Who is Gus Bode?
SIUC’s oldest student is still raising some eyebrows 46 years after he began attending.
But after all this time, and all the things he has done, many people are still clueless when it comes to that enigma the Daily Egyptian calls Gus Bode. The last name was originally intended to be pronounced bo-dee, but throughout the years, the pronunciation has changed to bode.
The short, shaggy-haired, bespectacled undergraduate was first referenced in the April 13, 1956 issue of the Daily Egyptian when the newspaper was still called “The Egyptian.”
Bode is a fictitious figure created by a group of four former students. One of the four, Jim Stumpf, named Gus after a friend from his hometown of Valmeyer. The friend was a church janitor named Phillip August ‘Gus’ Bode. Stumpf and his friends, the Gus Bode bunch, wrote “Gus Bode was here” on mirrors and walls. Eventually, “Approved by Gus Bode” stickers appeared all over campus.
At first, Stumpf and his friends would write “Gus Bode was here” all over campus. In 1956, the paper decided to use Gus as a way to add editorial comments to the paper. At that point, Gus was not a drawing. In 1962, the same year the paper became the Daily Egyptian, Gus was illustrated by the late Dee Alexander.
“Dee wanted to add a drawing of Gus in the DE beside his funny remarks,” Ola Alexander, mother of Dee Alexander, said. “Dee’s friendship with the DE publisher helped him submit his drawings of Gus and his funny remarks in the paper.”
She said the DE decided to run Gus’ picture and his funny remarks in the paper for a couple of days. Pretty soon, Gus made himself a home on page one, where he has appeared nearly every day since.
In 1956, former faculty adviser for the Daily Egyptian, Charles C. Clayton, decided to use Bode on the front page of the paper, and attributed to him the quote: “We hear the recruiters had slim pickings this year. The grades must have been better than expected.”
It wasn’t until 1961 that Gus made his first visual appearance as a pair of eyes. Underneath the eyes, it said, “The most daring feat of today wasn’t the flight into space, it’s those shorts Southern’s coeds glue to themselves.”
Eventually, Gus’ frank and open manner got the best of him. In the early ’70s, a group of women students stormed the newsroom, according to former managing editor, William Harmon. The outrage started when Gus referred to women as “chicks” and said, “If God had meant women to be equal, he’d have made ‘em men.” In retaliation, women released a live chicken into the newsroom, and threw pieces of raw chicken onto desks.
The one issue in which Gus’ quirky comments weren’t featured was on the day of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. The news was far too serious to make light of, according to Harmon. In recent times, Gus was also absent from the edition printed after Sept. 11.
Lloyd Goodman, who came to the DE in 1994 to serve as Faculty Managing Editor, said he has learned that Gus is a tradition and is a common thread of the DE. He said Gus may not always be popular, but he thinks readers appreciate Gus’ perspective.
After many years of constant badgering, Gus Bode was finally given his own column in the summer of 2002 in the Daily Egyptian’s Friday entertainment issue, “The Pulse.”
The idea behind the Gus Bode column is to give him the opportunity to fully express his feelings on important social issues of the day. Bode has even addressed the moral implications of human cloning versus the importance of funding for education. He came to a rather frank conclusion.
“Screw the children! I want a clone,” Bode eloquently stated.
Granted, Bode’s humor doesn’t always come across as well as he’d like, but there are those who have caught on.
“He’s usually pretty hilarious,” said Mark Peterson, a junior in English education. “I don’t always have time to read the paper, so sometimes I just check out what he has to say.” Peterson also said that he reads to see what beef Bode is going to have with the SIUC squirrels next.
Even though Gus Bode is more or less a mouthpiece for the Daily Egyptian staff, people still wonder if there really is a Gus Bode. For those who simply must know, and can’t seem to figure it out for themselves, the best explanation that can be given comes out of the famous “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” letter, which originally appeared in the editorial page of the New York Sun in 1897.
”He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”