MIT class ring
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology's class ring, often called the Brass Rat, is redesigned each year by a committee of MIT students. The class ring has three main sections: the bezel, containing MIT's mascot, the beaver; the MIT seal (seal shank); and the class year (class shank). The side surfaces show the Boston and Cambridge skylines. An MIT campus map and the student's name are engraved on the inner surface. On earlier versions, the Building 10 facade was featured on each shank, with "MIT" under it on one side and the class year on the other.
The phrase "Brass Rat" is derived from the alleged resemblance of the gold (hence brass-like appearance) beaver to a rat. Among other reasons the beaver was chosen as mascot (and therefore for the front bezel of the ring) because it is an American animal, and considered to be the engineer of the animal world. Conversely, MIT students are considered to be the "animals" of the engineering world. The ring is not made of brass.
The Brass Rat is traditionally worn with the Beaver "sitting" on the wearer until graduation. This represents the hardships imposed on students at MIT. In addition, the skyline of Boston is facing the student, representing the outside world awaiting. After graduation, the ring is turned around, and the Cambridge skyline is visible to the graduate, as a reminder of times spent at MIT.
The undergraduate ring is designed and presented in the sophomore year of each class. The design is unveiled during the Ring Premiere in the start of the spring term, which is followed months later by the Ring Delivery in the same term. The latter has been a tradition since 1999 (Class of 2001), and is typically a formal occasion. Ring Delivery ceremonies have been held on a harbor cruise, at prestigious restaurants, and at the Boston Public Library. Although parts of the ring change each year, there is typically the MIT seal on one shank of the ring, and a depiction of the Dome on the other side. The 2008 Brass Rat was the first in recent years to revert to the original style of the ring, placing the seal and Dome above the "MIT" and "08" respectively. The 2010 Brass Rat was the first to invert the "MIT" and "2010" on the shanks of the ring.
The ring was first proposed in 1929 and labeled the "Standard Technology Ring".
In the spring of 1929, C. Brigham Allen, President of the class of 1929, appointed a ring committee consisting of one member of each of the classes of 1930, 1931, and 1932. The committee was headed by Theodore A. Riehl, and its sole purpose was to provide a ring which the Institute Committee would approve as the Standard Technology Ring. In October the committee submitted its first detailed report to the Institute Committee and requested a decision as to whether the Institute Dome or the Beaver should be used on the face of the ring. This precipitated a vigorous discussion concerning the exact status of the Beaver as the Institute mascot. Investigation showed that, on January 17, 1914, President MacLaurin formally accepted the Beaver as the mascot of the Institute at the annual dinner of the Technology Club of N.Y. Lester Gardner '97 explained the decision:
"We first thought of the kangaroo which, like Tech, goes forward in leaps and bounds. Then we considered the elephant. He is wise, patient, strong, hard working, like all who graduate from Tech, has a good hide. But neither of these were American animals. We turned to Mr. Hornady's book on the animals of North America and instantly chose the beaver. The beaver not only typifies the Tech (student), but his habits are peculiarly our own. The beaver is noted for his engineering, mechanical skills, and industry. His habits are nocturnal. He does his best work in the dark."
There was no record of any action having been taken by the Institute Committee so that the body went on record as approving the Beaver for the official mascot of Technology. Opinion was still divided on the question of Dome versus Beaver, but with the realization that many schools had domes somewhere similar to Technology's, the Institute Committee decided to use the Beaver on the face of the ring. The Dome lent itself particularly well to use on the shanks.
Since that time, subsequent classes have appointed a Ring Committee to design their own MIT ring. The goal of these committees has been to create a ring that keeps the design that is unmistakably the MIT ring, yet introduce changes that will allow that ring to always be identified with their class. This tradition has developed throughout the years producing one of the most cherished symbols of an MIT education that is recognized worldwide.
The Graduate Student ring, or "Grad Rat", is redesigned every 5 years. Unlike the undergraduate ring, the Grad Rat is personalized according to the department in which the graduate student resides and to the degree to be received (i.e., PhD, ScD, SM, etc.). The Grad Rat has typically been less popular among graduate students at MIT than the Brass Rat is with undergraduates, with as few as 30% of graduate students opting to buy the ring compared with 85% of undergraduates who purchase the Brass Rat. However, in recent years the Grad Rat has been gaining in popularity among graduate students. Factors contributing to the increasing popularity of the Grad Rat include the aforementioned personalization, increased visibility and marketing, and perhaps most importantly the ability to specify these personalizations (including major, graduation year, and degree) without extra charges.
Undergrad Brass Rat
The ring is offered in several sizes, in various gold purities: 10, 14 or 18 carat (42%, 58% or 75% gold alloy) as well as white gold and Celestrium (jeweler's steel). A typical ring: medium size, 14 carat gold, would cost US$616 in 2010 (class of 2012 ring). In recent years, the Balfour Company has been the exclusive manufacturer of the Brass Rat, although several other companies have made the ring through an annual competitive bidding and design process.
Brass Rat sightings
- A giant Brass Rat was manufactured to fit a cannon from Caltech's Fleming House, which was appropriated in an MIT hack on April 6, 2006. The Brass Rat was reclaimed before the cannon's return, and is now in the collection of the MIT Museum. As of 2011, the artifact was on display as part of the MIT 150 year-long exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of MIT's founding charter.
- In May 1979, a Brass Rat was attached to the finger of the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard.
- Stir Crazy: Inmate Grossberger was played by Erland Van Lidth De Jeude, an MIT graduate in Course VI, while wearing his Brass Rat.
- Iron Man: Lieutenant Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes (played by Terrence Howard) and Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) both wear the Brass Rat, visible on their fingers.
- "Shiny new beaver mascot has debut". MIT News Office. 2000-05-10. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- Grad Rat // Design / Index
- "Ring History ('93 class webpage)". AlumWeb.MIT.edu. Retrieved 2006-12-26.
- "Grad Rat Proves Popular". Retrieved 2006-12-28.[dead link]
- "List of ring manufacturers by year". Alum.MIT.edu. Archived from the original on December 6, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- Peterson, Institute Historian T. F. (2011). "Hacking into the new millennium". Nightwork: a history of hacks and pranks at MIT (updated edition). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-51584-9.
- Elton, Catherine (April 19, 2006). "Comedy on Campus: MIT takes on Caltech for prank distinction". Boston Globe.
- Peterson, Institute Historian T. F. (2011). "When MIT won the Harvard-Yale game: hacking Harvard". Nightwork : a history of hacks and pranks at MIT (updated edition). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-51584-9.
- "Hack brings Yard Plate to campus". The Tech. 1990-09-14. Retrieved 2006-12-31.
- "Clip of Grossberger wearing Brass Rat from Stir Crazy". YouTube.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-20.
- "MIT admissions article on Iron Man with production stills". MIT Admissions.