Who is Alec?
On Mar. 31, 1908, Joe H. Gill and his sophomore engineering friends decided that April Fool's Day should be an official holiday, so they planned a few ways to celebrate. They hoped to catch some dogs, tie cans around their tails and let them loose in the Main Building to disrupt class. When there were no dogs to be found, they headed to Jacoby's beer garden for refreshments. There, they saw a wooden statue about five feet tall, holding a glass of beer. And they 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 disrupted classes.
The next year on Apr. 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 Mar. 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 a 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 inside an engineering building. 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.
Contact Friends of Alec
Marcela DeFaria, director
301 E. Dean Keeton St., C2104
Austin, Texas 78712
Make checks payable to The University of Texas at Austin.