Prior to 1955, RIT teams were known as “The Techmen” or “The Blue Gray.” Before that, around 1916, a dog named Brownie served as the mascot.
But after the 1955-1956 undefeated men’s basketball season, Henry Watts, head of the RIT News Bureau, suggesting a fiercer, more collegiate mascot began sending out news releases using “Tigers” as the nickname.
In an effort to create a true mascot, a courageous group of students came up with the idea of bringing a live tiger to campus.
In an attempt to raise $1,000 and with the help of the Seneca Park Zoo, students sold stock for $1 per share to raise the money for a live 8-week-old cub.
The little tiger arrived on Oct. 30, 1963, and through a contest, was named SpiRIT, as in Student Pride in RIT.
David Page ’66 (photo science) was a member of this original tiger committee and became a student handler of the animal. These handlers were allowed to visit the cub when the zoo was closed and able take him to campus and community events. Most of these handlers, including Page, were members of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity. Page and SpiRIT had a special bond. Page was among the first to wear a tiger costume for events. But four months after his arrival, SpiRIT became too big to bring to campus. Then on Sept. 28, 1964, he died from an incurable genetic defect.
After graduating, Page, who worked as a fine arts photographer at Duke University, remained an ardent supporter of RIT. He was a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, leader of the RIT Raleigh/Durham Alumni Chapter and supporter of the RIT Big Shot. Page died Aug. 13, 2011.
He and other members of the tiger committee returned to RIT in 2005 to record the story of SpiRIT.
Click on any picture below for a closer look at SpiRIT: