Mascots and Lawyers: My Canisius Journey

Matt Duke, (or, as you may know him, Petey Griffin) reflects on his experience at Canisius College as his last hundred days begin to wind down. He explores how the choice of coming here over Niagara has led him to meeting some of the best and most influential figures in his life.

Mascot for the last 4 years, the man under the griffin mask has been bringing joy to sporting events from the start of his career. (Canisius Athletics/Go Griffs)

By Matt Duke

I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go with this, so I read a few others, most notably my brother’s and my best friend, Nolan Hopkins’s. I was deciding what direction to take, so to quote Nolan, “I suppose I’ll start from the beginning.” 

My senior year of high school I was dead set on going to Niagara: I really liked their pre-law and political science programs. One of my heroes, Wild Bill Donovan, went there — he went to my high school too, actually. I was determined to go there. 

Then I came to Canisius’s open house, where I heard from two professors who have since shaped my career here the most: Dr. Kevin Hardwick and Mr. Robert Klump. After hearing from and talking to these two, I changed my mind. In an instant, I decided to come to Canisius. I thank God every day that I made that decision; if I hadn’t, I would have missed the most wonderful four years of my life, and I would not have met the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Then I started my freshman year. A lot of the kids I knew came from my high school, but I still tried to branch out and join as many things as possible. I lived on the honors floor and I joined Mock Trial, C-Block and Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity. I wanted to do everything I could to get as much as possible out of my college experience. It was in both of these clubs that I met some of my closest friends. I had mentors in Mock Trial that graduated years ago that I still keep in contact with today; I had the same experience with C-Block. 

There were many upperclassmen that made my college experience at Canisius great, but they weren’t around for super long. There were the people I met in my freshman year who I have seen every day since, the people that I will remember for the rest of my life — the people that I would consider to be my best, and my closest, friends. 

I think a lot about how I was so close to choosing a different path. I think about how I could have never been here. It’s especially on days when I’m feeling down that I get this feeling as though this could have all been avoided if I had just gone with my first choice and chosen to Niagara. Then, I think about all of these people who make me so happy, and I know that I made the right choice. That was one of my biggest takeaways, especially about Canisius — without this school, the people who I love the most wouldn’t be in my life.

Freshman year was crazy after that. For those of you who don’t know, I have been Petey the Golden Griffin for the last four years. I already loved going to the games, and then I was offered the chance to dress up in a costume, dance around and get paid. I signed up immediately. I have had so much fun, and I hope everyone can get as much out of their experience at Canisius as I have. 

Towards the end of freshman year, I became involved with The Griffin in two ways. First, I was asked to join the GriffCast podcast, and second, my brother invited me to serve as my current position as communications director. I started writing, which was one of the biggest challenges for me. Writing was far outside of my comfort zone, but I learned and grew from it. Starting at The Griffin was a key factor in pushing me to step outside my comfort zone in other facets as well. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the best way to grow.

Life has been wild since then, but I love the people I have met here so much. They have been there for me and with me through all the ups and downs. Experiences are everything, and I wish everyone could have as good of an experience as I had: college is a lot about growing and learning, but it’s important not to forget to have fun as well.

I learned a lot from Canisius — I would hope I did, because I paid for the degree. That being said, Canisius has taught me so much more than I could have ever hoped for, and I will be forever indebted to this institution. Canisius has given me the best four years of my life and so much more. I will never forget my college experience because it has been the greatest: I can attribute that to the best people I have ever met, and I would not trade it or them for the world.

I will forever remember Canisius, and I hope that everyone who ever walked or will walk through its doors felt or feels the same. It can change your life — I’m certain of it, because I know it certainly changed mine.

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