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Letters for Winter 2024

Letters for Winter 2024

Lauren Brown portrait


In 15 years at UMD, I’ve seen a lot of Testudos: Bobbleheads. Plushies. Stick pins. Printed on bowties, socks and baby onesies. Sketched on commencement posters and wine bottles. Even strapped atop the Terrapin Club president’s tailgate canopy as a giant inflatable, towering over pregame parties.

Improbably, a diamondback terrapin has made a marvelous mascot for UMD. He’s part of some of the university’s best traditions, helping to unfurl the Maryland flag at basketball and football games, stoically accepting nose rubs or dancing with the annual flash mob.

As a bronze statue, he’s dignified and immune to the affronts of half-eaten food or stolen traffic cones left with him as “sacrifices” by worried students facing final exams. As a walking (but not talking) symbol of Maryland pride, he’s a cuddly clown in a furry suit. He dresses up as a granny or Spider-Man, hugs kids and poses for selfies.

For this issue, the Terp team dug up our favorite iterations of and tales about Testudo since he first appeared just over 90 years ago—some of which may be new to his most ardent fans. Flip to page 18 for our cover feature about him and be on the lookout for nuggets about life in the mascot costume and the surprising number of times the (heavy!) statue was stolen.

You’ll find another fun story in writer Maggie Haslam’s first-person account of a “survival class” in the woods, hosted by a business professor teaching undergrads how to collaborate and improvise to solve problems with little more than a garbage bag and a rope.

Our other features take on weightier topics. Writer Karen Shih compiled an oral history from nearly a dozen interviews with faculty, staff and students who helped launch the LGBTQ+ Equity Center 25 years ago and details the discrimination they fought to overcome. Writer Sala Levin and photographer John Consoli traveled to New Mexico to meet an alum, an architect and citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who’s devoted his career to empowering historically under-resourced Indigenous communities.

And from saving the bald eagle to creating “food forests” to feed the hungry or using AI to find unexploded munitions in Ukraine, we spotlight in this issue just a few of the other societal challenges our faculty are tackling.

Where there is conflict, injustice or a seemingly intractable problem, there are Terps stepping in to find a solution. “Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers gently suggested to children stressed by scary things in the news. A grown-up version is to look for the Terps.

And if things still seem scary, you can always look for a furry, giant Testudo.

Lauren Brown
University Editor

‘Get Listening, Kids’

Your article struck a chord (pun intended) and a trip down memory lane! In my graduating year of civil engineering, I decided to round out my education and volunteer at what was then WMUC AM 65 for the graveyard shift once per week. There was a call-in line, and my friends would ask for 1960s retro tunes—none of which was on the contemporary playlist (“Gloria” by Laura Branigan, “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor).

Being a DJ was better than attending Toastmasters in learning to minimize dead airtime, training oneself to minimize or eliminate “uh”s and “ah”s as you gather your thoughts, talking in cohesive sentences and organizing. I used those skills in my career with the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security in presentations and at international forums. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I fit your article’s “loners, punks and weirdos.” Hmm, maybe I do!

Bob Baer ’82, College Park, Md.

We were the first station in the country to have the Hall and Oates single “Maneater” and drop it! I think I was chosen to do the honors because my shift was 10-2, and most students eat during that time and would hear it either in the cafeteria or in the student union.

I also had a fan club who chose to keep their identities secret. They would always call in and ask me to play “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon. Around the time of my last shift, they revealed who they were and gave me a houseplant that they had named Julio!

Dominique (Yambrick) Gallo ’85, Ocean Pines, Md.

Your article brought back many memories of my undergraduate years and continuing education during the 1980s. I worked various student jobs, many in the Stamp Student Union. I will always remember WMUC playing in the background, no matter what the hour of the day or night. Thank you for the history lesson. (I’m now an educator.) Go Terps!

Dale R. Steinfort ’78, Shippensburg, Pa.

Blast From the Past—and Into the Future

The Wind Tunnel! My favorite campus building. In 1985, I had a writing internship at the Engineering Research Center on the second floor. One day, Director Jewel Barlow gave a few of us a full tour.

I was able to visit the tunnel again during Maryland Day 2023 and let the mere 30-mph air flow through my meager hair. And Professor Barlow was still there! I was able to thank him for the tour four decades ago.

Stuart Goldman ’85, Towson, Md.