They call him Sir AlgeBear

The case of Cornell College mathematics professor Jim Freeman’s missing bear is still unsolved, but 20 years later, some measure of balance has been restored, thanks to two alumnae. 

Professor Jim Freeman, members of his Modern Algebra 327 course, Patricia White ’96, Liz Biermann ’97, statistics professor Ann Cannon and mathematics professor Stephen Bean pose with Sir Alge-bear.
Professor Jim Freeman, members of his Modern Algebra 327 course, Patricia White ’96, Liz Biermann ’97, statistics professor Ann Cannon and mathematics professor Stephen Bean pose with Sir AlgeBear.

Twenty years ago Patricia White ’96 and Liz Biermann ’97 were taking Freeman’s Modern Algebra course, and Freeman would bring a large, blue, stuffed bear named “Blue Beary” to his legendarily tough exams to relieve stress. White and Biermann started a good-natured tradition of kidnapping the bear. A few years after they graduated, however, it disappeared for good.

Even though they had nothing to do with that disappearance, White and Biermann felt a responsibility to replace the bear.

“This is a wrong that had to be righted,” Biermann said.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the pair came back to campus and brought with them an even larger stuffed bear, which they dubbed Sir AlgeBear. Before Freeman’s class started—the same modern algebra course they took 20 years ago—they brought the bear into the classroom, set it up with a textbook, and waited to surprise Freeman.

When Freeman walked into the room, he looked in disbelief at the giant bear sitting at a classroom table. Biermann and White yelled surprised, hugged him, and then Biermann read a poem dedicated to Freeman. As students came into the classroom, the three reminisced about the courses they’d taken.

The presentation had been in the planning stages for nearly a year, and the Biermann and White arrived on campus Tuesday, Dec. 15, to prepare. They were worried that they’d tipped their hand. But, Freeman said, he’d been totally surprised.

Their timing was pretty close to perfect, as Freeman’s course is going to take its final exam Dec. 17. Sir AlgeBear will be there to proctor.

  • Story-related photo

    Liz Biermann ’97 and Patricia White ’96 surprise professor Jim Freeman before class on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.

  • Story-related photo

    Liz Biermann ’97 reads professor Jim Freeman a poem she wrote in his honor.

  • Story-related photo

    Patricia White ’96 and Liz Biermann ’97 pose with Sir Alge-bear before surprising mathematics professor Jim Freeman.