Fifty years after Brutus made his debut, the former Ohio State student who named the beloved mascot looks back.
The experiences andeducation Kerry Reed received during his four years at Ohio State University did more to shape his life than winning a mascot-naming contest his senior year. But it's that one moment in time that still causes Reed's phone to ring 50 years later.
Reed, 71, is the one who jotted the name "Brutus" on a piece of paper and dropped it into one of the contest-entry boxes scattered around Ohio State's campus in 1965.
In the decades since his entry was picked as the winner in Ohio State's name-the-mascot contest, Brutus has taken on a life of his own, becoming not only one of the most recognized college mascots in the world, but a beloved and omnipresent symbol of the university itself.
"I'm delighted to have been a small part of something that has become so much larger," Reed says.
It's an honor that carries more significance today than it did at the time.
Reed says he remembers seeing mention of the university's name-the-mascot contest in a short item in the student newspaper, The Lantern. He already knew a fellow student was working to create Ohio State's first mascot. That student, Ray Bourhis, was a member of the Ohio Staters Inc., a longstanding university service organization to which Reed also belonged. It was there that Reed first saw the prototype-brown papier-mache laid over chicken wire to form a hollow sphere in the shape of a Buckeye nut; the sphere could fit over the head and shoulders of the wearer, secured by a shoulder harness inside. Outside, the sphere was affixed with big eyes and cottony eyebrows and a smiling mouth that could be moved via levers inside. Bourhis and a friend, Sally (Huber) Lanyon, built the prototype with the $50 allocated by the Staters' budget inside the Pi Beta Phi sorority house in anticipation of the upcoming homecoming game against Minnesota. With a prototype in place, a campus-wide naming contest followed.
Reed entered three names, only two of which he can remember now. One was Bucky the Buckeye. "I didn't know it at the time, but Bucky was already the name for the badger mascot at Wisconsin," Reed says.
Brutus, however, was his favorite. "Because of the Shakespeare account (in 'Julius Caesar'), I thought that it fit for an academic institution," Reed says. "And I just felt that the name carried so much kind of power."
There was very little in the way of acknowledgement, however, when a panel of judges selected Reed's entry of Brutus to be the winner. "I remember seeing my name in The Lantern," he says, "and I think I received a letter in the mail. I remember I won a $50 gift certificate from the (former Columbus clothier) The Union. I used it to buy a new black blazer. I wore that blazer for a long time after that." But there was no official presentation or game-time acknowledgement. "It wasn't as big of a deal then as it has become," Reed says. "Nobody knew how the fans or the university would react to having this personified nut on the field."
The naming even sparked a small controversy when a couple of Lantern letter writers "wondered if there had been some sort of collusion, since the naming winner and the creator of the prototype were both Ohio Staters," Reed says. "That was not the case."
After graduation, Reed studied at the Lexington Theological Seminary and entered the clergy, leading churches in Akron, Whittier, California and Columbus before retiring as pastor of the Southeast Christian Church, which relocated to Canal Winchester as the Gender Road Christian Church during his tenure. He's been a resident of Columbus' East Side for decades, and says every few years, he'll get a call from an author or reporter asking about how Brutus came to be named. He'll even field an occasional autograph request, and says he's always "tickled" when he runs into a dog named Brutus. "I really don't feel any inordinate sense of pride," Reed says. "It continues to be a bit of a curiosity to me, having won a simple contest, though I am delighted that Brutus has grown to symbolize more than football."
Brutus fans can celebrate the Buckeyes mascot's 50th birthday with him the weekend of the Minnesota game and, at the same time, assist in the creation of a Brutus scholarship fund.
The university's official Brutus birthday bash takes place Friday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom at the Ohio Union. For a $250 individual admission (table sponsorships also are available), patrons will be treated to dinner, with live performances by Brutus alums and other special guests, followed by a large theater production featuring Brutus.
Proceeds will go toward the university's yearlong campaign to generate $1.5 million for a scholarship fund to assist the six students selected annually to perform as Brutus.
Saturday, the celebration continues with a halftime presentation during the Minnesota game-the game that, 50 years earlier, marked the debut of Brutus.
For tickets to the Nov. 5 birthday dinner, visitgo.osu.edu/brutus50.