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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

A bevy of beautiful Brass Rat bezels by Matt McGann '00

A tour of the past 8 MIT class rings.

Recommended pre-reading:
Melis: The 2008 Brass Rat
Matt: The 2007 Brass Rat

Each class year at MIT officially gathers three times — once, at the beginning, for the freshman picture; once, at the end, for graduation; and once, halfway through, for the unveiling of the class ring. The design process begins in freshman year with the highly competitive process of choosing the ring committee, or “RingComm,” of 12 class members, students representing different MIT walks of life. The RingComm next solicits bids for the very lucrative ring contract: 90% of all students will purchase the ring in a typical year; one company actually shuts down their factory for the one week each year of prime MIT ring-buying. Using imagery representing events from their first two years at MIT, and drawing upon suggestions and ideas of the entire class, RingComm designs the ring over a six-month period, unveils it at an extravagant event, and stages a lavish delivery ceremony.

How did this all start?

The history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Class Ring dates back to the spring of 1929. C. Brigham Allen, President of the Class of 1929, appointed a ring committee consisting of members from the classes of 1930, 1931, and 1932. Their mission was to design a ring to be used as the Standard Technology Ring. The committee’s first decision was whether to use the beaver or the Great Dome on the ring bezel. After much debate, the committee decided to adorn the bezel of the ring with the beaver and have a three-piece construction, with MIT and the class year each appearing on a separate shank. Thus the Brass Rat was born as a tradition at MIT.

And Wikipedia says,

Despite the disdain that many MIT graduates profess for academic tradition, a very large number of them proudly wear an MIT class ring, which is large, heavy, distinctive, and easily recognized from a considerable distance. Originally created in 1929, the ring’s official name is the “Standard Technology Ring,” but its colloquial name is far more well known���the “Brass Rat.” The undergraduate ring design varies slightly from year to year to reflect the unique character of the MIT experience for that class but always features a three-piece design, with the MIT seal and the class year each appearing on a separate shank, flanking a large rectangular bezel bearing an image of a beaver.

Yes, the ring is known as the Brass Rat. Why? Because it is made of gold and features a beaver on the front.

Why a beaver? Another interesting story. In 1914, Lester Gardner of the MIT Club of New York proposed a mascot to President Richard Maclaurin.

“We first thought of the kangaroo, which, like Tech, goes forward by leaps and bounds. Then we considered the elephant. He is wise, patient, strong, hard working, and like all those who graduate from Tech, has a good tough hide. But neither of these were American animals. We turned to [William Temple] Hornaday���s book on the animals of North America and instantly chose the beaver. The beaver not only typifies the Tech [student], but his habits are peculiarly our own. The beaver is noted for his engineering, mechanical skills, and industry. His habits are nocturnal. He does his best work in the dark.”

Now that you have all that background on this important aspect of MIT tradition, I want to use today’s entry to catalog the recent history of Brass Rat designs, focusing on the bezel, or front, of the ring.

Let’s start with the Rat which was just unveiled: the Class of 2008 Brass Rat.

The Class of 2007 Brass Rat:

The Class of 2006 Brass Rat:

The Class of 2005 Brass Rat:

The Class of 2004 Brass Rat:

The Class of 2003 Brass Rat (stainless steel option shown):

The Class of 2002 Brass Rat:

The Class of 2001 Brass Rat:

Which Rat is your favorite?

34 responses to “A bevy of beautiful Brass Rat bezels”

  1. Fadl says:

    I personally think that ’08 looks the nicest. It’s so elegant and nice. But hey that’s my opinion…smile

  2. They ’08 one is the nicest and most professional looking, but I personally like the ’07 one better. The rat looks like a mad scientist which is just awesome.

  3. Kevin says:

    The 2004 Brass Rat is by far the most beautiful.

  4. Mollie says:

    The 2006 Brass Rat is clearly superior to all other puny Brass Rats.


  5. errhode says:

    Fun fact one: The third hit on the google image search for brass rat is my hand.

    Fun fact two: A number of professors at the University of Michigan have recognized that I’m an MIT alum, solely by the ring on my finger.

  6. Sam says:

    Yes, in my experience the ’07 brass rat definitely says, “I went to MIT, I can juggle, and I will eat you if you get in my way.”

    And it spells out “Punt” and “Tool” in the owl’s wings!

  7. Minh says:

    I like the 2008 best. It has some curiousity on its face.

  8. renuka says:

    The 2005 rat has the most majestic looks and posture.

    I wonder why it called brass rat. Given that it is made of gold why not call it Gold Rat. If Gold had a say in the matter, I am sure it would not be too pleased to be called brass grin

  9. Class of 2004 brass rat is awesome; so elegant!

  10. Anonymous says:

    the 07 rat is definitely evil.

  11. Siddharth says:

    definitely, class of ’08 beaver owns ALL the other brass rats.

    yay for wikipedia knowledge!! :D

    love the part a/b “His habits are nocturnal. He does his best work in the dark.” and its true, i did my MIT app in the dark wink

    wait a minute…. “best work”… “MIT app”… nope, not the same thing :D

    juuuust kidding



  12. Laila says:

    It’s interesting to note how each ring has the IHTP acronym in the background! I had a tough time finding it in a couple of those! Nice entry! smile

  13. Mushal says:

    The 2008 brass rat so totally rocks…and the beaver looks pretty well-behaved too:)

  14. Laura says:

    I like the ’07. That beaver looks like he’s getting ready to take over the world or something. I wouldn’t mess.

  15. David B. says:

    I like the ’06 Rat, it signifies the ideal combination between work & play which of course MIT has, smile.

  16. SpeckJr says:

    I’m definitely feelin’ the 07 ‘take over the world’ thing.

  17. Fadl says:

    Nice rings. Mat I was wondering if you know anything else about the IHTP acronym that is on the rings apart from what is said on Wikipedia? I was just wondering?

    PS: I know that curiosity killed the cat but I’m talking about beavers here…wink

  18. Leon says:

    wow that explanation on choosing the beaver as the mascot is quite interesting

  19. errhode says:

    Re: IHTFP

    In my experience, it’s usually used to express the dichotomy between the two extremes of emotions that students often simultaneously feel about MIT: “I Hate This F***ing Place” and “I Have Truly Found Paradise.”

    Of course, if it’s meant to be one or the other, it’s usually the former.

  20. Nina says:

    well, nobody loves the 2003 brass. and i think his eyes are sad because nobody likes it. so… i’ll just say that it is the best – both thoughtful and elegant. and absolutely devoted to the work!!! =)

  21. AnnaKot says:

    My associations.

    2001 is a freshmen smile 2002 seems a bit tired but thoughtful, contemplating; 2003 has sad eyes; nobody wants to graduate from MIT so soon smile 2004 is evidently content, absolutely happy with its college years smile) 2005 almost has a human face. Also it seems speaking. 2006 is meditating and concentrated, like an aged sage; Actually, he is not alone. wink There is another beaver in the background 2007 is belligerent and desisive. Probably, it is the full moon’s influence. (Is it a moon?). 2008 has a kind face expression smile

    ..well, they all have different characters. I like the happy one and one that is concentrated smile

  22. Colin says:

    God, this is tremendous.

    I know it’s been said already, but I love SO MUCH that “IHTFP” is on every class ring. Amazing.

  23. Sanja says:

    Hey Matt! Can we see your brass rat?

  24. Alissa says:

    I can’t remember when or why I found that…

    I like ’03, although if I had to have a beaver as a pet, I’d go with ’08. :B

  25. Masha says:

    I agree that the 08 looks the nicest artistically, but I have to cast my vote for the ’07 mad scientist. It makes me happy on the inside. smile

    And I like the Stata center in the background of it as well…

  26. Mikalye says:

    Hmmmm…. With the possible exception of 2005, these are all fine friendly beavers. It used to be that every few ringcomms, there would be one that came up with an evil beaver. My own ring (1987) has a fairly maniacal rodent. But today, all peace and light

  27. Brent says:

    salvete omnes!

    the 2008 brass rat is clearly the best. he is simple yet elegant…AWESOME! I aspire to be a rat one day just like him.

  28. Sanja says:

    @Nina smile

    I don’t want ’10 brass rat smile But I do want ’12 smile

  29. M says:

    ’08 is definitely the nicest looking, although I also like the ’04.

    I want to have a ’10 brass rat!!

  30. Nina says:

    I do not know a single person who doesn’t want a ’10 brass rat! I hope you’ll get one , M!!! =) good luck

  31. brittany says:

    I like ’06 and ’07. ’06 is kinda calm and artsy but I like the background for ’07. I can’t believe IHTFP has so many different meanings. Its definetely cool that its on all the rings.

  32. Jessie says:

    I have a bias toward the ’07 Rat, of course, but I’ve also always liked the dark humor of the ’05, with the dam made of course numbers and the drowning person in the background.

    A lot of the ’08s I know thought the ’08 Rat was a wimpy copout, with avoidance of controversy and a lack of symbolism. I haven’t seen the full design yet.

  33. kt says:

    I really like the class of 2002

  34. Dan says:

    Is the brass rat awarded to just undergraduates that are graduating? Or graduates with Master’s or PhD’s as well?