History & Traditions

Alexander Frederick Claire

A photo of the original Alec statue

Alec is one of the most publicized and well-known traditions known to the Cockrell School of Engineering and The University of Texas at Austin. During his 100-plus years, Alec has had his share of adventures; he's suffered kidnappings, amputations, even an arrest, followed by a pardon from Texas Governor James Ferguson. He's been repaired, de-commissioned, revived, replicated. And he has endured.

Joe H. Gill and his sophomore engineering friends did not realize the legacy they would create when they spotted a wooden statue at Jacoby's beer garden back in 1908. They just wanted the day off.

On March 31, 1908, this group thoughtfully considered how to make a holiday of April Fool's Day. They decided to catch some dogs, tie cans around their tails and let them loose in the Main Building to disrupt class. An unsuccessful search for dogs led the engineers to Jacoby's beer garden for refreshments. There they saw a wooden statue about five feet high holding a glass of beer. The sophomore engineers requested permission to borrow it.

The next day, an assembly of engineers gathered in front of the Main Building. Between classes, Gill presented the statue as their patron saint and traced his ancestry back to the pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Aqueducts of Rome. The ceremony successfully broke up classes.

The next year on April 1, Alf Toombs, an engineering student leader, unveiled the statue in front of the Main Building, christened him Alexander Frederick Claire, patron saint of UT engineers and, in a spirited speech, traced Alec's genealogy back to the Garden of Eden.

Criminals tried to spoil the fun the following year. On March 3, 1910, law students kidnapped Alec from the steps of the engineering building. Alec eventually returned, but this marked the beginning of many Alec escapades. For decades Alec remained at the center of friendly rivalry between law and engineering students, suffering kidnappings, amputations, and even an arrest followed by a pardon from Gov. James E. Ferguson.

Today, what remains of the original wooden statue is kept safely in the engineering library. As engineering continues to require creative people to design society's future, Alec's inception and endurance remains a lighthearted symbol of innovation and perseverance.