Engineering Graduates Welcome the New Ritual of the Calling of a Gryphoneer.
What started as a prank in March of 2018, has become the start of a new School of Engineering tradition. Last year, University of Guelph engineering students invited our glorious Gryphon statue to join them in the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer by “engineering” a gryphon-sized ring of its own.
The Iron Ring is a small and understated band, worn on the little (‘pinky’) finger of the engineer’s dominant hand. The semi-circular facets of the ring act as a sharp reminder of the obligation while the engineer works, as it could drag along the writing surface of which the engineer is writing on.
Each year, graduating students participate in this Canadian century-old closed ceremony to mark the completion of their four years of rigorous study, where they each receive their Iron Ring. A symbol of pride, it also serves to remind engineers of the obligations, ethics and commitment that is associated with their profession.
The Gryphon statue first came to the University of Guelph in the Spring of 2014. Four years later (the standard length of an Engineering degree), the class of 2018 graduating class honoured the Gryphon with an oversized iron ring of its own (see image at right, photo credit: unknown). A covert group of engineering activists orchestrated a plan to place their stamp on the the well-known U of G landmark. Sadly, this prank wasn’t well-received by all, and the ring was removed from the Gryphon’s talon shortly after. It’s rumoured that the original ring is mounted in a proud professor’s office - in two pieces.
“The engineering prank, that placed a ring on the Gryphon last year, was not intended to damage or deface the Gryphon”, stated John Runciman, Interim Director of the School of Engineering. “It was simply to bestow upon it a symbol of honour and pride. The initial response to the prank was a flurry of campus activity to track down the culprits. In the end, the prank opened the door for the sanctioning of the Gryphon getting an Iron Ring placed on its finger each year, coinciding with the annual Iron Ring ceremony for our graduating class.”
Of course, a project of such importance to students and faculty couldn’t be done again without some help, guidance and – in the end – permission, to make this an annual tradition. The newly created ring has had a few upgrades: the addition of some leather to the inside of the ring to prevent any damage to the statue; tamperproof bolts to ensure that the ring isn’t stolen yet can be easily removed after the 24 hours of allotted time; and it is now engraved – with the University of Guelph logo and the graduating class’ years: 2019 for this year’s class, and 2018 as a fair nod to last year’s Gryphon ring initiators.
“I pushed for the engraving” stated Barry Verspagen, the mechanical engineering technologist here at Engineering. “I think that in the long run, years from now when the ring is still around, people will look back and see - oh yeah 2018, I remember that year.” Barry referred to himself as “the behind the scenes guy” when asked about his involvement in the project; “I spent well over a day just doing the set-up and the machining. It was fun to see the students working on the project.”
A couple of newly graduated students couldn’t help but feel extra proud of their accomplishments. Proud to be receiving their Iron Rings, and – possibly even more so – getting to share it so monumentally with the Gryphon, and the University as a whole. “I thought it was pretty sweet!” said student Taylor Caught, when asked how he felt about the ring after receiving his own moments earlier. “It made me proud to be graduating and made me realize that the School of Engineering at Guelph is really important” he said.
The new ring’s designer, Engineering student Atli Eyvindson, recreated the Gryphon’s Iron Ring this year - finishing it only moments before the ceremony commenced. An image to the right shows the new ring being cut in the AML lab at Engineering (photo credit: Atli Eyvindson). When asked what he thought about this new tradition, he said “It was really cool. It was cool to have something that’ll be on there for the next…21 years?” referring to the number of engravable facets left on the ring. “So in 21 years I’ll be back to take it home,” he joked. “But I think it will have to go in a display case somewhere.”
The Guelph Gryphon is more than a statue to students here at UofG; it has quickly become a sentiment to call fellow students, faculty and staff “Gryphons”. So, it is no surprise that the Gryphon receiving an Iron Ring has received little to no push back, as the Gryphon has been accepted by students as one of their own. The School’s Interim Director John Runciman concluded: “This year we have started what will hopefully be a long running tradition of ringing the Gryphon that is in keeping with the spirit and symbolism of both the Iron Ring and the Gryphon here at the University of Guelph”