Drake University mourns the loss of retired mascot, Griff I 

Griff I, Drake University’s beloved retired mascot, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family tonight at the age of 11.

Born on May 8, 2012, in Canada, Griff I joined the Drake University family in 2015 as a three-year-old pup following a stint as an accomplished Champion show dog. He served as the school’s first-ever, official live mascot for five years. Within that span, he welcomed countless students, charmed community members and returning alumni, appeared on the sidelines at home sporting events, never missed a Drake Relays, and received autographs and behind-the-ear scratches from 17 presidential candidates during the 2019–2020 election cycle.

“If you had the privilege of meeting Griff I, you know the immeasurable impact he had on our campus,” said Drake University President Marty Martin. “He was an enduring symbol of pride, loyalty, and kindness, and he embodied the Drake spirit. His legacy will be cherished forever.”

Griff I, who lived with his people, Erin Bell (associate director of marketing and manager of the live mascot program) and her husband, Kevin, and two children, officially retired in 2020. After his retirement, Griff I could be found snoring loudly on the Bells’ couch, celebrating birthdays and holidays with the family, and serving as a foster brother to several homeless bulldogs.

The Bells have a long history of being the caretakers of Drake University’s four-legged mascots. They are the owners of Griff I’s younger brother, and current Drake University live mascot, Griff II. They were also the owners of Porterhouse, who preceded Griff I’s reign. Porterhouse was named the winner of Drake’s Most Beautiful Bulldog Contest in 2009 and continued to serve as the University’s live mascot until his death in 2013. Read about the history of the live mascot program.

“I have loved every minute of caring for Griff I,” said Bell. “He was an integral part of my family—and the heart of the Drake community—for eight years. He was the perfect bulldog to launch Drake University’s official live mascot program, continuing the legacy of Porterhouse and building a strong foundation for the program to build upon with Griff II. He radiated a sense of joy, strength, loyalty, and kindness that uniquely united and inspired the Bulldog community. I will miss him terribly, as will so many others. It is not lost on me how fortunate I was to be the one holding his leash and taking him home at night. He was the best boy, and I couldn’t have possibly loved him more.”

Griff I leaves behind a legacy of giving and may be most remembered for his ability to rally and unite people on and off campus around a common cause. During his tenure, he started Griff Gives Back, an annual pet food collection campaign that has resulted in more than 100,000 pounds of food donated for The Pet Project Midwest. He was a certified therapy dog and extended support to many community members, and he regularly collected non-perishable goods and hygiene products for the Little Free Pantries located on campus and in the Drake Neighborhood.

In Fall 2020, Bulldog Plaza was built outside of Old Main, which includes a bronze statue of Griff I. The plaza was made possible thanks to the support of Bob, LA’74, and Pam Lees and the Lees family on behalf of three generations of Drake alumni. A commemorative plaque will be added to the plaza in the coming months that pays tribute to Griff I and the live mascot program.

Drake University community members and fans are invited to leave a message for the Bell family or Griff II, or share a favorite picture or memory of Griff I on Facebook or Instagram using #RememberingGriffI.

For those who would like to support Drake University’s live mascot program in Griff I’s memory, donations can be made here. Contributions will help to support the efforts of Griff II and expand the program’s reach and impact.