Believe It or Not!
As all enduring legends go, the stories and mysteries that recount the life of renowned fictitious Georgia Tech Alum George P. Burdell stem from a real life creator; student, William Edgar “Ed” Smith.
In 1927 Ed Smith was accidentally sent two registration forms for his enrollment at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. He decided it would be an epic practical joke to enroll this fictitious person along side with his own enrollment. This was but the start of an unbelievable career for “Burdell” that most notably “earned” him a Bachelors and Masters degree, a stint in the US armed forces, a seat among Mad Magazine’s Board of Directors and even a close race to be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year!
As soon as Burdell was accepted, Smith signed him up for all the same classes he had. Smith would do all schoolwork twice, changing the content and handwriting slightly to avoid professors catching his sham. When he had a test, he would take it twice and then turn it in under both names. By 1930, Burdell had earned his bachelor’s and, only a few years later, received his master’s degree. He became an official alumnus, even though his name has remained on the active student rolls ever since!
Pranks of note
- One of the first pranks to use Burdell’s name came after someone had been rejected by a fraternity he had intended to join. That really pissed him off. So he went out and ordered a truckload of furniture to be delivered c.o.d. to that fraternity. As you would figure, the order was made by George P. Burdell. LOL.
- George P. Burdell was listed on Mad magazine’s Board of Directors from 1969 until 1981. Also, when Time magazine was attempting to select their Person of the Year for 2001, George Burdell was the leading candidate (holding at least 57% of the votes) until the magazine removed him from the running.
- In 1969, Georgia Tech computerized its class registration, believing it had successfully found a way to keep George from registering for class that semester. As it turned out, hackers registered him for every class in the Institute that quarter, a heavy load at over 3,000 credit hours. And despite subsequent fail-safe procedures to prevent it, he did so again in 1975 and 1980.
- Burdell is most recently listed as a production assistant for the South Park website, www.southparkstudios.com
Burdell’s Spirit Lives On
Today, Burdell is a GT campus icon, and his name is revered among the students on campus. Incoming students are introduced to him as one of the greatest alumni to graduate from the school. You might catch Burdell in local bars, airports or hotels as students continue to use his name as an alias whenever they don’t want to disclose their real name.