Confessions of a Former Becky
In the interest of fair reporting, we spoke to some of the many alumni who believe Bucky is actually a human in costume. One even believes that she, herself, was both Becky and Bucky. Here are their stories.
Maralyn Murphy Ortlieb ’54, P’75, P’86 is the widow of Joe Ortlieb ’52, who many believe was the first Bucky the Bison. Known for his zest for life and commitment to family, Joe was born in 1929 into a Philadelphia beer-brewing family. His grandfather, Trupert Ortlieb, began brewing beer in 1869. Growing up, Joe worked in every department at Ortlieb Brewing Co.

Maralyn doesn’t recall why Joe first donned the costume, but says, “He had a great time being Bucky. He loved to dance around on the field. And I was a cheerleader and danced around with him.”

After graduating, Joe became vice president of the Brewers Association of America and owner and president of the family brewery, which ended production in 1981. Until his death in April 2018, at age 89, he stayed involved with sports and community, through his children’s games and events (two of his five children are Bucknellians, as is granddaughter Kate ’19).

Heidi Dawson ’95 was chosen to be Becky the Bison as a senior after spotting an ad for tryouts in The Bucknellian, she thinks. Dawson, an athlete and dancer who played varsity volleyball and softball (and was the first Patriot League Pitcher of the Year in 1993), had been a high school cheerleader and was a choreographer for the Bucknell Dance Company. In other words, she was perfect for the job.

Dawson eventually choreographed halftime dances and performed as Becky — lugging the costume in trash bags to her dorm and shooing friends who tried to visit when she aired out the costume.

“It was sweaty in there, and there was no Febreze back then,” she says. “You’re not supposed to reveal who you are — you never take off the head in public, you’re not supposed to speak when in the costume, and you have to walk a certain way, with a swagger,” says Dawson.

Sometimes she also filled in for Bucky, though she never found out who the Bucky student was. “The Bucky suit smelled more,” she recalls.

The costume offered her new perspective on sports — though, not always a positive one. “I would get roughed up by students a lot. And I’d recognize them as friends of mine sometimes, pushing me,” she says. “When you’re anonymous, you see a whole different side of people.”

But she also enjoyed that anonymity. Once she recognized someone on the opposing side and spent the game mischievously trailing her. “I heard her saying, ‘Mom, I think that mascot is following me!’ ”

Today, Heidi teaches high school English in New Jersey and coaches softball and volleyball, boasting a state championship in the latter. She also coaches T-ball and Little League for her three sons. “The boys know mommy was a mascot, and they’re proud of that,” she says.

“When I look back on some of the fondest memories I’ve had, they’re in that costume.” — Eveline Chao