September 15: “Birth” Of George P. Burdell

Burdell-MiniDiplomaGeorge P. Burdell has been a student at Georgia Tech since 1927. He has had an amazing academic record, having earned every undergraduate degree that Georgia Tech offers. In fact, he’s even earned some of them multiple time. There’s only one little problem, George P. Burdell isn’t real.

On Sept. 15, 1927, William Edgar “Ed” Smith matriculated to Georgia Tech and was accidentally given two registration applications. So, Smith decided to have a bit of fun and decided to register his draconian high school principal, George P. Butler, (a big University of Georgia booster) as a joke. However, he started to get cold feet after writing “George P.” and decided to instead give the fictitious GT freshman  the surname Burdell, which was the maiden name of his best friend’s mother. From there, Smith and a group of his friends embarked on a four year long prank: The gang would write papers for Burdell and during exams, one member of the group would grab two blue books and write two essays during test time (one for themselves, one for Burdell). Somehow, Burdell would graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and two years later would receive his masters.

However, after Smith and his friends graduated, the legend of George P. Burdell would take on a new life. Students who had heard about the prank from Smith’s gang continued to register Burdell for classes, and the tradition continued for decades. In 1969, Georgia Tech switched to a computerized registration system, and the administration hoped that they’d be rid of Burdell once and for all. Nope. Instead, hackers worked their way into the system and registered Burdell for every class that the school offered.

By all reports, George P. Burdell is still enjoying college to this day, and remains a legendary figure on campus. In fact, his son George Jr. sometimes proctors classes at the university. I think many perspective employers would be interested in hiring a bright go-getter like George Burdell, so I thought I should include a few highlights from his resume. Here are but a few of Burdell’s adventures:

  • Member of ANAK Society, Georgia Tech’s oldest secret society, since 1930.
  • Served in World War II as a member of the 8th Air Force.
  • Married fictional Agnes Scott College student Ramona Cartwright in 1958.
  • Georgia Tech Basketball letterman, 1956-1958.
  • Member of Mad Magazine’s Board Of Directors, 1969-1981
  • Named an alternate delegate for the state of Georgia to the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
  • Production Assistant, South Park Studios.
  • Received 85,989 votes (at the time 57% of all votes cast) in an online poll for Time Magazine‘s Person Of The Year, 2001 until the magazine removed him from contention.

What’s the best cocktail for the eternal Georgia Tech student? Well, since Burdell was “born” during the jazz age and Georgia Tech’s nickname is the Yellow Jackets, what could be better than a Bee’s Knees cocktail? The honey syrup in this drink balances out the flavors fo the gin and lemon to create a nice smooth cocktail.

Bee’s Knees

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounces lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounces honey simple syrup (use a 1:1 ratio for the sugar and honey when making the syrup)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Tomorrow: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly armed.”


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