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All hail UT’s patron
saints!! Among the schools and colleges on campus, a few have taken on mascots which have affectionately been promoted to patron saints. The law school has its staid Peregrinus, business boasts the
wily Hermes, architecture claims the mysterious Ptah. But the best-known is the patron saint of the Texas engineers: Alexander Frederic Claire, or simply, Alec. His arrival created an annual UT holiday.
When the University
first opened in 1883, the academic calendar of choice was the quarter system, and holidays were in short supply. The fall term opened in early October, with final exams completed just in time
for Christmas. Winter classes resumed the third or fourth day of January and ran through mid-March. And without a pause, the spring term began immediately after winter
finals and continued mercilessly until the first week of June. In the spring, students were permitted only two days to catch their breath: March 2nd in honor of Texas Independence Day,
and April 21st for San Jacinto Day.
In 1908, the start of
spring classes was joined by a student movement for a third spring holiday, preferably April 1st, which was about halfway between the other two. Officially, the faculty opposed the idea, though professors did nothing to prevent the cause from
gaining momentum. As the students began to organize, there were indications that if their request was refused, they would simply stage group walkout for the day.
About the same
time, UT engineering students received an invitation from their counterparts at the University of Missouri to travel north to the Show Me State for St. Patrick’s Day. Since 1903,
Missouri engineers have declared St. Patrick to be one of their own, and have used March 17th to celebrate.
As for the Texas
engineers, they’d already claimed a patron saint. Since 1901, Alexander Frederick Claire – or “Alec” – was the main character in Hi Ho Balls, a favorite song of the engineers. But Alec was known in name only. There
was neither an appropriate physical rendering, nor a special day, for UT’s patron saint."