The Ghosts of Rollins
(and Other Skeletons in the Closet)
By Mary Seymour ’80
The Case of the Missing Cat
The fox statue that marks Fox Day once had a feline companion, now missing for than six decades. The cat statue’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Former Florida senator Murray Sams gave the statues to Rollins in 1934. They formerly graced his New Smyrna Beach home and were reportedly created in France in the late 1800s. The fox, which originally had a book resting on his leg, was said to represent the Catholic clergy, while the cat symbolized the populace bowing in submission to the fox.
The statues were installed as permanent fixtures on the walkway to Recreation Hall. President Hamilton Holt, who loved nothing more than creating a good campus tradition, started the “Cat Society” for female students and the “Fox Society” for young men. The societies had limited membership and an initiation ceremony that included the following incantation:
Preserve in us, Oh Magnum Vulpes,
The craftiness and cleverness,
And keep us forever sleek and soft,
Oh Felis Domestica.
Only official members of the Cat and Fox Societies were allowed to touch the statues. When Dean of Men Arthur Enyart was seen touching the fox one day, retribution was swift: society members tossed him into Lake Virginia.
The statues’ visibility and significance inspired numerous kidnapping schemes. After the fox went missing in 1948, President Holt received a letter informing him that a person or persons unknown had buried it by the tennis courts. The tip was accurate; a worker dug up the fox and re-cemented it to its pedestal.
As for the cat, tragedy struck in 1949, when some non-worshipper of Felis Domestica smashed the statue into pieces and disposed of the evidence. No one knows where its remains lie, though rumor has it they are at the bottom of Lake Virginia just south of the Rollins swimming pool.
Photos courtesy of Rollins College Archives and Special Collections
Wenxian Zhang, Head of Archives and Special Collections, and Darla Moore, Archival Specialist, contributed to the research for this article. Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL, President Emeritus of Rollins College, also served as a resource. Jack Lane, Professor Emeritus of History and College Historian, provided invaluable information through his manuscript Rollins College: A Centennial History (© 2009).