Bill-der Beaver depicted on the back cover of the BSTC Bulletin in August 1950.
Micah Friez 2023 square

By Micah Friez

Published 7:00 a.m. on April 7, 2024

Everyone knows Bucky, our buck-toothed, tail-wagging, dam-building mascot. But did you know he’s not the first beloved beaver to ever roam campus?

In honor of International Beaver Day – celebrated wholeheartedly at Bemidji State University every April 7 – we’re looking back at Bucky’s forefather: Bill-der Beaver.

Bill made his spectacular debut in 1950 through the efforts of a Bemidji State Teachers College student. Bernice (Coffin) Walter created the comic strip character and detailed the exploits of Bemidji’s beaver friend, from his violin lessons to his graduation and more. “He did everything a student might be expected to do, and a little more,” the Northern Student newspaper once described.

Mr. der Beaver’s antics circulated around campus through Walter’s illustrations, but Bill’s biggest contribution to BSTC came in the form of his recruitment pitch.

The Bemidji State Teachers College Bulletin, a publication produced four times a year back then, heralded a special story in August 1950: “The Tale of Bill-Der Beaver.”

The bulletin introduced new and prospective students to Bemidji State – all through the lens of a seasoned upperclassman. Bill highlighted some of BSTC’s best offerings, opportunities and amenities through an illustrative, eight-page narration.

“Do you like typing and shorthand? Then take two- or four-year business,” the bulletin said. “Four years’ll make you a high school commercial teacher or a proficient business person. You are in demand in other professions, too. Bill-der Beaver here says technicians and nurses are needed. You can begin a number of different careers at BSTC.”

But his expertise stretched beyond the academic programs. He was a people person – er, a people beaver – and helped students find their way to maximize their experience.

“Bill says college is plenty of work along with loads of enjoyment. … Take it from a fellow who’s been around – the Beaver Union (now named the Hobson Memorial Union) is a dandy place to meet people. You can catch up on some news and some eats.”

Around the same time, Bill also appeared before the whole town at the Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival and also lived on campus in the form of “lifelike statues.”

Bill eventually retired to BSTC lore and to the imagination of Bernice Walter. Yet he laid the foundation on which Bucky, his iconic counterpart, emerged sometime later.

Before swimming off into the sunset for the final time, Bill-der Beaver offered one last sentiment to all Bemidji State newcomers in that 1950 bulletin: “You’ll have the time of your life all of the time.”