Patron Saints of the University of Texas
Peregrinus or “Perry” – University of Texas School of Law
The law school’s Peregrinus, or “Perry,” was invented on a chilly afternoon in December 1900, during a class in equity. The professor was lecturing on Ancient Rome and the praetor peregrinus, a traveling magistrate who administered justice in the less populated regions of the Roman Empire. An unprepared student in the class was quizzed on the subject. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “The peregrinus was probably some kind of animal.” The class burst out in laughter, but fellow student Russell Savage, sitting in the back of the room next to a chalk board, doodled a likeness of the imaginary creature that was later adopted as the law school mascot thus the patron saint tradition begin. With four legs, a bushy tail, and a long beak, “Perry” was meant to symbolize the prowess of lawyers in their chosen profession. A wooden likeness of the Peregrinus was commissioned, and fashioned by local woodcarving master Peter Mansbendel probably about 1915-20. Kept secure, it made special appearances and attended the law banquets where it was ceremoniously passed from the graduating seniors to the juniors.
With four legs, a bushy tail, and a long beak, “Perry” was meant to symbolize the prowess of lawyers in their chosen profession. A wooden likeness of the Peregrinus was commissioned, and fashioned by local woodcarving master Peter Mansbendel. Kept secure, it made special appearances and attended the law banquets where it was ceremoniously passed from the graduating seniors to the juniors.
Alexander Frederick Claire “Alec”- University of Texas School of Engineering
Not to be outdone by the law students, a band of rowdy UT engineering students on March 31, 1908 decided to visit a nearby beer garden called Jacoby’s. After a beer or two, the men spotted a 5-foot wooden statue of a portly, pants-less bearded medieval Falstaff. Accounts of what happened next differ: some students said they distracted the beer garden’s owner before stealing the statue, while others maintained that they were granted permission to borrow it. A year later, students named it Alexander Frederick Claire, or Alec, and appointed it the engineering school’s patron saint. Today all that remains of the original statue is its crumbling torso—now enshrined in the engineering library. But the legend of Alec is still in fine form. Alec’s journey from drunken caper to philanthropist has been a winding one. The statue has been stolen by UT law students at least three times. In 1913, it surfaced on a farm in Pflugerville. In 1918, it went to war: its right leg was chopped up and sent as a sign of solidarity to Texas engineers serving in World War I. By 1987, the original statue had been reduced to a torso and was displayed at the law library—until three masked engineering students stole it back. The law students retaliated by taking the engineers to court, where judge Harley Clark, BA ’57, MA ’60, LLB ’62, Life Member, co-inventor of the Hook ’em Horns sign, awarded Alec back to the engineers. He’s stayed with them ever since “Alec is a nice way for students and alumni to connect,” says Friends of Alec student worker Johnny Nguyen. “And I like that it started with a prank.”
Hermes – University of Texas School of Business
By 1922, the University’s engineering and law schools had mascots – “patron saints” – around whom their respective students and alumni had developed a healthy espirit de corps.
On the evening of Monday, May 8, 1922, business students and faculty gathered at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel for their first annual banquet. As part of the proceedings, the mascot committee revealed their final recommendation: Hermes, the Ancient Greek god of commerce, who was noted for his eloquence, speed, shrewdness, and wisdom. The idea met with the instant approval of everyone, and a framed “rough copy” of the new patron saint was placed on the head table.
In October, as the academic year began, business students pursued a better representation of their new patron saint. They contacted Peter Mansbendel, the same master woodworker who had helped the law school with the Peregrinus.
Several designs were considered, including one of Hermes sitting on a pot of gold, but the most popular was a standing Hermes with an American Bald Eagle at his feet. Mansbendel fashioned a miniature prototype out of clay that was officially approved and accepted at a business school assembly on November 28th. Fundraising for the final version began in earnest with the spring, but the needed monies weren’t acquired in time for Mansbendel to complete the project for the 1923 banquet. Instead, Hermes was readied over the summer, and then spent many months safely locked in a vault owned by the American National Bank in the Littlefield Building downtown. He finally made his debut at the May 12, 1924 business banquet, and was the star of the show.
To right: The original clay rendering of Hermes.
Thirty-eight inches tall and made from pine, Mansbendel’s Hermes wears winged sandals as a symbol of his swiftness. With his left hand near his heart he holds a caduceus, a staff with two entwined snakes that was a symbol of commerce to the Ancient Greeks, and declares Hermes the authority of strategic negotiations. In his right hand he carries a bag of gold, a trophy of his successful commercial transactions. An eagle sits at his feet, evidence that the business school’s Hermes is “one hundred percent American” despite his distant origins. For UT business students, their patron saint is a symbol of strength, success, innovation, and efficiency in the commercial enterprise.