Maryland’s Incredible “Fish”

Today marks the 30th anniversary of an amazing swim by a University of Maryland alumna, Stacy Chanin. Chanin, a UMD senior at the time, swam three laps around the island of Manhattan in 33 hours 33 minutes, fighting strong currents, floating debris, and cold water temperatures.  She never left the water throughout her swim, eating small meals of banana and honey sandwiches, pasta, hot chocolate, granola bars, and lots of water every 45 minutes.

The Associated Press reported that Chanin treaded water for four hours between laps, waiting for the tide to change. During that time, “she ate, drank, listened to ‘mellow rock music,’ and talked to friends.

Chanin’s remarkable record stood until August 2007, when Skip Storch completed the torturous swim in 32 hours, 52 minutes, and 30 seconds.

Stacy Chanin as a UMD student

Stacy Chanin as a UMD student




Journalism history

David Ottalini, Senior Media Relations Associate for the College of Journalism, has created a great new resource for the history of the college, a timeline on dipity called “Philip Merrill College of Journalism.” Check it out at

Coll of Journalism history timeline


Still looking!!

We’re still looking for a new boss!!  The deadline for applications for the position of Director of Special Collections and University Archives at the UMD Libraries has been extended to July 10.

The job announcement, including details about the application procedure, is available at The full position description is located on the UMD Libraries’ website at:


Pyon Su, America’s First Korean College Student

Pyon Su, 1891

Pyon Su, 1891

This June marks the 123rd anniversary of the graduation of Maryland Agricultural College cadet Pyon Su. Pyon Su was the first Korean student to receive a degree from any American college or university and is a highly venerated figure in his native land. The University of Maryland is proud to claim him as one of our most notable alumni, and the Pyon Su Room in The Stamp is named in his honor.

Pyon Su was born in Korea in 1862 and became involved in national politics at an early age when he passed a very difficult exam to become a high-level government officer in Korea. Through his political connections, Pyon Su was chosen as one of the diplomats charged with establishing the first Korean Embassy in 1883. As a result, Pyon Su was one of the first Koreans to travel around the world, even meeting U.S. President Chester Arthur in New York on one occasion.

A short time after his return to Korea, Pyon Su and his closest friends became actively involved in the political turmoil sweeping his homeland. Pyon Su’s actions as an extreme reformist in this conflict led officials to label him a traitor and an enemy of the Korean government. Facing the penalty of death, Pyon Su and his friends were forced to flee their beloved Korea using money stolen from Hong Kong. Pyon Su’s family was not as lucky, and many of them are believed to have been sentenced to death for his crimes.

After a short time in Japan, Pyon Su’s group landed in San Francisco and traveled to the Washington, D.C. area. It was here that Pyon Su decided to pursue his studies in agriculture. He attended the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) and was determined to work extremely hard to obtain his bachelor of science degree. Pyon Su met several new friends in America who supported him and even treated him as family. With this encouragement, Pyon Su thrived in his studies and earned his degree in June 1891. He also landed a part-time job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and published a report on the agriculture of Japan.

Calvert's Store and train station, College Park, Maryland, c.1900

Calvert’s Store and train station, College Park, Maryland, c.1900

Tragedy struck just four months later. Pyon Su was reported to be traveling home from his alma mater on October 22, 1891, when he was struck by a train at College Station (the railroad crossing in College Park) and killed. It is unclear whether his death was an accident, but some sources suggest that Pyon Su may have ended his own life in despair over his exile from his homeland. This is a heart-breaking ending to a story of a man who fought for everything he desired and who set an outstanding example for Korean students in America. Pyon Su is buried in a cemetery in nearby Beltsville, MD.

Pyon Su's original gravestone

Pyon Su’s original gravestone. Photo courtesy of Dave Ottalini.

Richard Calvert, grandson of MAC founder Charles Benedict Calvert and one of Pyon Su’s college friends, served as a pallbearer at his funeral and came into possession of Pyon Su’s diploma. This document was passed down through the generations of the Calvert family and then returned to the Pyon family in summer 2012. Harold Pyon, great-great-great nephew of Pyon Su, determined that this important part of his family’s heritage should be returned to the University of Maryland, Pyon Su’s alma mater. He presented the diploma to Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement in a ceremony in the Pyon Su Room on November 2, 2012. This significant piece of our history now resides in the University Archives and is available for viewing upon request.

Pyon Su diploma

Click to see a larger version of Pyon Su’s diploma.

College Park “Hams” Unfazed by Three Mile Island Meltdown

Founded in 1932, the University of Maryland’s Amateur Radio Association is one of the older clubs on campus. But don’t let the name “amateur” fool you. The club has done some serious, professional work in the past 80 years.


In March 1979, when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had a meltdown, many radio and television news stations were having trouble getting timely and up-to-date information on the crisis as it unfolded. In the early hours of the meltdown, the possibility of widespread contamination and evacuation in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area was a serious possibility. Many people in the Mid-Atlantic region also feared that nuclear radiation might contaminate water that would eventually reach the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas to the south.

Fortunately for Marylanders, W3EAX, the University of Maryland’s amateur radio station, was equipped and ready to help out in the emergency. Coordinating with local amateur radio operators close to Three Mile Island, “ham” radio operators relayed the latest information about the meltdown and emergency responses to other amateur operators and news stations in the Maryland area. WLMD, a radio station that used to broadcast from the Mall in Columbia, Maryland, was one of these stations that relied on W3EAX before any official press conferences or announcements were made (the first of which was not until 28 hours after the meltdown began).

President Jimmy Carter and Harold Denton, Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (and former graduate student at Maryland) at the Three Mile Island control room, 1979. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

President Jimmy Carter and Harold Denton (left), Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (and former graduate student at Maryland) at the Three Mile Island control room, 1979. Photo Credit: Wikipedia


In a letter from April 1979, Rich Hodge, the program director at WLMD wrote W3EAX thanking them for their service and aid during the Three Mile Island crisis. “Your radio hookup with local hams in that Pennsylvania region [Three Mile Island] allowed us to keep tabs on events as details of the disaster unfolded,” Hodge wrote. Calling W3EAX an important public service, he also wrote that “your station in College Park often had more accurate and more timely information than the wire services…and the utility’s public information office!”

More than just a recreational club on campus, the students operating station W3EAX at College Park provided an important service to Marylanders and others in the area at a critical time when there was a great deal of fear and confusion about the Three Mile Island meltdown.


To see a copy of Rich Hodge’s letter to W3EAX, click the link below.

WLMD Three Mile Island Letter to W3EAX

Look at all the people…


A brief look inside what libraries and archives are coping with when making things available digitally.

Originally posted on DigiStew:

A few months ago, one of my colleagues, Paul Hammer, a software developer with the UMD Libraries’ Software Systems Development and Research (SSDR), stopped by my office and mentioned to me that something in one of my recent blog posts was bothering him. Specifically, it was these two sentences:

Unfortunately, unlike our dependable analog collections, keeping track of all of this digitized content can sometimes be unwieldy.   One of my big goals is to reach the point where an inventory of these digital collections can provide me with the equivalent of a “Shelf location” and statistics at the push of a button.

Paul reminded me that a lot of human effort, management and coercion went into acquiring, tracking, cataloging and circulating information in the analog world.  If the staff, managers and profession were not diligently encouraging librarians, archivists and other professionals into using similar standards and practices, then no two…

View original 1,124 more words

We’re looking for a new boss!!

The University of Maryland Libraries is seeking a Director of Special Collections and University Archives.

The job announcement, including details about the application procedure, is available at The full position description is located on the UMD Libraries’ website at: Applications will be accepted until June 30.

UMD Chickens To the Rescue!!

The University of Maryland played a valuable role in saving the European poultry industry following World War II.  The war had ravaged the European countryside, including its farms, and there was little left to rebuild.  The United States was aware of this and instituted The Marshall Plan to boost the Europe’s economy and agriculture.  Part of the plan required poultry chickens to be brought to Europe, which is where the University of Maryland stepped in to assist.

Feeding chickens at UMD, c.1950s.

Feeding chickens at UMD, c.1950s. From the Morley Jull papers,

The University of Maryland had a large agriculture department that included a renowned poultry-husbandry program.  On April 23rd 1945, the Department of Agriculture and the University agreed to begin shipping eggs overseas to help repopulate the devastated European poultry population.  Dr. Morley Jull, head of the poultry department at the University, expressed his optimism regarding the quality of Maryland’s program, over previous egg imports from Latin America, in the Washington Post on April 24th 1945.  Dr. Jull’s opinion came true the following month, when the University recorded a record number of chicks, most of which were sent to meet Europe’s demands.

Chicken coops at UMD, c. 1950s.

Chicken coops at UMD, c. 1950s. From the Morley Jull papers,

The egg delivery component of the Marshall Plan was so successful that in 1952 an Austrian-Marshall Plan propaganda film, titled Hansel and the 200,000 Chicks, was based around the newly revived poultry industry, and featured eggs that may very well have originated on the University of Maryland campus.  To see what a similar poultry promotional film from the era looks like, watch this “Chicken of Tomorrow” clip on YouTube.

UMD’s Fountain of Youth

Everyone knows about the beautiful and iconic fountain that complements McKeldin Mall, but can you imagine what the mall looked like before the fountain existed? In a Diamondback article from 1964, we get a glimpse as the author writes about the ugly swamp-like condition of the mall and even calls for the construction of a fountain to fix the problem.

Turns out that this student would get exactly what he wanted, although it took 25 years for it to happen. The 16 x 250 foot fountain that graces McKeldin Mall today was completed in 1991 and honors members of the campus chapter of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society.  Each level of the fountain signifies one of the leadership qualities found in ODK members. The engravings around the walls of the fountain include quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as the ODK symbol, a listing of fraternity members from the university, and a plaque honoring donors who contributed to the construction of the fountain.

Today the fountain is one of the largest university symbols and a hotbed for student activity in the spring semester. Students love to sit out and relax by the fountain and will occasionally take their shoes off and wade in. Students have even wake-boarded on the fountains waters and constructed a hand-cranked ferry to cross from one side to the other.

ODK fountain