Picture of the Leon the Frog page from Age of Audacity, 50 Years Of Ambition And Adventure At Calgary's Own University

Leon the Frog


"The saga of Leon the Frog was first chronicled in the north concrete stairwell of the Social Sciences building in the early 1970s, painted by art students line by line on the step risers leading upwards. Leon “hops up” from the basement past the departmental occupants of the building at the time: nursing, history, political science, anthropology, and social work to the art department, which was located on the 12th floor. His journey reflects the zeitgeist of the early ‘70s; the artists/writers (Tony Acosta, Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Robin Laurence, Catherine McAvity, and Rita McKeough) said he was a metaphor for a student “lost in space.” He begins at the bottom, searching for identity and the light at the top of the stairs, en route escaping dissection, crucifixion, sexual harassment, and an attempt to sell him insurance before arriving, finally, on the 13th floor. There is hope that art and a chance to express himself offer him solace, but some argue that his creativity slips into lunacy and he is lost. Speculation attributes Leon’s name to Leon W. Browder, who was working at the university in 1974, and whose research involved the embryonic development of the African clawed frog, xenopus laevis."

—  Excerpt from The Age of Audacity: 50 Years of Ambition and Adventure at Calgary’s Own University, written by Prof. Aritha van Herk

Leon the Frog had been touched up, restored and embellished by students numerous times over the years. In 2017, it was mistakenly painted over in a campus-wide effort to clean up graffiti. Leon the Frog was restored again within two weeks by a group of 30+ dedicated students and alumni.


Circa 1974
Leon is written on the Social Sciences stairs.

Leon is restored by students Ian Kinney and Teale Phelps Bondaroff.

Leon is restoried by Arts students, faculty, staff and alumni

Featured news

The rebirth of Leon the Frog

Students, faculty, staff and alumni step up to restore the beloved poem to the stairs of the Social Sciences tower

Leon the Frog to rise again

April 13 set as the restoration date for the beloved and iconic poem on the stairs of the Social Sciences tower

In the News The Gauntlet

The Story of Leon the Frog

Leon the Frog 2017

Ground to first floor

Up, hop, up, hop, hop, up, up.

First to second floor

The Light at the Top of the Stairs was not yet visible to Leon as he plopped into the coffee cup of Dr. Mildew Dreary, dip. Unknown to Leon and the Sheridan Catering Co., Leon's mother was a coffee machine. He realized he was a frog when he opened his mouth and croaked... "Ribbit! Yo!" The bleary Dr. Dreary took a gulp of her coffee. But not until she reached the stairwell did she coughed and realize she had a frog in her throat! She coughed and sputtered and it was the reburp of Leon!! He stared around -- "Where am I?" said Leon. Before he could move, Ah frog finger, the head of Food Services, charged down the stairs -- "A new sandwich!" he said, picking up Leon and reaching back. "Pumpernickel, Cream Cheese and frog legs!" "Unhand him!" yelled public relations. "That's a frog and you know what the Prime Minister thinks of frogs. No Canada Council Grant if you damage him!" "Green?" said Employee Relations -- "I don't like the color of his skin." Leon hopped to safety. "Oh help!" he said. "Move on!" said the man. "You can't park here ya bitch." And Leon moved sadly on up the stairs. Up, hop, up.

Second to third floor

"Hey," said an arts and science major -- "A frog!" -- "Let's dissect it." "No, no," said a religious studies major -- "Maybe he's a Christian! Does he believe in Christ?" "Christ who?" said Leon. "Dissect him! --Convert him! -- Exploit him! -- The heretic!" shrieked the J.C. freak. "Let he who has no guilt cast the first stone," said the head theologian; and (it was he) an uptight virginal co-ed suffering periodic pain, who bounced a rock off his head. Dazed and suffering, Leon was hauled down a hallway and nailed cruelly to a cross. "I must be an offering in some pagan religious ceremony," he thought, as the blood ran down his arms and dripped off his toes. "I sure hope these bastards get what they deserve." A converted Hell's Angel took pity on Leon and flagellated everyone with a chain until they let him down. "I must arise," said Leon -- "I must get to the Top of the Stairs." And so must you my friend.

Third to fourth floor

Bleeding profusely from the holes in his feet Leon narrowly made it to the sixth floor. But there it was, The Light at the Top of the Stairs? Was this the everlasting hope? Was this is the symbol for eternal happiness? "$ Bling dolla dolla financial security and shit." "Hey boy, have you got any life insurance?" The black suit and tie hovered over him and led him through the poor door. Leon felt at home. Everything was green (except for the golden door). "Sign on the dotted line boy, if you think that's best for ya'll." "But I can't write!" he cried. "What's insurance?" croaked Leon. "Insurance! Why that's the most stable part of life, premium, double indemnity, claimants..." the tie yelled louder and louder as Leon (after grabbing a large amount of green wallpaper) slipped out the door. Done! Done! Done!

Fourth to fifth floor

Leon, frustrated with the real world of the money [Ed note: rest of paragraph warn away] hungry, slung his strip of green wallpaper over his shoulder and trudged ahead; up and up, until he was quite high -- it seemed to be the smell of old jocks permeating his membrane. Suddenly Leon was floating, loud noises assailed him. Members reached out clutching him -- Leon struggled. "Ohhh! -- A specimen, quick, a jar of formaldehyde!" was the last he heard before he reacted with what he did best. Hop! He was in the pocket of a visiting obstetrician. Wah! Wah! filtered through the stethoscope and dilators in the pocket of Dr. Deliverwell. Leon decided to play it cool. Suddenly he felt a jab. Dr. Deliverwell had a hard on. One of the nurses had caressed Dr. Deliverwell's hypodermic member and was knocked up cold. The nurse tripped over a blood pressure cylinder -- at the same time Leon got it from a half-dissected female frog lurking nearby in a made in Quebec incubator for tadpoles. Suddenly Leon, like Dr. Deliverwell, felt real cool!

Fifth to sixth floor

Shaken by his experience, but not yet ready to give up, Leon undauntedly decided to continue his journey. Step by grueling step he went until suddenly he was halted by a towering figure that loomed before him. It was a tall, strange-looking creature wearing a long grey beard, high leather boots, a leopard-skin loin cloth, [(pill box hat?) how perplexing on bottom of stair] a red flannel shirt, and an orange gingham derby. "I'm History!" it said. "It is time to look back and analyze all past experiences." "This guy is nuts," Leon croaked at the idea of bringing back all the memories of his lily-ridden past. (period) He quickly sidestepped History and continued on his quest for . . . The Light at the Top of the Stairs.

Sixth to seventh floor

Leon left the History Depart. behind and continued on his journey, up, up, up higher and higher he sprang to the seventh floor. The door opened. A linguist appeared. Spying Leon, he said, "Say something, young amphibian!" "Croak," said Leon. "Krok?" said the linguist. "Is your glottis open or closed?" "Ribbit," replied Leon. "Hmmm," said the linguist. "Is your tongue touching your apicolveolat ridge?" A political scientist entered. "Aha!" he said, pointing at Leon. "Are you the anonymous observer who must remain anonymous for job security reasons, who is assessing the U of C poli sci depart?" "Urp," said Leon, "I find this particular floor in a state of turmoil, confusion, and acrimony!" Leon continued onwards and upwards... (Footnote: see the Gauntlet of Thursday Oct. 18/74) 3 stairs.

Seventh to eighth floor

Leon, tongue tied, persevered in his search for an identity. Hopping slowly up he 'staired' in disbelief as he saw Anthro approaching. Bells racing, thought clashed. "Could he, -- could he -- be a toadtem?? A goad to some Aboriginal (P.C. Bitches) tribe?" He began to laugh hysterically. Meanwhile, Anthro through the gloom -- joyously, recognized Leon as being sent from below. No longer would Anthro have to fast 4 days in the mountains to meet his toadtem -- here he is but -- but he is green!!! Green! Green!!! No self-respecting toadtem is green. Leon sensed his acceptance then rejection and with an intuition strengthened by his many failures, he hung his head and schwepped.

Eighth to ninth floor

Warning X-rated. Not suited for tadpoles. Leon flopped down onto the cold cement floor. He was exhausted. He looked up and there was another great yellow door. Before Leon had time to ponder, the door burst open.There she was. Tall, slender, and beautiful. "Oh! A poor oppressed frog," she exclaimed as she caressed him. "Look at you, so tired and hungry. Oh! How our society inflicts such ignorance upon you. How it burns me up. Come let me take you to my office. I'll take good care of you." "What's an office?" Leon thought as he hopped in, "Even a bed." She sat down close beside him. "I bet they never give you a fair shake, always take advantage of you," she whispered and kissed him. She began to unbutton her blouse. "I'm not like that you know. I'll bet you're as good as any man, maybe better." Her voice quivered with excitement. She slipped off her jeans exposing her soft white thighs. Leon was amazed. Leon was astonished. She threw herself upon him, breathing heavily. Leon felt cheap and dirty. He couldn't do it. He had to get out of this place. He whispered in her ear, "You're going to be covere d with warts." She screamed. "You filthy green thing!" Leon took advantage of the moment and hopped quickly away through the great yellow door and up the stairs to the next floor...

Ninth to tenth floor

Oh! The climbing monologue of Leon the Frogue. "Why am I so dissatisfied?" (He cried.) "Oh I feel so decrepit!" (He wept.) Surely there is some high higher than a (try C Major) fruit fly. (Sigh.) In such angst-iety, Leon stumbled into a transactional analysis group! But they were all stuck at, "I'm o.k.!" 2nd "Berne, baby, Berne!" and they should have told tadpoleish jokes or even Newfoundfrog jokes, but there was no connection. Leon felt blue. Oh stairlight, stairbright is there no school of social frogfare tonight? (No lily pad at the o.k. Corral?) I can only wonder.

Tenth to eleventh floor

Nope! Maybe if I can cultivate so many problems I can help somebody reap theirs? "Be a social worker," suggested a loser Phlegmish professor. Leon said, "Yeah!" and hung out his sign, 'Problems Bought and Sold.'" Nobody came! "Is it because I'm short? Speckled? Green? Honest? Or is it that I'm a frog? Yes!!" Leon could only stair and despair. Arghh! Arghh! arghh!!! arghhh!!! arghh! arghh! arghh! Aarghh -- Ribbit.

Eleventh to twelfth floor

As he climbed to the 12th floor, Leon realized with a sigh that he had experienced all of what life had to offer. Now the question was how to express and communicate his experiences to society. Leon had heard in his travels that art was a uniquely human stamp put by man on life. He was about to change that by introducing Frog Art. Choosing a media was difficult. Webbed canvas? Stretched lily pads? These were not the real problems. But. What is life?

Twelfth to thirteenth floor

"What is art? Where is the remote? Why am I here? Where is my will power? These are barbaric cool potions. Is this the hallmark of my life? What's aclyde art? Should I fly Westee? No spicken da English. Is this some kind of joere? What Esler is there? Do models remove their stockings? Do I have to Cromwell to pass? A Brosz is a Brosz is a -- Is this the Lloyd I must bear? I have to blowya mignosa. I can paint, kiyooka? If you can't, erase it. Blog it." Time to throw out the anchor.

Thirteenth to fourteenth floor

Does it Sartre? Or end here. Leon asked Charon whose boat anchored in the mud reaked of Pennies. Authorized Personnel only shouts Chron, Go back! But I croaked isn't this the next step. Isn't it? Ribbit.