MIT’s longtime mascot, Tim the Beaver, turned 100 in January 2014. Tim crouched down for a tell-all interview with Slice of MIT during his birthday month 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?
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 (see update below). 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.
Slice: What do you have planned for your birthday?
Tim: Well, I know MIT is throwing a party for me on my actual birthday—January 17. I'm hoping to celebrate all the way to Tech Reunions.
Slice: Who's invited to the party?
Slice: After 100 years, do you still relate with MIT alumni and students?
Tim: Yes. Beavers are nocturnal workaholics—we do most of our work at night. We’re noted for our engineering and mechanical skills. And according to conservationists, beavers don’t just build communities, they’re working to make them safer, more efficient, and healthier. Sound familiar?
Slice: So you ascribe to MIT’s motto, mens et manus?
Tim: Well, for me it’s mens et paw, but basically the same thing.
Update: Bob L. '52 contacted Slice with more information on Tim's on-campus debut in 1977.
"You will note from the attached photo from TechTalk of June 15, 1977, that the beaver was brought in for the 25th reunion of the Class of 1952," Bob writes. "The class of 1927 had nothing to do with it, it just happened to be their 50th...So that is the correct history of Tim's first personal appearance at MIT." When reached for comment, Tim apologized for the error.