Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks
Georgetown's Century-Old Search for the Perfect Mascot
Lounging like a prince in the secure and well-furnished atrium of the Jesuit Residence, Jack the Bulldog feels at home on the Hilltop.
But many Hoyas know the truth is that Georgetown’s mascot has not always been named Jack. In fact, the school’s premier pooch has not always even been a bulldog.
Indeed, since Jack has become such a regular sight around the Hilltop, it may be surprising that the university’s tradition of keeping a bulldog as our living and (heavily) breathing mascot has been quite disjointed. At times, Georgetown’s mascot has been a dog of a different breed, and at other times we have not had a mascot at all. In fact, the tale of the Georgetown mascot is more complicated than most know.
For most of 20th Century, the school’s mascot looked very different than it does today. Georgetown started using dogs at athletic events in the early 1900s, but the university never stuck with one dog or one breed for very long. In the 1920s various dogs took on the role of university mascot, including a terrier named Stubby and a Great Dane named Dutch. By the 1960s, however, Georgetown had stopped using dogs at its sporting events, but not without student backlash.
Graduate Stan Samorajczyk (CAS ’64), now a bankruptcy lawyer in Washington, led the fight to bring a live mascot back to the Hilltop in 1962.
“The sports team jerseys always carried a picture of the bulldog on it,” Samorajczyk said. “I did some research and found that with the decline of intercollegiate football and disbanding of the program, we had stopped using a live mascot.”
Samorajczyk said he and half a dozen friends formed a mascot committee to garner support for the purchase of a bulldog to resuscitate the tradition. They sold “stock shares” to students who paid money in exchange for a document recognizing their contribution. They raised a couple hundred dollars and were able to cover the purchase, feeding, and care for the bulldog throughout the year, Samorajczyk said.
The committee purchased a blue-ribbon-champion thoroughbred English bulldog originally named “Lil’ Nan’s Royal Jacket” because it had what Samorajczyk called “an absolutely gorgeous coat.” The puppy refused to answer to the name Hoya, instead insisting on keeping his nickname given by his previous owners.
That nickname was Jack.
The students financed and cared for Jack, who resided in a heated dog house near New South, and even saved him from peril on some instances.
Samorajczyk recalled one incident: “Our big rival was Holy Cross. A day or two before the Holy Cross basketball game, some Holy Cross students, with the help of some Georgetown students who damn near got lynched afterwards, went down and cut his chain. We got him back before the game.”
As a sports editor for The Hoya at the time, Samorajczyk reported on the incident in the Feb. 14, 1963 issue.
“As soon as the dogsnatch was discovered later that morning, a nationwide alert was sounded and counter offensive measures swung into action,” he wrote at the time.
While the students managed to protect Jack and his three successors from harm for many years, by the 1980s, the tradition of the live mascot was dropped once again. Now the closest thing that Georgetown had to a mascot was a student dressed in a Bulldog suit.
Twenty years later, three Georgetown students decided they wanted to bring back a real live Jack. In 1999, Hoya Blue co-founders Michael Boyle (MSB ’00), Austin Martin (COL ’99) and Kathleen Long (COL ’99) made a move to revive the tradition once again. The students started a campaign to bring live Jack back under the guidance of Interim University Chaplain Fr. Scott Pilarz, S.J. (CAS ’81).
Pilarz said that the students purchased Jack from a breeder near Pittsburgh at a cost of $1200, but not without hesitation from university officials.
“A group of students had to overcome a series of administrative obstacles in order to make Jack a reality after many years of having no live bulldog on campus,” he said.
Yet, when Pilarz moved to take on the role of president at the University of Scranton in 2003, he took Jack with him. Pilarz reported this week that his Jack is currently in good health but “slowing down and sleeps much of the day” — often in the presidential office in front of the fireplace, he said.
With Pilarz and his Jack gone, there was yet another vacancy in the doghouse here at Georgetown.
That same year, Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J. took on the responsibility of finding a replacement — a search that led him to Freehold, N.J., the birthplace of Bruce Springsteen. It was there that he found the current Jack.
Anne Hubbard, a breeder at Brookhollow Bulldogs, bred and cared for Jack in the first 12 weeks of his life. Jack’s father, a champion English bulldog named Copper Kid, still lives with Hubbard at Brookhollow.
“[Jack] has got a lot of the qualities his father had,” she said. “He was an only child, believe it or not. We got quality in that litter rather than quantity.”
Hubbard recognized Jack as a special dog and made sure that he ended up in a loving home, something she says for all of the dogs she breeds and sells.
“I always make sure they go to very good homes,” she said. “If you want a dog from here, you come to my house. I want to be sure my dogs don’t end up at Michael Vick’s.”
Hubbard recalled with fondness the day when Steck came to pick up the puppy.
“Fr. Steck came here, and the funny thing is he had just called on the phone and said his name was Chris,” she said. “I did not know he was a priest. He had he brought his friend and I had happened to make iced tea and brownies for them.” Hubbard said she knew with certainty that Jack had found a good home when Fr. Steck remarked with great satisfaction, “I have mass at my apartment once a week, and I always have brownies.”
Once back at Georgetown, Steck did not anticipate just how popular Jack would become.
“There got to be expectations of people wanting the dog for different events,” Steck told The Hoya in November 2007. “It got to the point where I could not handle it.”
It was then that Steck decided to share the responsibility of caring for the dog with the Jack Crew — a group of 20 students who walk and feed the mascot each day. Steck oversees the screening process for crew members and requires each student to place their hand in Jack’s mouth to prove that they could save him from choking, if ever needed.
“I feel that the best people who have walked Jack in the past have been dedicated to Georgetown. He represents something for these students who have shown that they love Georgetown,” he said.
As the Jack Crew has taken a more active role in coordinating his appearances in various university social events, Steck has been able to take on a more traditional pet-owner role.
“Now most of my life in regards to the dog is petting him in the evening and playing around with him, which is what a pet is supposed to be,” he said. “It is still demanding, but now it is more of a controlled thing.”
At least for now, it appears that Jack can rest easy as a well-loved and cared-for mascot. And according to Margaux Harrold (COL ’10), a Jack Crew member, he does just that. “He sleeps a lot,” she said.
Jason Morin, a veterinary technician who cares for Jack at Alpine Vetinary Hospital in John Cabin, Md., reports that the bulldog is indeed healthy and “on track for a long life.” He assured that plenty of sleep and snoring are quite appropriate activities for his breed.
Jack, though, was unable to comment for this report.
— Jimmy Wade contributed to this report.