A Brass Rat Reunion, 50 Years Later

by Nicole Morell on August 31, 2016 · 40 comments

in Alumni Life, In the News, Remember When...

Meyer's photo from the 1964 Technique. Photo: MIT Technique

Meyer’s photo from the 1964 Technique. Photo: MIT Technique

Dr. Stephen Meyer ’64 lost his brass rat in 1966. “I know exactly where I was—I was visiting a friend in Auburn, Alabama, in 1966. I was washing a car on the front lawn and when I was all done, I noticed my ring was gone,” he recalls. After looking around the yard and in the water bucket, Meyer gave up the search. “I pretty much assumed it was lost at that time. I knew I had it and then it was gone,” he says. With his brass rat still missing years, and then decades later, Meyer says he gave up hope of ever seeing it again. But 50 years after Meyer’s ring went missing that all changed.

TJ Shoultz, a woman living in Auburn, Alabama—the same town where Meyer first lost his ring—spotted something shiny on the ground of a local park. When she picked up what turned out to be a brass rat, she noticed Meyer’s name inscribed on the inside. Shoultz tried to find Meyer herself, but later contacted the local  TV station, WSFA, for help. The news station turned to social media to connect the brass rat with its owner, reaching out to the MIT Alumni Association through its Facebook page. When the Alumni Association got in contact with Meyer to alert him to the good news, he couldn’t believe it. “My first thought was ‘It’s impossible.’ I knew exactly how it had been lost, so to find that it had been found 50 years later seemed impossible,” he says.

Meyer's ring. Photo: TJ Shoultz

Meyer’s ring. Photo: TJ Shoultz

WSFA soon produced a news story on Meyer’s ring, and, after seeing the location where the brass rat was found, Meyer’s has one theory on where it has been all these years. “The area it was found in has a curb that looks like an old driveway, so I think that could be where that house was where I washing the car. It’s entirely possible that it was found right where I lost it,” but Meyer admits that the theory doesn’t totally add up. “There’s just no reasonable explanation for it being there for 50 years. Maybe the rain covered it? Or we stepped on it that day?” he says.

Regardless of the ring’s journey, it’s now back in Meyer’s possession after being quickly shipped from Auburn to his home in Southern California. Meyer’s says he plans to go back to wearing the brass rat—just not right away. “I tried it on, it doesn’t fit, of course,” he laughs.

Meyer says he isn’t the only person delighted that he has his ring back. “My daughter shared the story on Facebook and got 72 likes; I told the mailman and he loved it,” he says. “Everyone that I shared the story with has been blessed by it.”

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

mkt42 August 31, 2016 at 7:01 am

Much like Sauron’s ring, it decides when it wants to be lost — and then found!

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ash95 August 31, 2016 at 9:58 am

I hear crows like shiny things… perhaps it spent some of those years up in a tree?

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John Greene '83 August 31, 2016 at 11:16 am

Usually the ring maker will resize it, clean and polish it for a small fee – had mine done, and it looks like new!

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Glenn Nelson August 31, 2016 at 11:50 am

Here’s my lost ring story. Mine came back after 10 years.
In 1974 a week before I graduated I lost my ring (class of 73, though). I thought I had lost it while on the trail around Lake Waban.
10 years later I’m feeling rich enough to buy a replacement (my first ring was purchased when gold was fixed at $35/oz, this new one was much more $$). 6 months after getting my replacement (and a poor imitation – features have changed), my old ring is sent back to me!
Evidently I lost it while passing thru a backyard in Newton on my way to visit a friend. The owner’s dog dug it up 10 years later!
BTW, the original has class year in Roman numerals (LXXIII) on the base of the dome, and on the other side of the ring it has founding year in Roman (MCMXVI) at the base of the dome.

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Nicole Morell August 31, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Great story! Perhaps a dog played a role in Stephen’s story as well.

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Alan Cisar August 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm

There is also a 73 in the sticks under the beaver. (The MCMLXXIII wore off the dome on my ring years ago.)

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Glenn Nelson August 31, 2016 at 7:45 pm

Do all rings have the class year hidden in the twigs underneath the beaver? Or have they dropped that? I was disappointed that the replacement did not, but that’s sort of understandable.

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Alan Cisar September 1, 2016 at 10:31 am

They did in the early 70’s. I don’t know about other years.

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Angie Urdanoff September 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm

My ring has 82 in the twigs underneath the beaver. So the tradition made it into the 80’s!

Leah Bateman September 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm

I was class of ’90, and ours did.

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Peter Dinhofer '75 August 31, 2016 at 5:14 pm

A follow up similar story to Glenn. I lost my ring just after graduation. I called the then past president of the ring committee and ordered a replacement. It wasn’t the same as the original even though they claimed it was. I got the replacement and wore it for many years. About 10 years ago, my ring was stolen from my house in a robbery. There wasn’t much in the house at the time except some rolls of quarters and a stereo system. About 2 months later I got a call from a fellow alum in Massachusets who said he had found my ring (name now forgotten). I was ecstatic. I assumed that the thief sold it and it somehow ended up in Massachusetts. However, when I got the ring back, it was my original ring not the replacement. I called him back and asked where he found it. He said that he found at in a box of junk that he got at a yard sale.

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Nicole Morell September 1, 2016 at 9:57 am

That’s pretty wild, Peter. Perhaps the replacement will someday make its way back to you too.

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James Garner '80 August 31, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Lost mine while mowing the grass at my old house in Owings Mills, MD in 1991. This is a great story!

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Ted Kraver September 10, 2016 at 10:48 am

About 55 years ago while I was diving off the end of a boat dock into a shallow mud lake and discovered my class ring was gone. So I said to myself, ” Self, give it one try .” I dove off the dock with my eyes closed, stretched my arm to the bottom and grabbed a handful of mud. Back to the pier, picking through the mud, and there was my class ring.

Its been my good luck charm since then, wearing down until what ever the lettering was on the Great Dome is long gone. Many decades ago I had a plaster ring casting mold made of the ring and put it in the safe. The bottom of the ring has thinned out, so I guess when I turn 100 in 2039 I’ll have another made.

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Glenn Nelson September 12, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Years ago a friend, Alvin Dulcan, Course 2, 1974, lost a contact lens in a hotel pool. Applying his engineers brain to the problem, he asked, “if I was a contact lens in a large pool, where would I go?” He then dove down to the drain and fished around in the leaves that had gathered there and found his lens!

This is how comments get off topic.

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Bob Swaney September 17, 2016 at 7:41 am

Steve, we were acquaintances in ’60 or ’61 and for awhile when you were with
CCC. I wonder what you’re doing now. We live in Ventura.

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David Holladay September 17, 2016 at 7:47 am

OK, lets keep it off topic. I once ran a small business out of my house with one employee. She came in one day upset that she had lost her car keys in a snowbank just outside the house. I went out and dropped my own car keys in the snow and carefully studied the micro pattern of ridges made my the impact of my keys. I retrieved my keys, and then saw the other impact within seconds.

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Vince Cammarata, '89 September 17, 2016 at 7:53 am

I live 2 blocks from where the ring was found. The house that was there was torn down more than 15 yrs ago, so I’m surprised it surfaced now. Its not like it has rained a lot recently, but that lot is used for parking some for the elementary school across the street. My guess is that it surfaced after some car drove through the mud. Glad he got it back.

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Brian Picht September 17, 2016 at 8:22 am

Wow, I thought I was a lucky MIT Alum when I lost my brass rat on a cold mountain bike ride many years ago. 4 years later I had a good citizen call me letting me know she found it on the side of the dirt/gravel mountain road.

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Phil Cassady September 17, 2016 at 10:23 am

My 1962 Brass Rat was stolen during a burglary in Menlo Park, California in 1970. I assume that it was melted down for the gold in it, but having read these stories, I guess there is some hope. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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Joseph Kozikowski, Course VI, '56 September 17, 2016 at 10:28 am

3 years ago I couldn’t find my ring and suspected it was stolen by a worker in the house. About a year ago I was preparing for a trip and packed my digital camera. I noticed a lump in the camera bag and found my ring in a little pocket of the bag. I hid it there on my previous trip and forgot about it. Now I wear it every day. The receptionist at my dentist’s office noticed it and told me about her daughter who is an MIT alumna.

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David September 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

Great happy ending Stephen! I was less fortunate (and careless!)…lost it twice!! Once in a snowball fight during med school and a second time shortly after in a gamble (very irresponsible!). Fortunately able to replace it a few years ago and holding on tight!!!

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Hans Griesser September 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

Lost my 83 Brass Rat in Brewster, MA in the 90’s. Still pining for its return. Sigh….. come back! I know you’ll still fit.

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Locke Yut September 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

I lost my ring (class of 54) last year, no idea how I lost it.

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Marc Levin September 17, 2016 at 11:37 am

Still waiting for a similar “miracle”. Wore my ring for the first time at Yonkers race track. shortly after graduation. The ring was loose and somehow I returned without it.
Marc Levin
Class of ’77

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Robert J. Gellert September 17, 2016 at 11:53 am

I have so far not been so lucky. After wearing my ’53 ring continuously for.over fifty years, I lost it most likely with my paper towel in the rest room of my office. After noticing that I was missing the ring that night, I tried to get to and search the building trash the next morning, but to no avail as it was part of the nighttime garbage removal. My wife was able to get a replacement ring for me. I wear it regularly. Though similar, it is not the sameness

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Fred September 17, 2016 at 12:48 pm

I never had a ring – after reading these stories I think I’m better off – I’m sure I would loose it!

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Jim Sicilian September 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm

What a great story. Unfortunately, my Brass Rat is still missing after I left it in the men’s room at Stanford at about the same time Stephen lost his. Maybe I should not give up hope!

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Larry Demick '63 September 17, 2016 at 2:25 pm

This is a great story as are the comments. My ring was stolen in a house break-in in the mid-1980s — we were living in Annapolis MD at the time. I was going to replace it but the cost was much higher than my propensity to spend at the time and, as others on this site have noted, the replacements don’t look anything like the original. I have always wondered what happen to the ring and if someone might find it and take the effort to return it to me — the engraving was still readable. I think though that that train has passed.

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Dave Millman September 17, 2016 at 3:03 pm

There’s an international organization of metal detectorists that specializes in finding lost rings and jewelry for the owners. We’ve returned almost 3000 rings in the last few years…but no Brass Rats yet! If you know the general location where the ring is lost, check out the directory to find a member near you:

https://theringfinders.com/

Dave Millman Course XVI

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Robert Wang September 17, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Class of 1969. Lost my brass rat while camping in Yosemite above the valley floor soon after graduation. Have never located it yet.

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Kazi Siddiqui September 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm

I lost my Brass Rat in 1974. I was driving back from Toledo to Cambridge on Labor Day weekend, and fell asleep on the wheel. The vehicle went turtle as I went off the road, but fortunately I got out of the accident almost unhurt. It was around 2am.

A couple of cars stopped to “help” us. One of the guys from one of those cars helped himself to my bag which had a couple of pairs of clothes in it. But my Brass Rat was also in that bag. I suppose that was the most precious thing in it, both value wise and emotional value wise.

I never got it back. And since I had just graduated from MIT, I couldn’t afford to buy another one.

Dr. Meyer is lucky he got his back. 🙂

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Thom Burns September 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm

For an explanation of why this happens, read a great book: The improbability principle : why coincidences, miracles, and rare events happen every day by David J. Hand

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Alfred Morgan September 17, 2016 at 4:11 pm

From time to time I thought about ordering a replacement ring but never did. Lost mine sometime in the mid-70’s (Class of 1972) when I wasn’t wearing it – had a wedding ring on my left hand at the time and a busted ring finger on my right hand prevented me from putting it there. It was a great memento that I figure will never return but based on some of these stories, who knows? Might get lucky.

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Eric Anschutz September 17, 2016 at 5:19 pm

The culprit is soapy water. I too lost my ring while washing my car, finding it a day later after sifting through leaves all over my driveway. Having graduated many years ago (class of 1950) some of my ring’s features are no longer discernable, but the beaver still attracts notice – and comment!

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Satya Deb Misra, 1964 (Calcutta University), 1991 Columbia University, 1991 MIT Course 2 September 17, 2016 at 6:55 pm

The ring was never lost. It thinks you were lost for 55 long years. First you stepped on it to bury it and then left it alone to worry about it for decades. But the smart ring finally managed to find you.

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Burnie West September 17, 2016 at 7:12 pm

I lost my ring when my wife and I were visiting my daughter and her husband, a month or so before they were planning to move. I discovered it was gone just before we left on that visit. The only place I could imagine that I might have lost it was when I reached across the car to fold in the outside mirror so I could park closer to a brick wall to avoid squeezing the road too much. I searched the area as carefully as I could, no ring. Couple of weeks later, it occurred to me that perhaps the ring had rolled downhill a bit, as the road had a bit of a grade. I rented a metal detector on another visit just before the move was to take place, and scrutinized the area as carefully as I could for about a hundred feet down the road. Still no ring. Went back in the house, sat down on the couch and was fiddling with the edge of the couch cushion when I felt something — yes, it was the ring! I then remembered that on the previous visit I had been searching for a small toy my grandson was upset about misplacing, and had run my hand between those couch cushions to see if it was there. It’s a class of ’60 ring, but no marking in the twigs. No need, though, the ring has 60 in huge numerals on the side.

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Claudia Winters Viehland September 17, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Another lost ring story — Larry Viehland and I were newly engaged in 1968 (both of us in course V, 1969). We had traded brass rats as juniors, but HE LOST MINE somewhere in Missouri during the summer of 1968. He offered me the choice of a replacement rat or a diamond engagement ring – couldn’t afford both. “Of course” I chose the diamond, figuring that I still had custody of his rat. [Mine has never been found – it has the initials CKW inside.] The day before he gave me the diamond (start of the semester, January ’69), he was in a snowball fight in front of Kresge – and LOST the diamond ring in the snow! All of the APO guys dug around in the snow, possibly lump by lump, but they found it – and I only learned about this some time later.

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Cheryl Dawson September 18, 2016 at 12:39 pm

I wish my original would have turned up like that! Mine was stolen from my swim bag in the locker room at the YMCA and I called all the pawn shops and jewelry shops in town, but never found it. I replaced it with an insurance payment but since our year (1967) had a different jeweler, the ring on my finger still doesn’t look like my brass rat even after twenty years.

Congratulations!

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Leah Bateman September 18, 2016 at 7:55 pm

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