Continuing a family tradition — as the Baylor mascot
Baylor sophomore Deanna Spencer, an elementary education major from Austin, always knew that she was destined to follow the family tradition. But that didn’t just mean attending Baylor. You see, Deanna is a second-generation bear of an extra sort; like her father before her, Deanna is one of a select group of students who don the Bruiser costume as part of the Baylor Spirit Squad.
Deanna’s dad — Andy Spencer, BBA ’87 — was the first official two-legged Baylor mascot, back in the mid 1980s. A costumed bear debuted at Baylor basketball games in the fall of 1981, sponsored by Wendy’s. Andy became the Wendy’s bear three years later, and then was the first person to be the costumed mascot when Baylor took over from Wendy’s — the first bear to wear a Baylor jersey.
Known only as “Mr. Bear,” the mascot (with Andy inside) won first place at a national mascot competition in 1986. A year later, Andy wore the costume during a slalom ski race in Colorado, finishing 13th out of 36 university mascots. He has since donated the original Baylor bear suit to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Deanna claimed her own spot in Baylor history as one of the Bruiser mascots at the first game in McLane Stadium in 2014, also her first game as a Baylor freshman. Later in the season, she was featured on ESPN’s College Gameday when the show broadcast live from the Baylor campus.
Spencer says she loves interacting with kids as Bruiser. “As Bruiser, you’re a celebrity. You own the room; everybody wants to hug you, hold your hand, touch you, have a photo. Sometimes when I’m around kids as myself, it surprises me that they are not fascinated by me.”
The proud Papa Bear approves.
“Deanna is a great mascot; she is a much better mascot than I ever was,” says Andy, who is now president of En Gedi Group, which serves churches and pastors. “I am a very proud ‘Papa Bear’ and look forward to every game that she is Bruiser; her ability to connect with kids is one of her best qualities. Deanna has great rapport with kids. I think it’s because they see how much she loves kids.”
She also loves teaching, a passion she developed at an early age, as she spent hours teaching her stuffed animals in the classroom that she created in her childhood bedroom. As she entered high school and volunteered for the daycare at her church, her desire to study education took root. “I have a real passion for kids and helping them learn,” Spencer says. “There’s nothing better than seeing that light bulb go off when they finally get it.
“I feel like I made the perfect choice coming to Baylor,” Deanna continues. “All of the different experiences I’ve had as Bruiser — and meeting my absolute best friend in my roommate — have really helped me find my place here at Baylor.”
Sic ’em, Deanna!