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Letters for Spring 2024

Letters for Spring 2024

Lauren Brown portrait


Spring sunshine warming your skin, a pillow of lush green grass and a lull in the afternoon—close your eyes to remember that scene and feel your blood pressure sink.

The afternoon I’m thinking of looked a little like that but zoomed out to include thousands of other Terps.

On April 8, we gathered en masse on the Glenn L. Martin Hall lawn, the engineering fields and McKeldin Mall, held those funny eclipse sunglasses against our faces, and looked skyward to watch the sun almost vanish behind the moon. At its apex, when the air had cooled and the light had dimmed, the crowd broke into cheers and applause.

It was a charming, singular moment on campus.

As I returned to the office, stepping between the students gobbling free cups of Dairy ice cream or tossing Frisbees and past two faculty members folding up their lawn chairs, I thought about how this wasn’t so different from what you’d find at a home football or basketball game or on Maryland Day: a communion of Terps.

This issue’s cover story celebrates another common experience. The variety of UMD-themed vanity plates out there amused writer Maggie Haslam so much that she spent one Sunday afternoon in the Terrapin Trail garage during a sold-out men’s basketball game to leave notes on 15 vehicles declaring Terp pride. She even followed the driver of a car sporting 1 TERPS on the Beltway in a failed effort to get his attention. (If you’re reading this, she says it’s not too late to contact her!) Maggie talked with more than 40 alums across the country about their custom plates and shares their best stories on page 18.

I hope you’ll also get a kick (or a bounce) reading our other stories, including one about the student vying to represent the U.S. in trampoline gymnastics in the Summer Olympics and another on the quirky alums behind Fluxx, a series of card games that has sold more than 4 million copies.

We do a U-turn back to cars to examine the efforts of Maryland’s engineers to develop longer-lasting, safer and cheaper batteries for electric vehicles. And we report on UMD’s all-in efforts to pursue AI that’s trustworthy and ethical.

Turn these pages, or turn and look around: Whether they’re trying to save the world or just make you smile, Terps are doing work that matters.

Lauren Brown
University Editor

Standing the Testudo of Time

When I was president of the Student Alumni Board (today’s Student Alumni Leadership Council), I donned the mascot costume once to cover for a friend who wasn’t feeling well and needed a quick break. Man, that costume was hot and heavy. I wasn’t nearly in shape to be Testudo for long, but in my 15 minutes of fame, I greeted then-Chancellor Robert Gluckstern by running up behind him and tapping him on the shoulder. He almost jumped out of his skin before smiling and giving me a high five.

Rocky Lopes ’80, Silver Spring, Md.

Reading “Standing the Testudo of Time,” I was reminded of a recent family camping trip to the Delaware Seashore State Park, where diamondback terrapins digging their nests in the warm sand lay their eggs.

Signs posted along the roadside warn drivers to “Look out for turtles.” Occasionally, a driver stops and gets out of their car to assist a diamondback in avoiding traffic.

Conclusion: This experience proved what Terp magazine promotes: Terrapins are fearless, persistent and tough, and occasionally can use some help from a friend.

John L. Jacobus ’63, Silver Spring, Md.

Yet another “blast from the past” that I thoroughly enjoyed reading in Terp! The images and articles reminded me of the years I worked as a student for the Department of Agricultural Engineering in a building everyone walked by but virtually no one knew existed: the Shriver Laboratory. (It was built in 1938 and razed to make way for the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center.)

I was its draftsman, and as a side task, they had me develop a series of new logos for the “Aggies.” They may not be remembered unless you happened to buy one of the Ag-Engineering T-shirts for a whopping $4.50 or were in the student chapter of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.

For some reason, the department never used the dapper terrapin in the boater hat sipping a martini or the overalls-wearing farmer terrapin smoking a corncob pipe. Instead, a decision was made to use the studious Testudo holding a calculator and a couple of pencils and chewing on a piece of rye. That terrapin could also be found eating a piece of watermelon and sipping a beer (yes, up to 1982, 18-year-olds could still drink beer in Maryland!) for the annual crab feast.

Robert Baer ’82, College Park, Md.

I’d like to share some more material about Testudo with you. First is a circa 1930 milk cap that I bought that was from the University of Maryland Dairy, as I am a collector of the forgotten glass milk bottles. It is a heavy paper like thin cardboard, printed and waxed. I also saved my tickets to basketball games. Notice Testudo throwing the university seal to a basketball hoop. Sometimes he is smiling, and sometimes he has an angry look.

Mike Marmer ’78, Germantown, Md.