This year, Tech’s favorite alumnus and icon is celebrating a very special birthday. George P. Burdell has seen and done it all, earning the admiration of countless students over the decades. Now George is turning 85, giving the campus another reason to recognize its most beloved, if fictitious, member of the Tech community.
The idea for George was born as an elaborate prank in 1927, when Ceramic Engineering student William Edgar “Ed” Smith accidentally received an extra registration form and filled in George’s name.
Smith registered him for all of the same courses and submitted classwork on Burdell’s behalf. Burdell had a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree by 1930, and after becoming an Tech alum, he served in the military in missions across Europe.
Among his varied accomplishments, George has earned a degree in every undergraduate study offered by the Institute, was married in the 1950s and was listed on the Board of Directors for Mad Magazine from 1969 to 1981. The prank has become an enduring legend, and to this day his name appears where one would least expect it.
Among his most notable honors, Burdell was officially declared Tech’s “Greatest Student” in 1970 by another famous and beloved George, the original “Mr. Georgia Tech” Dean George C. Griffin.
“He has come to symbolize the spirit of our grand Institution, an intellectual wizard and a mischievous clown all rolled into one. As the Tech community gathers to celebrate Homecoming, George reminds us to have fun, don’t sweat the small stuff and to keep on keeping him with us,” said Marilyn Somers, Living History Program Director and Creator.
As he reaches his 85th year, George continues to be a vital part of campus life. Somers spoke at two homecoming events celebrating George’s legacy this week.
Always present at campus athletic events, Buzz has become more than just a mascot to Tech. The yellow jacket has rollerskated, crowd surfed, conducted the band and more. Each individual who fills the role brings his or her own personality to the character, but the enthusiasm and camaraderie Buzz shares with everyone in the campus community always remains.
“Buzz is the small child in all of us. Whether he’s racing around the field or high-fiving his fans, he is the center of our attention—continually reminding us to laugh,” Somers said.
Rallying the troops is a part of the job, and Buzz does it like no other. Pictures taken with Buzz at games and around campus are proudly displayed by loyal Tech fans who flock to these events to catch a glimpse of Buzz’s unpredictable antics, both on the sidelines and on the field.
A symbol of Tech’s great legacy, the shining white and gold Model A has been a part of Tech tradition since 1961. Leading the football team onto the field with cheerleaders on all sides, the Reck is present at many campus-wide events and is an ambassador for Tech at away games.
Though it has been restored and rebuilt several times over the years, the Ramblin’ Reck has lived on, its old-fashioned horn blowing everywhere it goes.
“The beautiful Reck … is a mechanical symbol of our humble beginnings and our true grit. Tech has grown from a technological school founded to bring industrial strength to the South to a nationally and internationally acclaimed engineering university. Despite train wrecks and car wrecks, political and funding issues, and all manner of obstacles, Tech and the Wreck prevail,” Somers said.