for future mascots
Exactly 50 years ago, Ohio State’s favorite Buckeye rolled into Ohio Stadium for the first time at a 1965 football game against Minnesota, making his debut as the university’s first mascot.
Since that day, Brutus the Buckeye has transformed from an oddly shaped papier-mâché shell hyping the spirits of OSU fans to an anthropomorphic symbol heightening the spirits of fellow Buckeyes in and outside the ‘Shoe, from popping up in the community to stopping into children’s hospitals.
And the Office of Student Life is committed to ensuring the students who perform as Brutus get the support they need to continue doing that.
Student Life threw a 50th birthday gala Friday evening celebrating Brutus’ past while seeking to raise money to fund the mascot’s future.
The office has set a $1 million goal for the raising of funds that will go toward an endowment scholarship for future Bruti.
More than 50 former Bruti joined donors and other members of the OSU community in the Archie Griffin Ballroom for the celebration, which aimed to highlight the long-lasting values Brutus alumni have taken away from the experience. The event featured highlight reels, alumni testimonials and appearances by University President Michael Drake, Vice President and Director of Athletics Gene Smith and Vice President of Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston.
All-American OSU alumnus Eddie George, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1995, took the stage early in the evening to read the story of Brutus to a small group of children sitting on the ground around him.
Just as George wrapped up the 1965 chapter of Brutus’ early nuthood development, a reproduction of that year’s porcelain mascot burst through the door in a preview of his Saturday night appearance against Minnesota. The first fiberglass Brutus debuted during the 1965 game against Iowa.
Ray Bourhis and Sally Lanyon, both OSU graduates and former members of the Ohio Staters, Inc, were invited to the celebration as Brutus’ “parents.” Bourhis, from San Francisco, and Lanyon, from Tucson, Arizona, are responsible for the mascot’s creation back in 1965.
Bourhis said, from what he has heard from visitors, the celebration surpassed most people’s expectations.
“Being together with all the people who have animated Brutus over the years, it suddenly came home for me what Sally and I launched so many years ago,” he said. “You look at all this, all the money that he raises and all the things that have happened, frankly, it’s a very humbling experience.”
Lanyon said Brutus brings OSU, as an institution, down to the personal level by representing the “heart and the spirit” of the university.
“Brutus is definitely the icon, the face of The Ohio State University,” she said. “He brings the emotional, spiritual part of the university face to face with people.”
Toward the end of the evening, visitors got a chance to see the faces behind the Buckeye, as more than 50 former Bruti took the stage.
Some alumni told humorous anecdotes of blunders and stolen Brutus heads, while others shared more intimate stories illustrating the impact Brutus has had off the field.
Emily Moor Williams, a Brutus alumna from 2001 to 2003, said that although students get to have fun as Brutus on gamedays, she puts her experiences visiting children above everything.
She was asked to spend time with a 12-year-old boy dying of leukemia, who had about one week to live. Her ultimate goal was to make him happy.
She said his face lit up when she entered the room, as they hung out and watched sports on TV. She said, at times, she had tears streaming down her face, within the Brutus head.
“He said, ‘Hey, Brutus, can I have your wristbands?’” Williams said. “And I said, ‘Oh my gosh, absolutely.’ I gave them to him and wrote in Sharpie, ‘Brutus loves Nick.’ I would have given him my head, if he had asked me for it. I would’ve given that kid anything.”
She learned the boy lost his battle about a week later.
“For me, as a college student, what that reminded me is that I’m not just representing ambassadorship and leadership for this university as Brutus, but I’m also being a role model for so many kids across the country,” she said. “And that really meant something.”
Student Life will continue the campaign to raise money for the Brutus endowment scholarship throughout the year, hoping to fund future Bruti ambassadors.