The Duck mascot has been a part of Stevens tradition for over 100 years. The use of the Duck may have been inspired by the school’s engineering heritage, as a Duck is equally comfortable on land, in the water or in the air. Though he is a waterfowl of few words, Attila inspires some of the biggest cheers heard at Castle Point!
The duck’s origins actually tie in quite heavily with The Stute’s (the school newspaper). The story begins in 1904, when three members of the junior class of 1905, Alfred H. Potbury, L. Edwin Waldeck, and F. William Hausmann, began to talk about plans of starting a college paper. They had been at Stevens for three years and felt that the Institute would benefit greatly from a college paper. The three approached H. V. R. Scheel with the idea and the first Stute Board was assembled.
The date of first publication was scheduled to be shortly after the opening of school in September 1904. Over the summer of 1904, the four brainstormed ideas for The Stute. Scheel later wrote in the December 18, 1929 issue of The Stute “All of us had ideas – in retrospect thousands in number.” This is where the idea of using posters to chronicle the life history of The Stute was born.
Slowly, the question of how to properly introduce the paper surfaced. One of the editors approached Waldeck, an artist, with the idea of sketching something to place on the bulletin board – something that would grow. However, this request was only met with blanks stares from Waldeck. The editor repeated “Something that will grow, as we expect The Stute to grow – oh, say a duck!” The suggestion stuck, and before long a blue print of an egg was placed on the bulletin board.
As the publication date of the first Stute grew near, more posters were put up. The second was a blue print showing a duckling biting its way through its shell. In the next three weeks, a duck appeared dressed for football, lacrosse, and the mid-winter dance. According to a June 2, 1905 Stute article, he was named “Rodo.” Until The Stute became a weekly paper in 1908, Rodo would appear in every issue, often dressed for events that were occurring that week at the school.
Rodo’s popularity grew in the next years. Finally, at a football game at Rutgers in New Brunswick on Saturday, November 23, 1907, Rodo made its first appearance as Stevens’ mascot. A senior had purchased a duck costume and, with the help of a junior, carried the bird to the game. According to Jay Korobow in the October 22, 1971 issue of The Stute, “he waddled across the field in what he thought to be halftime only to realize too late that the third quarter had just begun.”
Stevens fans absolutely loved the suit, and it was given to The Stute. A year later the class of 1911 purchased the duck and borrowed the suit for more games. In a December 5, 1908 issue of The Stute, writer F. W. Y. wrote to the editor “Whether the duck brought luck or not is a question, but it at least made a hit…Why not have a duck every year?”
However, as The Stute retired Rodo in 1908 when it became a weekly newspaper, Rodo faded away into obscurity. The tradition of having a duck at Institute sports games failed to remain a tradition. He is later mentioned in the 1929 edition of The Stute revisiting the origins of the paper, but is otherwise mostly forgotten.
Almost 60 more years would pass before someone would seriously take a look into the history of the Stevens mascot. According to Korobow in 1971, an organized attempt to find a school name and mascot was performed by The Stute on November 10, 1967 by then sports columnist Gerry Crispin. Crispin wrote, “A duck has been missing from Stevens premises. As a matter of fact he’s been missing for 60 years.” The 1967 Stute solicited suggestions for a new official nickname. Some of the popular suggestions were the Castlemen, the Rooks, the Turkeys, and the Ream Team. However, nothing ever came from the attempt.
However, the 1971 issue of The Stute once again solicited suggestions for a school nickname. This time, however, the attempt gained momentum. The movement gained popular support when student artist Jim Liberatore published his idea for the duck mascot in the February 18, 1972 edition of The Stute. Liberatore, in a somewhat half-joking, half-serious article, believed that Stevens’s students had a deficiency in human development. This was not helped by the campus, which he said, “exudes coldness and promotes isolation.” Liberatore felt that bringing back the duck would be instrumental in “bringing back an empathetic personality to this campus.”
The Stute stuck with its policy to promote the duck mascot. On March 10, 1972, The Stute urged the Student Council to sponsor a student referendum to indicate support for the duck. The referendum was created, and The Stute continued to drum up support for it with an ad in its March 17, 1972 issue. Finally, on March 24, 1972, the referendum results were announced. The duck passed with an overwhelming majority of 477 in favor of the duck, with 72 opposed, and 4 absentees. As well, 453 stated they wanted to use Liberatore’s duck as the mascot with 79 who did not and 21 absentees. With the referendum passed, the mascot went on to the Student Affairs Committee and eventually to the Board of Trustees in April.
The name of Attila came from a student contest run by the bookstore from April 3-5. Student Keith Biesiada sent in the winning entry. The Stute announced the winning name of Attila the Duck, and Stevens’ mascot became the duck in spring of 1972. The duck later appeared peering out from behind an IBM computer on the May 1, 1972 cover of The Stevens Indicator.