Baylor University Mourns Passing of Baylor Bear Mascot Judge “Joy” Reynolds
WACO, Texas (July 18, 2022) – Baylor University bear Judge Joy Reynolds, known simply as “Joy,” beloved sister of Judge Sue “Lady” Sloan and a cherished member of the Baylor Family for 21 years, passed away peacefully today surrounded by her loving and dedicated caregivers, staff and veterinary team.
One of Baylor’s treasured North American Black Bears, Joy will forever be remembered as an enduring symbol of Baylor’s spirit and tradition. The University will honor Joy in an on-campus memorial dedicated to the legacy of the past, present and future members of the Baylor Bear Habitat. Her sister, Lady, who is 20, will continue to receive the world-class supervision and protection of her caregivers in the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. In addition, for Lady’s continued care as she ages into retirement, the University is moving forward on the construction of a permanent retirement facility, similar to their on-campus housing, at the Bears’ off-campus enrichment area.
Joy was born Jan. 27, 2001, at West Coast Game Park in Bandon, Oregon. From the moment she arrived on the Baylor campus as a rambunctious four-month-old cub, Joy captured the hearts of Baylor students, alumni, faculty and staff and more than 250,000 campus visitors a year. Joy loved the visits from schoolchildren from throughout Central Texas and generations of families, students and alumni, who shared in the thrill of meeting Joy and Lady and learning about the Bears’ unique mission of stewardship, education and conservation.
With her sister named after former Baylor First Lady Sue “Lady” Sloan, wife of the University’s 12th President Robert B. Sloan Jr., Joy also shared a name with another Baylor First Lady, Joy Reynolds, wife of Baylor’s 11th president, Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds. Joy was officially introduced to her namesake on the front lawn of the Reynolds’ residence in June 2001, with her first bear trainer Tyler Sellers, B.S. ’02, and bear coordinator Ryan Fitzhugh, B.B.A. ’02, by her side. The little cub then visited Pat Neff Hall to meet Dr. Sloan, who came prepared with three bottles of special formula. Curling up like an infant in the president’s arms, Joy drained the bottles in a matter of minutes.
Although she briefly lived in Sellers’ “bear-proofed” apartment, Joy’s eventual campus home was alongside Chance, a two-year-old bear named after Dr. Reynolds, in the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza. After Chance was retired in 2002, Joy welcomed her biological sister, Lady, to the plaza that summer.
As Lady was growing as a Baylor Bear, she and Joy were slowly introduced to one another, with their student caregivers building up their interactions over a seven-month period before they were fully placed together in the plaza in 2003. The sisters were an inseparable pair from that moment on, while the University committed to taking care of Joy and Lady for the rest of their natural lives.
At Baylor Homecoming in 2005, Joy and Lady celebrated with hundreds of students, alumni and friends as the University officially dedicated their new home, the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. In May 2021, the Williams Bear Habitat earned the gold-standard Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation, becoming the first university in the world to receive this designation. Joy loved exploring all corners of the greatly expanded facility, which provided a natural environment with two separate yards for roaming and enrichment, along with trees, two pools, a stream and waterfall, two caves and a den. Each day, Joy and Lady could be found playing together, swimming in their pools, napping in the shade (or a sunny spot for Joy) and foraging for their favorite treats. Joy was particularly fond of cherries and avocados.
Joy loved her weekly trips with Lady away from campus to a large enrichment facility where she roamed, climbed trees and enjoyed additional exercise and "goal-based" enrichment strategically planned by her student caregivers. These activities – that were like puzzles or toys – encouraged vertical movement, foraging and digging, which heightened and stimulated both Bears’ sense of smell and sense of sound while strengthening their prolonged focus and more.
Joy also excelled at “voluntary vet care,” where she learned natural behaviors that allowed her veterinarian to check her teeth, muscles and other important aspects of her physical health while reducing the stress of yearly vaccinations or exams. One of those natural behaviors was “smiling,” which Joy loved to do.
Both Bears’ fur ranges from cinnamon brown to jet black depending on the season, so it sometimes could be challenging to tell who was Joy and who was Lady. However, Baylor fans could tell the difference by observing another of the bears’ natural behaviors that simulates fans’ traditional “Bear Claw” hand signal paired with Baylor’s “Sic ’em, Bears” cheer. When the Bears raised their paw in a Sic ’em (as bears do naturally when reaching for berries in trees), Joy was the one with her right paw proudly in the air. (Lady is left-pawed.)
Speaking of Sic ’em, Joy adored her Baylor Bears, eventually retiring with her sister from the football sidelines before the 2010 season. However, she and Lady continued to offer their unwavering support for all of Baylor’s teams through their growing social media presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, which included their popular gameday picks (always Baylor!), and they faithfully listened to every Baylor game on the radio. Joy and her sister also made numerous national TV appearances on ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS and most recently on “Jeopardy!” as a question (correctly answered!) in an April episode of the popular game show.
In 2020, as the world and the Baylor campus changed dramatically as COVID-19 began to spread across the country, Joy and Lady teamed up with their student caregivers to bring happiness and hope to the Baylor Family and beyond. The Bears sent thousands of encouraging postcards to friends and families across the globe and offered a variety of virtual educational programming, like the weekly “Joy & Lady’s Cub Club,” to engage kids (and kids at heart!) in bear-themed activities and more when visitors couldn’t physically visit the Habitat.
In October 2021, ahead of the Baylor-Texas football game, Joy and Lady made history as the first live college mascots to send a tweet — thanks to a custom, paw-friendly Twitter app, mounted in a bear-sized wooden box placed in the Habitat. The Bears were active on social media throughout that weekend, posting their #BaylorHabiTweets about everything from their diet to their thoughts on who would win the big game, Bears or Longhorns? (Joy and Lady’s prediction was spot on as Baylor won 31-24.)
As Joy and Lady entered their golden years, their student caregivers modified all trainings, enrichments and diets according to the recommendations of the Bears’ veterinary care team to reflect the care they would need in their unique stages of life. Joy loved mealtimes with her sister as the Bears enjoyed diving into their specially formulated omnivore diet and raw protein sources like fish, supplemented with fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, coconut, apples and peaches in the morning and vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes and avocados in the evening. They never missed an opportunity to celebrate their January birthdays at the Williams Bear Habitat with a party that brought hundreds of students and Bear fans to campus to enjoy cake and special treat, like “Joy & Lady’s Favorite,” a grapefruit and honey-flavored ice cream from Heritage Creamery created in honor of their birthdays and inspired by some of their favorite foods.
Joy was predeceased by a brother in California. She is survived by her beloved younger sister, Lady; and a brother, who is an actor in California. She also is survived by dozens of Baylor student caregivers within the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, who dedicated themselves to providing Joy with the very best care for more than two decades, seven days a week, 365 days a year, including between semesters, on major holidays and regardless of weather conditions.
Baylor University extends its deepest gratitude to the student caregivers and staff of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce and the veterinarians at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in College Station for their dedication to the care of our Bears and their genuine love for our Joy and her quality of life.
Memorial contributions to honor Joy’s memory and legacy can be made to the Bear Habitat/Mascot Fund at Celebrating the Life of Baylor Bear Mascot Judge “Joy” Reynolds. All donations will support the planned bear retirement facility and continued enhancements to the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, benefiting Lady and the future generations of Baylor’s American Black Bear ambassadors.
A remembrance service will be held for Joy early in the fall semester once students fully return to campus. In addition, cards and letters may be sent to Baylor Bear Habitat, One Bear Place #97185, Waco, TX 76798-7185.
The University hopes to receive two rescue American Black Bear cubs next year to continue Baylor’s tradition of having live bear mascots reside in the heart of campus and continue their unique mission of stewardship, education and conservation for the local community and beyond.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.