Three Cheers for an Embattled Testudo
Alum’s Photo Collection Captures Student Life—and Statue’s Shenanigansby Annie Dankelson | Photo by Dick Byer/courtesy of University Archives
For a bronze statue, Testudo traveled a remarkable number of times—and took a measure of abuse—in his younger days.
The Diamondback reported that the 400-pound terrapin, installed outside Ritchie Coliseum in 1933, was kidnapped 12 times in its first 15 years. Typically, prankster students from rival schools just rolled up the circular driveway, plucked the statue from its perch, and zipped back onto Baltimore Avenue for their getaway.
This image from a collection donated by former student Dick Byer, a photographer for The Diamondback and Terrapin yearbook, shows the statue’s troubles continued into the 1960s, even after it was transferred to outside Byrd Stadium and filled with cement.
Look closely at his 1964 portrait of new varsity cheerleaders Jeanne Lamond, Betsy Park and Dottie Wells, and you’ll see faded markings scrawled across the statue’s base. In 1962, University of Virginia students sprayed “28–16” there to remind the Terps who’d won their matchup at the end of the previous season.
The writing lingered long enough for Byer’s photo, but Testudo didn’t stick around much later. In 1965, he was moved to the more central location in front of McKeldin Library, where he’s stood ever since.
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