Brown University’s Official Mascot

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Brown University building

Brown University’s Official Mascot

Mascots are intended to be symbolic representations of the student body and faculty. It is an excellent choice for portraying academic institutions such as colleges and universities. We are going to take a look at Bruno The Bear, Brown University’s official mascot, as well as its contribution to the university.

Why did Brown University choose a bear?

Theodore Francis Green 1887, a member of the building committee for Rockefeller Hall, is credited with being the first person to place the head of a real Brown bear atop the arch that served as the centerpiece of the trophy room in time for the opening of the new student union in January 1904.

This event is considered the beginning of Brown University‘s tradition of using the Bear as its mascot.

a bear, the inspiration behind Brown's official mascot

Green and the other Brown guys had expressed a need for a clear emblem to represent their group. The following is how he explained the selection of the bear:

“While it may be somewhat unsociable and uncouth, it is good-natured and clean. While courageous and ready to fight, it does not look for trouble for its own sake, nor is it bloodthirsty. It is not one of a herd but acts independently. It is intelligent and capable of being educated. It is a good swimmer and a good digger, like an athlete who makes Phi Beta Kappa. Furthermore, its color is brown; and its name is Brown.”

How did Bruno start as Brown’s official mascot?

Brown was doing exceptionally well around the turn of the 20th century. Enrollment was getting close to 1,000 students, new facilities were being constructed, and a successful effort to raise $2 million for the institution’s endowment fund had just come to a successful conclusion. The new president was William H. P. Faunce.

Andrews Field, an off-campus facility, had recently taken the place of Lincoln Field as the primary home of Brown’s varsity athletic programs. Under the direction of Frederick W., the newly appointed Director of Physical Education, athletics were transitioning from an era in which they were played on unofficial club teams. Marvel, “Doc.” the (1894).

Because of the increased competitiveness with Dartmouth, intercollegiate athletics were becoming more attractive to both current students and graduates of the university. This was particularly the case because of the rivalry between the two schools.

The name “Hilltoppers” is often used by the media to refer to Brown University’s athletic teams; hence, the search for a mascot that could truly represent the university began.

In 1902, an attempt was made to design a mascot using a burro, but it was unsuccessful. In 1904, however, Theodore Francis Green (1887) came up with a solution to the problem.

Brown University hallway

Green, frustrated by what he called the “painful attempts” of newspaper illustrators to produce an appropriate figure to match the Bulldog and the Tiger, hung the mounted head of a bear and dubbed it “THE BROWN BEAR” in the Trophy Room of the new student union (Rockefeller Hall, now Faunce House).

Green gained traction very soon, and the bear came to be celebrated in poetry, music, and art. In 1905, a real bear was rented for the Dartmouth football game that was played in Springfield. This marked the beginning of a well-known tradition that, despite being disrupted by two world wars and the Great Depression, persisted until the mid-1960s.

Live bear lore is filled to the brim with adventures that defy contemporary imagination, including tales of collegiate shenanigans such as “bearnappings,” as well as sorrowful bear deaths and funerals.

In addition to real bears, students dressed up in bear costumes. This tradition is still upheld today with Bruno and his companion Cubby, whose identities are never revealed. In 1906, at the Dartmouth game, a student who arrived in Springfield all garbed in bear costumes was the first person to wear such. This was the result of a collaborative effort.

Students took turns after each “bear” slumped exhausted from the frenetic whirling snake dance during the post-game victory march back to the city. The dance was performed after the game. The significance of the Brown Bear to the Brown community has been memorialized on campus through various statues.

All four of these sculptures—the Bronze Bruno (1927), the Fountain Bear (1932), the Swearer Bear (1988), and the Indomitable (2013)—have the symbol of the brown bear prominently displayed at all times.

How was The Bear in the early days of the Ivy League?

n 1950, Brown had not one but two different mascots. The original Bruno XI was the largest cub ever recorded, but it didn’t take long before he was succeeded by a “smaller, tamer, more docile” version of himself.

Bruno XI passed away at the University of Pennsylvania Vet School, where he had been staying for the weekend, two weeks after his death was announced. The sudden passing of Bruno was due to a lung illness, which may have been made worse by the sub-zero temperatures that prevailed at Franklin Field.

Around the middle of the 1960s, people’s enthusiasm for live bear mascots began to wane. M. Charles Bakst ’66 and his wife Elizabeth ’67 came forward in 1967 despite the fact that there was no bear in sight.

One of the gates in the Brown University

Friends of the Athletic Director Dick Theibert, the Baksts “took on the mission of locating a bear” with his blessing. After making inquiries to a number of state and national parks, they were successful in reaching one of them. The bear was eventually found. The pair paid $37.51 out of a total cost of $75 to secure naming rights for their business.

In honor of Charlie’s wife, the bear was given the name Liz Bear by Charlie. Liz Bear, Brown University’s last living bear mascot, was housed at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.

What is the Bronze Bruno?

At the fifteenth reunion of the class of 1907, which took place in 1922, the idea of giving a bronze bear as a class gift was brought up, but it was ultimately voted down in favor of giving a scholarship as the class gift.

After hearing about the concept, Zechariah Chafee (1880) persuaded a member of the class of 1907, Herbert B. Keen, to initiate a subscription among the alumni. Zechariah Chafee 1880 was also the first person to contribute.

At the conclusion of Commencement Day, $800 had been raised, and a spontaneous slogan called “Put a Hair on the Bear” became the watchword of the campaign. This phrase encouraged alumni to subscribe to a single hair for one dollar or a complete patch for one hundred dollars.

Eli Harvey, an animal sculptor based in New York City, was the one who won the Bronze Bruno Award for the role of the bear’s sculptor. The group suggested creating a duplicate of a Kodiak Brown Bear that was as large as life.

Is there another bronze bear statue on the Brown campus?

The five-foot-six bronze bear in the Maddock Alumni Center yard is the work of sculptor Nicholas Swearer, son of President Howard Swearer, from whom the monument was commissioned by the Class of 1949 as a farewell to his administration.

On November 12, 1988, the statue was unveiled. President Swearer was given a small eighteen-inch bear at this time. This statue depicts the mascot in a bear suit; the person inside may be identified by peering inside the bear’s mouth.

What Makes Bruno Unique Among University Mascots?

What sets Bruno apart from other university mascots is not just its striking appearance but also the profound symbolism and connection it shares with the Brown community. Unlike mere decorative figures, Bruno embodies the spirit, values, and aspirations of Brown University.

Bruno’s distinct characteristics

Bruno’s distinct characteristics are a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity, reflecting the dynamic nature of Brown University. Brown University’s official mascot, a bear adorned in the university’s colors, is not just a visual spectacle but a symbol of the institution’s heritage and future.

Bruno’s physical appearance, with its friendly demeanor and athletic stance, mirrors the university’s pursuit of excellence in both academics and sports. The attire, often customized for different events, adds a touch of personality and flair, making Bruno relatable and endearing to all.

How does Bruno engage with students and fans?

Engagement with students and fans is where Bruno, Brown University’s official mascot, truly shines. Unlike a static symbol, Bruno is an active participant in the life of the university. From high-fiving students during games to dancing with fans at pep rallies, Bruno’s interactions are filled with energy, warmth, and genuine connection.

The mascot’s presence at various university functions, sporting events, and community gatherings is not just entertaining but also unifying. Bruno’s ability to engage with people from diverse backgrounds, ages, and interests reflects the inclusive and welcoming culture of Brown University.

Whether posing for selfies with prospective students or leading cheers with alumni, Bruno’s engagement goes beyond mere entertainment; it fosters a sense of belonging, pride, and shared identity.

How Does Bruno Reflect Brown University’s Values and Culture?

Bruno, Brown University’s official mascot, is not merely a symbol but a reflection of the values and culture that define the university. The choice of a bear as the mascot is deeply symbolic, representing the strength, resilience, and wisdom that are at the core of Brown’s educational philosophy.

logo of Brown University as seen through a magnifying glass

Alignment with Brown’s academic excellence

The alignment of Bruno with Brown’s academic excellence is a testament to the university’s holistic approach to education. Brown University’s official mascot, while often associated with sports and entertainment, is also a symbol of the university’s pursuit of intellectual rigor, innovation, and excellence.

Bruno’s presence at academic ceremonies, conferences, and celebrations is a reminder of the university’s commitment to fostering a culture of inquiry, discovery, and achievement. The bear’s dignified yet approachable character reflects the balance Brown strives to achieve between academic excellence and personal growth.

Promotion of inclusivity and diversity

The promotion of inclusivity and diversity is at the heart of Bruno’s role as Brown University’s official mascot. Bruno’s interactions with the community are characterized by openness, acceptance, and a celebration of diversity.

Whether engaging with international students, supporting LGBTQ+ events, or participating in cultural festivals, Bruno’s presence is a symbol of Brown’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued.

Through Bruno, Brown University sends a powerful message of unity in diversity, reinforcing its belief in the importance of inclusivity in shaping a vibrant, empathetic, and socially responsible community.

What Impact Has Bruno Had on Brown University and Beyond?

The impact of Bruno on Brown University and beyond is profound and multifaceted. More than just a symbol, Bruno has become a living embodiment of the university’s spirit, values, and traditions.

Bruno’s role in community outreach

Bruno’s role in community outreach is a testament to Brown University’s commitment to social responsibility and community engagement. Brown University’s official mascot is not confined to the campus but is actively involved in local community events, charity drives, and social initiatives.

Whether visiting children’s hospitals, supporting environmental campaigns, or promoting educational programs, Bruno’s presence adds a touch of joy and inspiration. The mascot’s ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds makes it an effective ambassador for Brown’s values and mission.

Influence on university traditions and rituals

Bruno’s influence on university traditions and rituals is both enduring and dynamic. As Brown University’s official mascot, Bruno is an integral part of ceremonies, celebrations, and events that define the university experience.

Front view of Brown University - one of the best marine biology colleges

From leading the cheers at Homecoming to participating in Commencement festivities, Bruno’s presence adds a unique flavor and excitement to these traditions. The mascot’s playful interactions, signature moves, and spirited performances have become rituals in themselves, eagerly anticipated by students, faculty, and fans alike.

The global recognition of Bruno

The global recognition of Bruno is a reflection of Brown University’s international stature and appeal. Bruno’s image has graced media coverage, promotional materials, and even international events, making it a recognizable symbol of Brown’s excellence and distinctiveness.

The mascot’s appearances at global conferences, alumni gatherings, and cultural festivals have not only entertained but also resonated with a diverse international audience. Brown University’s official mascot is more than a local figure; it’s a global ambassador that carries the essence of Brown to the world.

Through Bruno, Brown University showcases its commitment to intellectual rigor, creativity, and social impact, reinforcing its position as a leading institution on the global stage.


In conclusion, Bruno is more than just a symbol or a figurehead; it’s a living embodiment of Brown University’s values, traditions, and community spirit. From igniting passion at sporting events to promoting inclusivity and social responsibility, Bruno’s impact is felt across various aspects of university life and beyond.

Why does Bruno continue to be a beloved figure at Brown University?

The answer lies in the deep connection and alignment between Brown University’s official mascot and the university’s values, culture, and community. Bruno’s distinct characteristics, lively interactions, and unwavering support for various causes mirror the university’s commitment to excellence, inclusivity, and social impact.

The mascot’s ability to engage with students, faculty, alumni, and fans across diverse backgrounds and interests fosters a sense of belonging and shared identity. Bruno’s presence at traditions, rituals, and outreach initiatives adds a unique flavor and excitement, making it an integral part of the Brown experience.

Bruno’s enduring appeal is a reflection of its authenticity, relevance, and ability to touch hearts, making it a timeless and beloved figure at Brown University.

Experience Brown school spirit with Bruno the Bear

If getting into Brown is one of your goals, you should seek the advice of professionals who work in the field of college admissions, such as those who work at AdmissionSight, in order to increase your chances of being accepted there.

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