By Natalie Russell
Inspiring animal, promising future, lucky letter or simply alliteration — all of these seem like logical ways to explain the Ryerson mascot, a ram. But in Ryerson’s case, the answer is none of the above.
In 1957, John Downing, a journalism student returning for his third year, came back to campus with two sets of ram horns. He presented them to Howard Kerr, Ryerson’s president at the time, and they were displayed in Eric Palin Hall. Although a ram appears in the school crest (established in 1948), the live mascot didn’t emerge on campus until 1961. He was the first of five Eggys.
The live mascot was the result of a rivalry between Ryerson and the University of Waterloo. In the early 1960s, Ryerson prospered in athletics, but all without a mascot. Waterloo had a stuffed eagle they guarded carefully.
Jealous of their rival, former Student Administrative Council (SAC) president, Ron Graham and 200 other Ryerson students collaborated to find a mascot. They looked to the crest and laid eyes on the ram. The ram on the crest is meant to symbolize the mythological God Aries. He represents the realization of potential and the grasp of success.
Graham and three other Ryerson students took a trip to a slaughterhouse, the Toronto Stock Yard, and bought a live ram for $25, birthing Ryerson’s mascot and initiating instant school spirit. The four students named the new mascot Egerton Ryerson, Eggy for short.
Eggy was first introduced at a Ryerson hockey game. Students would chant “Eggy wants a goal” and sure enough, the hockey team would give him just that. Ryerson beat Waterloo by a whopping score of 12-3. During the school year, he lived in a pen outside what is now Oakham House and in the summer months, he would vacation on a farm outside Toronto. He would lead parades, attend the annual Island Picnic and supervise convocations, increasingly boosting school spirit and morale. Sadly, only a year after his debut, Eggy died of cancer.
Eggy II was immediately purchased as a replacement. He lived until 1968, but was constantly the victim of “ramnapping.” The University of Toronto made it an annual prank to steal Eggy, and Waterloo joined in on occasion, attempting to snatch the beloved mascot. However, he drowned in an unfortunate flood at the farm he stayed at in the summer.
Eggy III was purchased in 1969. However, due to city by-law changes in the 1960s, farm animals were no longer allowed to live in urban areas. The only plausible solution was to have Eggy live full time at a farm outside Brampton, and make the trek to Ryerson upon request or for very special events.
Eggy III was very ornery and required sedation to be transported to Ryerson. He was retired in 1977 because he was too difficult to strut on campus. Defending his flock of ewes against a wolf attack in 1981, Eggy III was killed.
The idea of a fourth Eggy was controversial. David Butler, alumni director at the time, announced there would be no Eggy IV. But students protested Butler’s claims of too little funding to support the ram.
But in 1981, Karen Dow, a social work student, volunteered to designate one of her family’s rams as Eggy IV. He appeared in a beer commercial and won prizes at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. He was a celebrity and left big shoes to fill when he died of natural causes in 1987.
The Dow family volunteered to find a replacement for the deceased ram. Eggy V arrived on campus two months later and was immediately made an honorary member of the newly opened Recreation and Athletics Centre (RAC). He lived for five years and was the last live ram to grace Ryerson.
Under pressure from the Humane Society in 1991, Ryerson chose to discontinue the live mascot tradition and employed the costumed Eggy instead.
Four heads of the old rams presently reside in the archives on the 3rd floor of the library. Today, school spirit and ram pride still linger on campus somewhat scarcely, but you can be sure to find a 6” Eggy in Ryerson blue and gold dancing at sporting events.