Faculty give each other the bird

Faculty give each other the bird

by Aaron Daniels

An elusive creature is roaming the offices on campus. It’s more mysterious than any bird a scientist has ever studied before.

The Birthday Bird is a bird-like figure that has accumulated personal artifacts ranging from T-shirts to hats and stickers. These artifacts are hung on or stuck to the six-foot bird by the professor who plays host to it.

Each time a professor’s birthday arrives, they become eligible to enjoy the Birthday Bird’s company. According to Becky Beaman, secretary of the academic dean, the only way to get rid of the bird is to pass it on to the next lucky recipient.

“It’s a dubious honor, I guess,” Beaman said.

Communications Department Chair Brian Steffen did not appreciate the Birthday Bird standing outside his office on his birthday. Because of the bird’s presence, everyone in the department and any students passing through know when Steffen’s birthday is.

“My colleagues are going to be in so much trouble,” Steffen said.

Recipients usually add a memento to the bird, giving it strange “feathers.” Steffen added a Macintosh computer sticker to the bird.

Steffen saw the bird not as a happy reminder, but as an ominous warning.

“When you get to be an age such as what I am, you don’t want people to know what age you are, nor do you want them to even know its your birthday,” he said. “I saw it as a reminder that you’re one year closer to the grave.”

Nonetheless, Steffen happily passed the Birthday Bird on to one of his colleagues – the newest member of the Communications Department, Instructor Chad Roberts.

“For them to include me in this tradition, someone who is so new on campus, is really a neat thing,” Roberts said.

Jane Kvetko, professor emeritus of social work, purchased the creature from a garage sale in the early 80s and initiated the Birthday Bird tradition.

Kvetko has since passed the care of the bird on to Professor of History Owen Duncan. Duncan is a proud supporter of the Birthday Bird tradition.

“It provides a way for the new professors to get involved with the social life around campus and it also provides a means of conversation,” Duncan said.

Academic Dean Bruce Haddox supports the Birthday Bird as well.

“It’s a way of building a community here on campus … it’s a good thing to keep around,” Haddox said.