In 1978, a masked man with a whipped cream pie in hand and two accomplices by his side stood behind a building at Fordham University in New York.
He stepped out onto the sidewalk populated by students hurrying to their next class. Michael O’Hara scanned the churning crowd for his target.
He was carrying out an order to “pie” an unsuspecting student. The request was made in response to an advertisement O’Hara and his suitemates placed in the school newspaper, offering to hurl a pie at anyone the respondent wished. Of course, the victim couldn’t be a professor or administrator.
“Nearly everyone was surprised, of course, but no one got angry with us,” said O’Hara, now the associate dean of the College of Fine Arts at Ball State.
Twenty-six years later, O’Hara said his antics as a freshman in college are now just stories with which he entertains students, but he enjoys seeing Happy Friday Guy around campus continue the spirit of pranking.
Both O’Hara and the campus celebrity wore costumes modeled after superheroes and concealed their identity from the public.
Whether the parallels are coincidence or purposeful, both personas spread the joy.
O’Hara recalled an instance when the two crossed paths at the Scramble Light. Happy Friday Guy greeted him and thanked him for his class.
“I said, ‘It’s too bad there were 200 people in that class or I’d know who you are,’” O’Hara said. “He laughed, shouted, ‘Happy Friday’ and took off across the intersection.”
The first Happy Friday Guy, also called Scooter Bob, never referred to O’Hara’s superhero years as being an inspiration.
In a 2007 interview with Ball State alumnus Aaron Scheibelhut, Scooter Bob said he first took his electric scooter to the campus sidewalks to shower students with well-wishes in response to a dare from a friend.
The positive response and feeling that accompanied his weekly rides transformed the joke into a ritual.
“We all kind of look for a difference to make in this life and this is my small piece of doing that right now,” he said in the interview.
When Scooter Bob left Ball State behind, he gave the university a successor.
By 2010, the second Happy Friday Guy had mysteriously disappeared and the enthusiastic shouts of “Happy Friday” had ceased.
One student felt the loss more acutely than most. His older sibling, a Ball State student as well, had told him of Happy Friday Guy.
“I began asking questions about where Happy Friday Guy II took off to, when I was in my first year here at BSU,” the student said. “And despite all my questions, and to anyone I could ask, no one seemed to know where he went.”
His questions prompted a friend to suggest he take on the responsibility himself.
Much like the first Happy Friday Guy, he accepted the challenge.
Near the end of Spring 2010, Happy Friday Guy III glided into the Atrium for the first time, wearing the signature outfit and riding a scooter.
He made a few significant changes to the uniform: the most important being the addition of a clingy blue morph suit.
“I wanted Happy Friday Guy to become something on his own, an entity that was embraced by the campus, not as a person, but as an idea,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s short, black, tall, white, ugly, handsome or cool. He’s Happy Friday Guy.”
As Happy Friday Guy III’s time in college begins to draw to a close, he started a search for the next Happy Friday Guy. He said his run has been a rewarding one.
“Happy Friday Guy started as something silly, something fun, something out of the ordinary,” he said. “I think that’s exactly what every student needs at the end of the week. A smile. A reminder that, despite whatever happened to you during the week, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel known as the weekend.”