George P. Burdell

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Burdell's, a store in Georgia Tech's student center

George P. Burdell is a fictitious student officially enrolled at Georgia Tech in 1927 as a practical joke. Since then, he has supposedly received all undergraduate degrees offered by Georgia Tech, served in the military, gotten married, and served on Mad Magazine's Board of Directors, among other accomplishments.

Burdell at one point led the online poll for Time's 2001 Person of the Year award.[1] He has evolved into an important and notorious campus tradition; all Georgia Tech students learn about him at orientation.[2]



George P. Burdell was created by William Edgar "Ed" Smith (BS in Ceramic Engineering) in 1927. Smith conceived the idea for Burdell when he mistakenly received two Georgia Tech enrollment forms.[3][4] 50 years later, in a 1977 Atlanta newspaper interview, Smith said that he originally intended to enroll his Academy of Richmond County principal, George P. Butler, but instead changed the last name to Burdell, the maiden name of his best friend's mother.[3][5]

After enrolling him, Smith signed Burdell up for all the same classes he had. With the help of friends, Smith would do all schoolwork twice, changing it slightly to avoid professors catching his sham. When he had a test, he would take it twice and then turn it in under both names.[6] By 1930, the school had awarded Burdell a bachelor's degree,[3] and a few years later awarded the fictitious student a master's degree.[3] The college listed him as an official alumnus, even though his name has remained on the active student rolls.[7] In 1930, the ANAK Society, Georgia Tech's oldest secret society, offered Burdell membership.[8]

An early prank using Burdell's name came after someone was snubbed by a fraternity he had intended to join. "That irritated [him]. He ordered a truckload of furniture to be delivered C.O.D. to that fraternity. Of course, the order was made by George P. Burdell."[9]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, service members continued the hoax, with Burdell's name appearing on various fronts. For example, he was listed on the flight crew of a B-17 bomber, flying 12 missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in England, until a Georgia Tech graduate became the new operations officer, recognized the name on the flight log, and ended the charade.[5]


In 1958, members of the senior class of Agnes Scott College announced the wedding engagement of Burdell and fictional Agnes Scott student Ramona Cartwright in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.[10] The 50th wedding anniversary of "Mr. and Mrs. George P. Burdell from Atlanta" was acknowledged on the September 23, 2006 broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.[11] A recording can be found at a time of 1:13:55.

To this day, George P. Burdell is listed as a letterman in the official media guides of two Tech sports: from 1928 to 1930 in football[12] and 1956 to 1958 in basketball.[13][14] In 1969, Georgia Tech computerized its class registration, believing it had successfully found a way to keep students from registering Burdell for class that semester. As it turned out, hackers registered him for every class at the school that quarter, over 3,000 credit hours.[5] He was subsequently re-enrolled several times, including in 1975 and 1980.[7]

George P. Burdell is listed as Georgia Tech Swimming & Diving's team captain of 1988 on their record board, even though there was no team that year after the demolition of the Heisman Gym.[15]

The publishers of Mad magazine listed Burdell as a member of its board of directors from 1969 until 1981.[2] In 1991, a check from Kraft Foods bore the signature "George P. Burdell".[16] When Time magazine was attempting to select their Person of the Year for 2001, George Burdell was the leading candidate (holding at least 57 percent of the votes) until the magazine removed him from the running.[1][2]

WREK,[17] the Georgia Tech student radio station, lists him as a staff member, and he is credited for playing baritone on the 1995 album Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection, which was made in Atlanta by musicians from the local alternative rock scene.[18] In 2000, Burdell was named an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Georgia.[19] Burdell was credited as a member of the choir of the 2006 album There is a Place.[20]

George's fictitious son, George P. Burdell Jr., has been a proctor for several classes at Georgia Tech.[21]

Modern era[edit]

With the introduction of Georgia Tech Online Master of Science in Computer Science in 2013, George P. Burdell has been a presence in its social media, with students attempting to stake a claim of his legacy in Reddit.

On November 27, 2014, George P. Burdell allegedly hacked into the University of Georgia's online master calendar to post a new event titled "Get Ass Kicked by GT" during the time of the annual Georgia Tech football game .[22][23] This prank was meant to celebrate the 100-year-old tradition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. While the author of the new calendar event was marked as George P. Burdell, undergraduate Computer Engineering student Ryan Pickren was ultimately arrested and indicted for the crime.[24]

During a speech made by US President Barack Obama held at Georgia Tech in the McCamish Pavilion on March 10, 2015,[25] the president jokingly indicated that he was supposed to be introduced by George P. Burdell, but no one could find him.[26][27][28][29][30]

On June 25, 2019, George P. Burdell's name flew engraved on the Prox-1 satellite mission designed and built by the Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. His name is listed along with all the other students who worked on the mission. The satellite was part of the Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket.[31]


Burdell is a campus icon at Georgia Tech,[32][33] and incoming freshmen are introduced to him as one of the greatest alumni to graduate from the school.

George P. Burdell is often paged over the public address system during football games and also at airports, bars, and hotels.

Georgia Tech students or alumni often use his name as an alias when they do not want to disclose their real name.[34]

There is a store in Georgia Tech's student center named "Burdell's".[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "George P. Burdell for Time's Person of the Year". BUZZwords. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. 2002-01-02. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  2. ^ a b c Amick, Daniel (2004-08-20). "George P. Burdell: the legend lives on" (PDF). The Technique. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  3. ^ a b c d Edwards, Pat (2000-02-25). "George P. Burdell-the man, the myth, well, the myth". The Technique. Archived from the original on 2014-05-18. Retrieved 2014-05-17.
  4. ^ Schneider, Caitlin (2015-09-05), "Meet the Georgia Tech grad who never existed", Mental Floss, MSN, retrieved 2015-09-05
  5. ^ a b c "The TBook: George P. Burdell". Archived from the original on 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  6. ^ "Traditions". Georgia Tech Athletic Association. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  7. ^ a b "George P. Burdell: A student of mystery, a student of legend—the forever student remains alive somewhere at Tech". Stay Informed. Spring 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  8. ^ "ANAK Graduates, 1930-1939". The ANAK Society. Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  9. ^ Dunn, John (Winter 1996). "Burdell's Pal: Colonel Drennon to receive Alumni Distinguished Service Award". Tech Topics. Archived from the original on 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  10. ^ "Agnes Scott - Student Life - Traditions". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  11. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion for September 23, 2006". American Public Media. 2007-09-23. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  12. ^ "All-Time Letterwinners" (PDF). Georgia Tech Football 2016 Media Guide. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. p. 136. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  13. ^ "Georgia Tech Basketball History". Georgia Tech Basketball Yearbook. 2002.
  14. ^ "Tech Letterwinners" (PDF). 2017–18 Georgia Tech Basketball Information Guide. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. p. 92. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  15. ^ "GTSD record board". 22 March 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  16. ^ Goettling, Gary (Winter 1991). "Isn't that George on the Horn?". Technotes. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  17. ^ "WREK website staff listing". WREK. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
  18. ^ Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection, Retrieved 5-30-2012
  19. ^ "Index to Politicians: Burcham to Burdette". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  20. ^ "There Is a Place". Retrieved 2012-05-30.
  21. ^ "Burdell Jr.'s course surveys". SGA Course Critique. Archived from the original on January 3, 2008. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  22. ^ "Screenshot of Hacked UGA Calendar". Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  23. ^ "How Pranking An Online Calendar Almost Sent This Student To Prison". 18 March 2019. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  24. ^ "Georgia Tech student hacks Georgia's computers, gets pretrial diversion". 26 February 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  25. ^ "President's Schedule - March 10, 2015". Retrieved 2015-03-10 – via National Archives.
  26. ^ "Remarks by the President Announcing Student Aid Bill of Rights". 10 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-10 – via National Archives.
  27. ^ "Full remarks from President Obama's Atlanta speech". Archived from the original on 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  28. ^ "#POTUSatGT: Seven Memorable Moments from President Obama's Speech". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  29. ^ "GT Admission on Twitter". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  30. ^ "Students Pack McCamish for Presidential Pep Talk". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  31. ^ "SpaceX STP-2 Mission". Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  32. ^ Edwards, Pat (2000-09-15). "Faces at Georgia Tech: Profile on George P. Burdell". The Technique. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2007-02-04.
  33. ^ Ritz, Anthony (2000-09-22). "Burdell's birthday bash becomes tradition". The Technique. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2007-02-04.
  34. ^ Bisher, Furman (2006-02-24). "GT gauntlet thrown down". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2007-02-04.
  35. ^ "Georgia Tech Student Center". Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2007-03-02.