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Collection on Spirit (Tiger)

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RITArc-0035

Scope and Contents

The Collection on Spirit (Tiger) includes materials related to the live tiger cub mascot at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1963-1964. The collection contains administrative documents such as the Tiger Committee's constitution, as well as financial documents such as the Tiger Committee's bank register. Additionally, there are many pieces of correspondence regarding the tiger including letters on his purchase and appearances. There is also correspondence regarding the tiger's death and the subsequent preservation of his skin.

In addition, the collection contains ephemera from Spirit's time at RIT including a "school spirit" stock certificate that went toward purchasing the tiger, a candy bar wrapper with Spirit's likeness, and a mailing that featured the story of Spirit. This series also includes a single photograph of the tiger.

In 2005, members of the original Tiger Committee gave an interview on their recollections of Spirit. The transcript for this interview, as well as a written recollection by David Page, are included in the collection. The plaque that hung outside Spirit's cage at the Seneca Park Zoo was donated in 2005 by Roger Kramer,one of the committee members interviewed.

The collection also contains fliers and an article related to Tiger Day, held on November 10, 1989. During this event, a sculpture of a bengal tiger was unveiled on RIT's campus in memory of the cub. There are newspaper clippings about Spirit and his successor, Spirit II, located toward the end of the collection.

Added in 2013, are 8 negatives of SpiRIT the tiger in 1963 with RIT students David Page and Lorrie Catallo taken by Andy Davidhazy.


  • Creation: 1963-1993

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Historical Information: Spirit the Tiger

In 1963, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) purchased a live Bengal tiger cub to serve as its mascot. The idea came from a group of students who proposed the purchase to the Director of Student Activities, A. Stephen Walls. The university's moniker had changed from the "Techmen" to the "Tigers" in 1955 following an undefeated basketball season. It was felt that this new name better represented the competitiveness of the RIT sports program.

The Tiger Committee, the group responsible for bringing the tiger to RIT, was composed of several students including Jim Black, Denis Kitchen, Roger Kramer, Francis "Skip" Millor, and David Page. Walls contacted Lou DiSabato, Director of the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, N.Y., on behalf of the students to find out how to go about purchasing a live tiger. DiSabato directed Walls to a broker who was able to arrange for the transfer of a tiger from the Dallas,Texas Zoo.

The cost for the tiger cub was $1,000. The Tiger Committee instituted a clever scheme to cover the cost. They began selling "stock" in the tiger, allowing interested parties to purchase a piece of "school spirit and tradition" for $1.00 per share. In the meantime, the committee borrowed $1,000 from the Student Council to cover the initial layout.

Tora, as the Tiger was originally called, arrived in Rochester, NY on October 18, 1963 on an American Airlines flight. The two-month old cub was greeted by an entourage of over 50 people. Since only licensed facilities were legally allowed to keep tiger cubs, Tora was transported to the Seneca Park Zoo. In exchange for boarding the animal, the zoo was promised the first male cub that the tiger produced. Over the next few weeks, the Tiger Committee visited the zoo during closed hours to acquaint themselves with the cub.

The cub soon began making appearances at various RIT events, such as basketball and hockey games. A contest was offered to rename the tiger. The name "Spirit" was selected, standing for "Student Pride in RIT." Various individuals worked with the cub, particularly those involved in the Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. Spirit became an important part of the RIT community and was well-liked by students and administrators alike. Unfortunately, as Spirit grew, the insurance company refused to cover the risk of having a live tiger on campus. After four months of making appearances at RIT events, Spirit stopped visiting the campus, remaining in the Seneca Park Zoo.

Spirit also appeared to have a calcium deficiency. The zoo treated the condition, helping to harden the tiger's bones. It was then discovered that Spirit actually suffered from a genetic defect that caused his pelvic bones to constrict. Unable to eliminate bodily waste, the tiger was in pain. On September 28, 1964, members of the Tiger Committee visited Spirit for the last time before he was euthanized. Spirit's body was turned over to a taxidermist who prepared his skin to be preserved for eternity. That pelt is now kept in the RIT Archives.

After Spirit's untimely death, members of the original Tiger Committee convinced the Student Council and Alumni Affairs to split the cost of another live tiger. Spirit II, born February 2, 1963, was transported from Madison, WI to the Seneca Park Zoo. Unlike the original Spirit, Spirit II was too large to safely leave the zoo. This tiger was the university's last live mascot.


5 Linear Feet (1 document box, 1 oversized box)




Materials related to Spirit the Tiger, a live tiger cub that served as the Rochester Institute of Technology's mascot from 1963-1964. The collection includes correspondence, administrative and financial documents, ephemera, and clippings. Also included is a transcript of an oral history interview given by RIT students who were members of the original Tiger Committee in 2005.


The collection is divided into seven series: Administrative and financial documents, Correspondence, Ephemera, Recollections/oral history, Tiger Day and tiger statue, and Clippings and Photographs. Clippings are further divided into Clippings on Spirit I, Clippings on Spirit I in the RIT Reporter, and Clippings on Spirit II. The articles are arranged chronologically within each subseries. The correspondence in the collection is also arranged chronologically.

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

Collection on Spirit (Tiger)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The plaque from the Seneca Park Zoo was a gift from Roger Kramer, donated on October 7, 2005.

Related Materials

Spirit's pelt is located in the RIT Archive Collections. Please contact the Archives for more information.

Online Collections

An online exhibit on the RIT mascot, titled "Spirit of RIT," is available through the RIT Archive Collection's website.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Lara Nicosia in December 2010.

Collection on Spirit (Tiger)
RIT Archives
Lara Nicosia
06 December 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA