The "T" was missing Tuesday afternoon from Georgia Tech's tower.
Photo: Courtesy of Austin Foote
Photo: Courtesy of Austin Foote

'T' theft tradition needs to stop, Georgia Tech president says

The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Ech? Nah. That just doesn't work.

And just because grabbing the "T" from the iconic building on the Georgia Tech campus has been a tradition since 1969, it's not one that should continue, Institute President Bud Peterson said Wednesday.

"We have many wonderful traditions at Georgia Tech, but participating in the 'Stealing of the T' — at the risk of life and limb and one's academic career — should not be one of them," Peterson said in a statement on the school's website.

Peterson's comments came one day after the "T" was temporarily taken Tuesday by an alleged thief, an unnamed student who later admitted the action and surrendered the large letter, a campus spokesman said.

Georgia Tech campus police charged the student with theft and vandalism, and the incident has been referred to the Office of Student Integrity, the Institute said Wednesday.

"Our principal concern is always safety, and we are thankful that the student involved was not seriously injured, or worse," Peterson said.

Tuesday's "T" theft certainly wasn't the first on the campus. Though this time, it happened during Spring Break.

Dating back to 1887, the North Avenue building is the oldest on Tech's campus. In 1918, "TECH" signs were added to all four sides of the tower, and more than a decade later, lights were added.

But in April 1969, the tower made new headlines when a group of campus leaders calling themselves the "Magnificent Seven" planned to present a "T" to retiring Tech President Ed Harrison, one of the "Seven" told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. Because he's still an active member of the Georgia Tech community, the "Magnificent Seven" member asked not to be identified, though he has proof he was there.

"The purpose of taking it was not a college prank or a crime at all," the two-time Tech graduate said. "The idea was always to give it to him as a gift."

The "T" was presented to Harrison in a ceremony covered by the media and attended by then-Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen.

"He kept the one that we gave him and he loved it," the Tech graduate said. Another "T" was placed on the tower.

Over the years, the "T" has been swiped numerous times and later returned. But for many reasons, it's a tradition that has run its course, according to the "getaway driver" in the initial "T" swipe.

"It's dangerous," he said. "This is a new era. That was the '60s. It's not safe, and it's not something kids should try to do."

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