Brass Rats Lost and Found

by Nicole Morell on October 24, 2016 · 25 comments

in Alumni Life, Remember When...

MIT has many unique traditions: pianos are dropped from buildings, hacks randomly appear atop the Great Dome, and students always go for a swim in their first weeks at the Institute. While many traditions occur on campus, one tradition leaves with graduates—the brass rat. Just as alumni leave MIT, sometimes their class ring leaves them.

While many brass rats have been lost, sunk, or destroyed over the years, some of those brass rats do come back. We recently shared the story of Stephen Meyer ’64 who lost his brass rat 50 years ago while washing a car. With the help of an Alabama woman, a local news station, and the Alumni Association, Meyer was reunited with his ring in August. After we shared that story, you chimed in with miraculous stories of your own. Here are just a few:

Glenn Nelson ’74 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. Ten years later I’m feeling rich enough to buy a replacement and six months after getting my replacement, 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!

Ernie Anschutz ’50 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!

Christine Yu '10 shared a photo of her brass rat in tough shape.

Christine Yu ’10 shared a photo of her brass rat in tough shape.

Peter Dinhofer ’75 I lost my ring just after graduation. I called the past president of the ring committee and ordered a replacement. I got the replacement and wore it for many years. About 10 years ago, my ring was stolen from my house in a robbery. About two months later I got a call from a fellow alum in Massachusetts who said he had found my ring. 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.

Ted Kraver ’60, SM ’61 About 55 years ago while I was diving off the end of a boat dock into a shallow mud lake, I 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.

Unfortunately, not all lost brass rats return home. A few alumni chimed in with their stories of still missing rings. Keep a lookout for the following brass rats.

Claudia Winters Viehland ’69 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.

Robert Wang ’69 Lost my brass rat while camping in Yosemite above the valley floor soon after graduation. Have never located it yet.

Nick Uhlenhuth's brass rat provides a perfect frame.

Nick Uhlenhuth’s brass rat provides a perfect frame.

Cheryl Dawson ’67 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 had a different jeweler, the ring on my finger still doesn’t look like my brass rat even after twenty years.

Alfred Morgan ’72 From time to time I thought about ordering a replacement ring but never did. Lost mine sometime in the mid-70’s 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.

Do you have a story of brass rats lost or found? Share in the comments.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Adedoyin Ogunniyi '11 October 24, 2016 at 6:53 am

My brass rat has “walked away” twice now. My original ring went missing at my job in Orlando, Fl. After a few years, I replaced it and the second one went missing at a hotel in Atlanta, GA. Hopefully, third time’s the charm and I keep this one for at least a decade.

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Adrian Walter-Ginzburg October 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I am the mother of two fabulous daughters – whose mischief when small included going through my jewelry. I thought I had the important things safely put away – but somehow my brass rat disappeared. My girls, who are now in their 20s with jewelry of their own, are adamant that neither has it. But I look forward to the day when one of them says, hey, guess what? I found it! Or, one day I’ll get another one, I do miss it.

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Philip Weed October 24, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I lost my “grad”rat a few years ago. I’m not 100% sure when because I think I took it off and put it in my shoulder bag when going through airport security (AZO to DTW to BOS). I submitted a lost and found ticket through Delta but they closed the request having never found it. 2010 Course XVI with the inscription “Go Blue” in the ring. I went to Michigan undergrad and couldn’t afford a class ring back then, so I decided to kill two birds with one ring.

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Joseph Kesselman October 24, 2016 at 6:14 pm

When I was a student and recent graduate, I didn’t feel a need for a Rat; I don’t like gold, thealternatives weren’t brassy enough, I didn’t wear rings. Now that I’m middle-aged and nostalgic and might be interested, it looks like I might be stuck with a generic design; I believe the molds for the ’81 class ring are lost. If someone knows otherwise, please tell me!

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Chris Dorn '81 November 19, 2016 at 10:49 am

Joseph:

The moulds for the 1981 rings are not lost. The original maker, Dieges & Clust went out of business, but their assets were bought by a company called Herff Jones.

I have replaced my original class ring twice, as mine was stolen in a burglary in 2008, and then I lost the first replacement while on a trip to Korea around 2012.

Anyway, if you contact Herff Jones, you can still get a real MIT 1981 ring.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance.

-Chris Dorn ’81

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David Park October 25, 2016 at 2:07 am

A lost ring found me after 17 years! In 1995, I lost my MIT class ring while swimming at a beach in Bermuda with some friends at a company retreat. A tropical storm was approaching and a huge wave knocked the ring off my finger.

Another guy found it in the water that same day while looking for gold. He took it back home and planned on trying to track the owner down. But he put it in a box and forgot about it. 17 years later, he found the box and talked to a friend who is an MIT alum. They got the help of Balfour, the ring company, because they couldn’t read my name that had been engraved. Then they tracked me down via the MIT alum website. Crazy isn’t it?!

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Larry Casey October 27, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Glad to see I’m not the only one losing a ring while working on his car. Actually, I was working on the battery, back in 1970, and I figured it might be a good idea not to have a piece of metal touching a live anode. So, I took the brass rat AND my wedding ring off, placed them on the hood of my Triumph, took care of the battery, and took the car for a quick spin to check things out. Yup, I forgot the rings were just sitting there, waiting to fly off. I spent a week walking up and down the streets looking for them, to no avail. My wife was very magnanimous and bought me a replacement for the MIT ring. She was not quite so magnanimous about the wedding ring, however, as it could never be replaced. Now, 46 years later, she still occasionally reminds me of my fiasco, but, as far as I can tell, no longer holds a grudge. So, if you find yourself walking along Juniper Ridge Road in Acton, Mass., keep an eye out for a glimmer of metal along the side of the road. Who knows, it might be the solution to a long-time mystery.

Larry Casey, ’63 SM ’65

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Fern DoVale November 19, 2016 at 11:14 am

My brass rat was stolen from my top bunk on a ski trip stay in a ski clubs rented cabin in Vermont. This was early 1981, I graduated in 1978. Still had the Balfour paperwork so my parents bought me a replacement. Fern Louise Crandall was the inscription and I still wear the replacement.

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Al Beard '59 November 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I lost my ring twice, The first time was in midwinter in while living in Syracuse. After having lunch with coworkers,. I threw a snowball at someone and the ring went flying into a 4′ snowbank outside the restaurant. A month or so later, when the snow had melted, we went for lunch at the same restaurant and lo and behold, the ring was on the sidewalk where the snowbank had been.
The second time was the result of a robbery while living in Phoenix. Someone broke into our house and took the ring along with other items. That loss was permanent — I never saw the ring again.

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Jamie (Silverstein) Stolper November 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm

My women’s miniature brass rat, class of ’75, was stolen during a home robbery 10-15 years ago. I had worn it just about every day since I graduated, but had lost a lot of weight and the ring was so loose, I thought it would slip off and I would lose it, so I stopped wearing it until I could get it to fit better. Then we were robbed and I was heartbroken.

My husband tried to replace it, but told me a replacement would be from a different company and wouldn’t look the same. Gradually, I’ve learned to live without it, but I’d love to get another. I’m guessing the stolen one was sold and melted down for the cash at the time, but who knows? I wonder if Herff Jones sells women’s miniatures. They were a perfect size for me. I’ll have to follow up.

Thanks for this article, Slice of MIT!

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Phil Cassady November 19, 2016 at 11:08 pm

Does a clearing house for recovered but unclaimed Brass Rats exist where we might look for our lost Brass Rats?

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Michael Marcus November 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Here’s a story of reuniting a classmate with his brass rate that we printed in the January/February 2013 Tech Review:

Gary Anderson writes that he has been reunited with his Brass Rat, after losing it 40 years ago in the ocean on Hilton Head Island, SC. Here is the story.  “I had just gone to work for Sea Pines Co. on July 6,1972, after graduation from Harvard Business School.   Actually, I don’t recall the actual date, but my wife Lindy swears it was July 6.   Lindy and I were invited to a party on the beach that evening, and I was throwing a football around with some of the guys when I suddenly realized my ring was gone.   Yes, alcohol was a factor.  We looked for it for a while, but of course didn’t find it.  Then, sometime in the 80s (I think), someone found the ring on the beach, contacted MIT, and that resulted in a notice in the Class Notes.  I did not see that notice but heard about it a little later from my friend, classmate, and fraternity brother *Ric Klass.  I didn’t get around to doing anything about it for a while, then when I finally contacted that party, they no longer had it.  You snooze, you lose.  On July 6, 2012, Mike Marcus sent out an email asking for class news and also reported that someone had contacted MIT that they had found a class of ’68 ring, with the initials ‘GPA’,   although the middle initial was hard to read because of the ornate script used. I immediately recognized that was my long-lost ring.  My initials are ‘GSA’.  Catch that date?   That’s 40 years to the day from when I lost it!   This time I followed up immediately, wrote Mike, found out the party’s email address, and began correspondence leading to the return of my ring.   This person said it was found in their home near Orangeburg, SC under the porch flooring when they renovated the porch, but does not know how it came to be there.  It is in perfect condition.  I had feared it might be badly worn from sand and salt, but not so.  I am really glad to have my ring back.  I have not worn rings for many years, mostly because I am around construction some and I think it is somewhat hazardous to have rings on, but also because I didn’t have my class ring.  I took both my Brass Rat and my wedding band to be resized (as I am definitely a larger man that I was in college!).  Maybe I will start wearing them both on a regular basis now.  I would like to express my gratitude to MIT and Mike for their efforts in helping me get my Brass Rat back.”

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Dan Asimov November 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I lost my brass rat in the summer of 1969, a year after graduating in the Class of ’68 and beginning graduate school in Berkeley. I was hiking in Big Sur with a friend, and the ring slipped off my finger and rolled near the edge of a precipice. I got on my belly and tried to skewer it with a twig, but instead pushed it over the edge. I would love to have it back, or else have a replacement. (But I can’t afford to buy one, alas.)

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Dan Asimov November 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I lost my brass rat in the summer of 1969, a year after graduating in the Class of ’68 and beginning graduate school in Berkeley. I was hiking in Big Sur with a friend, and the ring slipped off my finger and rolled near the edge of a precipice. I got on my belly and tried to skewer it with a twig, but instead pushed it over the edge. I would love to have it back, or else have a replacement. (But I can’t afford to buy one, alas.) If anyone find it, it has my initials D.A. inscribed on the inside.

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Robert. M. Dawso III '55 November 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

During my senior year at MIT I won a diamond in a Boston jewelers contest and offered it to my wife to install in a piece of her jewelry. She suggested that it be placed in my “brass rat” in the upper right corner above the Beavers back. I have worn this unique ring every day since. When preparing to attend my 50th MIT class reunion I took the ring to a local jeweler for cleaning and it was stolen from his shop.. After much pressure from me, he was able to have a replacement made, complete with diamond, and I continue to proudly wear it , receiving many comments on what truly distinct class ring it is.

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Will Roberts '68 November 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I’ve had two very near losses over the years. The first was on a long sand beach in Maine where I had spend a very pleasant day with a lady friend. I had put my ring in my shoe for safe keeping but it must have tipped out. I didn’t noticed it was missing until after we started walking back down the beach at the end of the day. Looking back at about a mile of undifferentiated sand and dunes, I thought that was the last I’d see of my ‘rat. But my friend had an uncanny memory of the dune vegetation and led us back to the very spot and, within a couple of minutes, uncovered the ring in the sand. Amazing!

The second near miss happened on a business trip to Houston where I had responsibility for an office building in a portfolio of commercial properties I was managing. I was working with an architect to solve a water leakage problem in an office building’s parking garage. The garage was under the building’s plaza which had planters with sprinkler irrigation. The waterproof membrane was not working, and water would pour down into the garage whenever the sprinklers were on, much to the dismay of the tenants and visitors.

I used my hand to dig down into the planter soil to see what kind of membrane material had been used. Then, somewhat muddy, I went into one of the restrooms in the building, removed my ring, and washed my hands. Somehow, I got distracted and left my ring on the counter next to the sink — and did not realize it until I was seated on an airplane flying back to California. It was a Friday and I could not contact the building manager until the next Monday. When I called, I explained the situation and he agreed to check the rest room. Remarkably, it was still there on the counter, undisturbed by anyone. (I was pleased to get my ring back but not very happy to realize that our janitorial staff probably had not cleaned the restroom at the end of the day on Friday.)

My ‘rat says ’68 and that is the class with which I affiliate. However, because I was in the 5-year program in the Department of Architecture, my degree was granted in ’69. This always causes some confusion but makes for interesting class reunions when I get to party with both class years.

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Robert. M. Dawso III '55 November 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Comment just sent. Name spelled wrong. Blame senior typing skills

Thanks. Robert M. Dawson III

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Yonatan Tekleab '06 November 20, 2016 at 1:26 pm

I went to a conference on the Big Island of Hawaii in the summer of 2012, at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. One evening between the day sessions and dinner, I went snorkling off of the shore of the hotel to check out sea turtles. While swimming my Brass Rat fell off. Although the water was only about six feet deep, the floor of the bay was rocky, so my ring must have fallen somewhere in between the volcanic rocks. I spent about 90 minutes searching for my ring before the sun started to set. My name is inscribed on the inside, but I doubt it will be recovered it in my lifetime.

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Burton Rothberg November 20, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I lost mine straight off. Got another and lost that also. So this may be mine, but who knows? Maybe you should keep it for the reunion and see who it fits, sorta like Cinderella.

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Eric Lee '86 November 20, 2016 at 9:58 pm

I “lost” my ring at the gym. I scoured the place, enlisted the aid of the staff, checked the local pawn shops and even posted on a few online lost-and-found sites to no avail. Now both my ring and my dorm (Bexley) are no more…

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Ron Rosen '68 November 21, 2016 at 12:10 am

My rat (class of ’68) was stolen a LONG time ago (about 1980) in a theft from my house. Unlike some of the other stories in this posting, it has not yet resurfaced. Perhaps it may appear someday, but I fear it may have been melted down for the gold..

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Tom Miller January 5, 2017 at 10:27 am

Ron,

Did you graduate from Northeast High in 1964?
If so I was in that class. You went to MIT, I took Engineering at USF.

Regards
Tom Miller
Yearbook: Thomas Miller

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emma root November 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Always check Amazon resale sites, and other such ‘for sale ‘sites! I know of at least one ring found that way [though I forget the details, a problem with 54 years behind me!].
My big clunky ring holds my wedding ring in place, very handy for conversation starters.

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Michael Marcus '68 November 21, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Some years’ brass rats can be replaced by contacting the manufacturer. See https://alum.mit.edu/benefits/BrassRat for contact information.)

If your class’ ring can’t be replaced that way, consider the “self help” approach in my essay on the alumni site and organize a class replacement operation:
https://alum.mit.edu/sites/default/files/IC_assets/Care%20and%20Feeding%20of%20Brass%20Rats%20Michael%20Marcus%20'68.pdf

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Martin Cohen November 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm

I lost my brass rat some time around 1975 in Madison, Wisconsin and have never recovered it.

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