I’m doing something a little different this time, spreading the love to another institution of higher learning. As you may know, I’m all about Tigers, but today I’d like to shout out to the Terrapins of University of Maryland.Â
Late last week, I had the opportunity to visit the UM campus at College Park, Md. RIT President Bill Destler spent more than 30 years there, most recently serving as senior vice president of academic affairs and provost. I was there to interview some of President Destler’s former colleagues for a video presentation to be included at his inauguration in November. No surprise, but everyone we spoke with at UM expressed great fondness for RIT’s new leader.Â
For me, the opportunity to spend time on another university campus was fascinating. UM is impressive in size and beauty. I love the 19th century structures that surround McKeldin Mall. They truly sparked my imagination, transporting me back in time. Of course, more modern facilities dominate the circumference of campus, some squeezed awkwardly between previously erected structures. Seeing that helped me better appreciate RIT’s more symmetrical campus layout. I’m not necessarily saying ours is better—just different.
Sports venues are certainly prominent on the College Park campus. Byrd Stadium, home to the football Terrapins (which are big turtles, in case you don’t know, I didn’t), looms over the campus like an approaching thunderstorm. It must be an amazing site on game day. And the five-year-old Comcast Center, familiar to NCAA basketball fans, is probably as state-of-the-art as an arena gets. Certainly, Division I sports is an important part of the overall experience at UM, and the spirit they create among the red-clad student body is apparent.
But what struck me most was Testudo, the bronze terrapin at the center of campus. It’s tradition at UM for students to rub Testudo’s nose for good luck, particularly around final exams. It was great fun to watch students pass by and, almost instinctively, run a hand across its head. Silly? Perhaps. But the thought of it still makes me smile.
“Fear the turtle,” cry Maryland sports fans. Fear not, I say, for the spirit of exploration and camaraderie appears to be alive and well on college campuses across our great country.Â