Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Reliving Jack’s Legacy

Jack wasn’t nimble or quick. He was stocky, slow and decidedly stubborn. But that’s the way with traditions — they tend to take their time.

When he first ambled onto campus in 1999, Jack was a tiny puppy delivered straight from the breeder. He found a home with Fr. Scott Pilarz, S.J., (COL ’81) making his living rallying students at sporting events and being carted around campus for adoring fans to ogle. And in 2003, when Pilarz became president of the University of Scranton, Jack retired to Pennsylvania to live out his days being coddled, petted and fed.

Last week, though, Jack passed away at the Voorhees,N.J., home of Pilarz’s parents. He was 11 years old — 77 in dog years.

In his wake, the pudgy English bulldog left a legacy of Georgetown pride that he, along with the students who brought him to campus, helped create.


The Jack that arrived in 1999 wasn’t the original campus bulldog, but he was arguably the most important

The original Jack the Bulldog made his debut in 1964 after a group of spirited students suggested the university adopt a live mascot. Led by Stan Samorajczyk (CAS ’64) and John Feldmann (CAS’64), sports editors for The Hoya, the group decided an English bulldog should join the “tenacious” ranks of Georgetown athletics.

To raise money for the purchase of their feisty new mascot, Samorajczyk and Feldmann sold “bulldog shares” to students, asking them to donate in exchange for a certificate recognizing their role in bringing a new Hoya to campus.

After raising about $150, the committee purchased a two-year-old thoroughbred English bulldog named Lil’ Nan’s Royal Jacket. He was an impressive show dog with almost as many accolades as his Georgetown companions. To the disappointment of the students, though, their spirited new mascot wouldn’t respond to the name Hoya, answering only to his street name, Jack.

For almost 15 years, the students financed the university’s canine mascot, caring for the first Jack as well as three successors — all dubbed “Jack” after their stubborn namesake.

Sadly, for dogged Hoyas and bulldog- lovers alike, the tradition of a live mas-cot was forgotten by 1980, the stocky English bulldog replaced by a costumed student at university athletic events.


Jack’s return came when Georgetown seemed to need it most.

For two years, Georgetown’s basketball program had been riding a wave of success powered by all-star player Allen Iverson. Like Patrick Ewing, Iverson had seemed destined to lead the Hoyas to a national championship. But in 1996, Iverson went pro, and the Georgetown basketball squad took it hard.

The team began sliding down a slippery slope of losses. In 1997, the Hoyas pulled out a middling 20 wins. In 1998, they eked out just 16.

By 1999, the basketball squad was struggling just to keep its head above water.

Hoyas had plummeted off the rankings list and were now fighting to break even in the wins/losses column. School spirit had gone the way of Iverson, with ticket sales down and overall support for athletics waning.

That’s when Kathy Long (COL ’99) jumped into action. Long and several friends on the Senior Class Committee and in the newly founded Hoya Blue had tossed around the idea of bringing a dog back to campus, but the school’s identity crisis was the final kick they needed.

Long, now a fundraising coordinator for her New Jersey high school, remembers how the idea developed.

“We had casual conversations about having some sort of live mascot at all the games.

At first, there was talk of ‘borrowing’ some dogs for events — dogs of students or alums,” Long recalled. “But the more we talked, the more we realized we wanted to have a dedicated dog — a real‘Jack.'”

The students went to Pilarz, their friend and a former chaplain. A known dog lover, Pilarz jumped at the idea of adopting and caring for a campus dog. The administration proved more difficult to convince.

University officials raised concerns about all sorts of problems, from funding to dog allergies. Their biggest worry, though, was that future generations wouldn’t be nearly as excited about Jack.

Long and her friends disagreed.

“We had to jump through a few administrative hoops,” Long said. “So we raised money and a small fund was created for health care costs, et cetera.”

The group tapped campus clubs and individual students for small donations, and the growing fund churned out between four and five thousand dollars — enough to buy a puppy from a breeder in Pittsburgh and pay for its health and living expenses.

Finally, on Feb. 16, 1999, Jack arrived by plane. It was perfect timing: just one day before Senior Parents’ Weekend and the last home basketball game of the year. He was welcomed with a red carpet and a blessing ceremony in front of John Carroll, and he went home to a puppy’s palace in Pilarz’s New North homestead. The next day, he made his first appearance at a basketball game.

“Jack wasn’t quite used to his leash at that point and wasn’t able to tear apart a box decorated for our opponent, but he got lots of cheers nonetheless,” Long recalled.

Jack became a campus icon almost immediately.

“When you wanted to take him on a walk, it would take half an hour because everyone wanted to pet him or hold him,” Long said.

Students lavished attention on the new puppy

COURTESY PHIL HUMNICKY The “Old’”Jack, who died Friday, became Georgetown’s official mascot in 1999.
The “Old’”Jack, who died Friday, became Georgetown’s official mascot in 1999.

, and as he grew, so did school spirit. When basketball resumed in the fall, the stands were once again filled. The Hoyasdidn’t disappoint, cruising into the Big East championship with a solid record and a tiny bulldog behind them.

The university caught on to the new fad quickly. The campus bookstore produced a wave of bulldog products, and Hoyas Unlimited began to feature Jack in its fundraising ads. In just a few short years, the little puppy who had stumbled down the red carpet had become a grown-up feature of the university.


When he wasn’t holding court, Georgetown’s campus king was usually busy begging for food. Pilarz, his owner, called him the ideal dorm dog, relaxed and reliably lazy.

“He was a terrific dog, incredibly friendly, which was perfect since he spent most of his life living in residence halls,” Pilarz says.

One of his favorite activities was attending the dinner parties that Fr. Otto Hentz, S.J., held in his Village A rooftop apartment. There, Pilarz, Long and the other members of the Jack crew would meet for drinks with the puppy tagging along.

Students would feed him pasta under the table, but his favorite treat came from the bottle. Whenever he barked, Hentz would throw him an ice cube from his glass of Dewar’s scotch.

“We said that at a young age, Jack became a connoisseur of fine scotch,” Long laughed as she remembered his enthusiasm in gobbling up the ice cubes.

Eleven years later, the same group that brought Jack to Georgetown is still going strong.

The students now have their own careers, and Pilarz has recently been appointed president of Marquette University. The group still takes the time, however, to gather every summer at Pilarz’s family home at the Jersey shore, with the exception of this past year when Pilarz was preparing to take his final vows.

“We were all friends before Jack,” Pilarz said, “but Jack really sealed the deal.”

This Thursday, in fact, many of the Hoya alumni will fly to Milwaukee for Pilarz’s presidential ceremony at Marquette. This year, though, the one that helped bring them together won’t be in attendance.

“I really do miss him. He was such a constant in my life for so long,” Pilarz said of Jack.

No doubt the group will spend time this weekend reminiscing about the pup that they bought together and reared in a dorm room at Georgetown. But, as Long said, they know he’s in a better place.

“We all say that Jack is in heaven now, having as many scotch ice cubes as he wants.”

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