MAC to Millenium – The University of Maryland from A to Z


More than eighty years ago, as part of Alumni Day, campus officials held an ivy-planting ceremony on the shady hill near Morrill Hall during which class traditions were formally transferred from the graduating seniors to the juniors. Many of the traditions that existed in 1920s — freshman-sophomore tug-of-war, May Day, all-class proms, rat caps — have disappeared, but the new ones, like rubbing Testudo’s nose for good luck and firing off a cannon every time the football team scores, have taken their place.

MAC to Millennium brings together these traditions and many other fun and unusual tales about our campus, from its founding in 1856 as the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) to the twenty-first century. We hope you enjoy this compilation and that you rub Testudo’s nose every chance you get!

Start learning fun and interesting UMD facts:

Relive Campus History with University AlbUM


Did you know that you can browse historic University of Maryland photographs online anytime you want? Just check out University AlbUM! The site hosts a wide variety of photos ranging from athletics to campus life. Feel free to browse by decade using the drop-down box, or search for subjects and keywords using the search box.

You can even search for and watch historic University of Maryland football games!

Mencken in Maryland

H.L Mencken was many things, but never a degree holder from the University of Maryland. In 1952, the famed author and journalist was offered an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from President H.C. Byrd and the Board of Regents, but curiously declined. Just like today, the University would often honor prominent citizens at commencement, and over the years there have been many famous and important people who have received honorary degrees from Maryland. Mencken lived in Maryland his entire life and was incredibly influential, making him an ideal candidate for this honor.

Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Sun and a variety of other local papers. photo credit: Pratt Library

Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Sun and a variety of other local papers.                         photo credit: Pratt Library

Mencken was a prolific writer, journalist, and critic of American life and culture. The Baltimore native was born in 1880, and by the early 1900s was well known throughout Maryland and the rest of the country.  He is probably most famous for his role in reporting on the Scopes Trial in 1925, or for his 1919 book, The American Language in which he studied the ways that the English is spoken in the United States. In a career that lasted nearly fifty years, Mencken became a prominent intellectual and had a lasting impact on American political and scientific thought.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Mencken became such a prolific writer and thinker despite not having much training in writing or journalism. He graduated a class valedictorian from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1896, and almost immediately began writing for the Baltimore Morning Herald. Aside from a short writing class at a correspondence school, he was never formally educated in writing or anything else beyond high school.

An honorary degree would be “in recognition of your great contributions to the State and country in this field,” President Byrd wrote to Mencken, hoping that he would be one of the two recipients of honorary degrees at the June 1952 commencement. Oftentimes the University of Maryland gave honorary degrees to local leaders and figures, but it wasn’t every year that a nationally renowned figure like Mencken was honored in this way.

Unfortunately, Mencken had been in poor health ever since suffering a stroke four years earlier. By 1952, he was unable to read or write, and his brother August was forced to take care of his correspondence. In a letter back to Byrd, August reported that Henry appreciated the generosity of the Board of Regents in offering the degree but that he had never accepted honorary degrees in the past and felt compelled to refuse the title of Doctor of Letters from Maryland.

But the 1952 commencement was not the first time Mencken had come into contact with Byrd and the University of Maryland. In the spring of 1937, he wrote a series of 18 articles for The Baltimore Sun about the school and its history. The Sun, always a fierce critic of the university and President Byrd, sent Mencken to investigate the university and its president, and report any ‘dirt’ that he could find on them. Byrd had “a reputation as a burglar of the State treasury,” according to Mencken, and had been criticized in the past for pressuring the state legislature into appropriating huge sums of money for the University. During the Great Depression, Maryland was costing Maryland taxpayers over one million dollars annually, and Byrd’s frequent requests for extra cash for new buildings and other large projects were not welcomed. Mencken, a seasoned reporter at this time and a vociferous critic of many public figures, seemed like the perfect man for the job.

It was surprising, then, when Mencken ended up writing a series of articles giving high praise to Byrd and Maryland. In his last article summing up his experiences at Maryland, the journalist even suggested that other universities in the state, like Johns Hopkins and Goucher College, would be better off under the leadership of President Byrd. “The thing to do with a man of such talents is not to cuss him for doing his job so well,” Mencken wrote in response to critics at The Sun who bashed the president at every opportunity, “it is much wiser, so long as hanging him is unlawful, to give him a bigger and better one.”

But the 1952 Commencement exercises at Maryland were still an exciting affair without Mencken, with speeches and addresses from the mayor of Baltimore, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., and Governor Theodore McKeldin. President Byrd presented honorary doctoral degrees in Laws and Commercial Science to Thomas Duckett and Alexander Sheff, both prominent men from Maryland who had made important contributions to the state.

Although it has been over 70 years since he last visited, you can still find a part of H.L. Mencken on campus, today, the University of Maryland Libraries hold many books on Mencken and some of his own writings, including some early editions of The American Language and other books that he wrote throughout his lifetime. Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library also holds microfilm of the Baltimore News-Post, and some other papers that Mencken wrote throughout his career and is the home of the Arthur J. Gutman Collection of Menckeniana.

To see August Mencken’s Letter to President Byrd, click the link below:

August Mencken Letter to President Byrd

The 15 Best Maryland Athletic Nicknames of All-Time

 15. Ed and Dick Modzelewski – “Big Mo and Little Mo”

There is no better set of nicknames to describe the brother tandem of Ed and Dick Modzelewski. Dick followed his older brother Ed to the University of Maryland in the early 1950s, where they both became a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron. Both brothers were selected in the NFL draft following their time at Maryland.


14. Charles Driesell – “Lefty”

Ever wonder why legendary Maryland basketball coach Charles Driesell is nicknamed “Lefty?” Don’t over-think it. Driesell was nicknamed “Lefty” in grade school because he’s left-handed. The nickname followed him to Maryland, where it remains synonymous with Terps basketball.


13. Harry Clifton Byrd – “Curley”

If you’re going to be one of the most prominent figures in University of Maryland history, you’d better have a cool nickname right? Former university president, Harry Clifton Byrd, known to many only as “Curley,” got the nickname from his black, curly hair. Byrd was a huge supporter of Maryland athletics and was an exceptional athlete himself.

Curley Byrd


12. Bombale Osby – “Boom”

Of course you remember fan favorite “Boom” Osby, who played for the Terps under Coach Gary Williams from 2006 to 2008. Osby claims he got his nickname from an old high school teammate, who would mispronounce his name “Boom-bale.” His nickname certainly represented his aggressive and intense playing style.

photo courtesy of:

photo courtesy of:

11. Ralph Friedgen- “The Fridge”

Former Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen is affectionately nicknamed “The Fridge” in reference to his last name and his size. “The Fridge” played football for Maryland from 1966 to 1968 and was an assistant coach before becoming head coach of the Terps football team from 2001 to 2010.


10. Brene Mosely- “Bones”

Current women’s basketball guard Brene Mosely got the nickname “Bones” from one of her youth basketball coaches who thought she was incredibly skinny. Years later, the nickname has stuck around.

photo courtesy of:

photo courtesy of:

9. Chet Hanulak – “The Jet”

Star running back Chester Hanulak was an integral part of Maryland’s 1953 National Championship football team. It is no surprise to anyone who has seen footage of him playing why his nickname became “Chet The Jet.” As a senior, Hanulak sprinted through defenses with ease on his way to finishing the season with an average of 9.78 yards per carry, a Terps’ record that still stands.



8. Norman Esiason – “Boomer”

Most people are surprised to hear that Boomer is actually the nickname, and not the birth name, of the former Terp quarterback. Esiason actually received the nickname “Boomer” before he was even born. It was his constant kicking in the womb that prompted his mother to give him the fitting nickname. Maybe Boomer would have made an excellent punter or kicker for the Terps in addition to quarterback. I guess we will never know.

Boomer Esiason_1984

7. Vernon Davis – “The Duke,” and “Cyborg”

Vernon Davis is the only athlete on our list to boast not just one, but two nicknames! Davis got the nickname “Duke” because he looks exactly like his father, whose name is Duke. At Maryland, Davis’ teammates changed the nickname to “The Duke.” Davis’ Maryland teammates also gave him the nickname “Cyborg” in reference to his freakish athletic ability. Davis is still living up to the “Cyborg” nickname as a current member of the San Francisco 49ers.

photo courtesy of" USA Today

photo courtesy of” USA Today

6. Howard White – “H”

Howard White, simply known as “H,” will forever be known as the man who helped Michael Jordan launch his wildly popular Jordan Brand. But before joining forces with MJ, White was a playground legend and Maryland star. White, who grew up idolizing Oscar Robertson, came to Maryland wanting to be like “Big O.” Instead, Lefty Driesell assured him that if he listened to everything he said, White, already known as “H,” could wear his nickname on the back of his uniform. So he did. Howard White is the only Maryland athlete that we know of that actually wore his nickname on his uniform.

H White

5. Renaldo Nehemiah – “Skeets”

Maryland track star Renaldo Nehemiah was always fast. In fact, he got his nickname “Skeets” because he crawled so fast as a baby. Skeets set world records while at Maryland and dominated the track world from 1978-1981. He was ranked number one in the world for four consecutive years before going on to play wide receiver in the NFL.


4. Crystal Langhorne – “The Franchise”

As a key component of the 2006 women’s basketball NCAA Championship team, Langhorne was often the go-to player for the Terps. That’s why her teammates called her “The Franchise.” We can’t think of a player more deserving of that nickname. She became the first player in Maryland men’s or women’s basketball history to score 2,000 points and record 1,000 rebounds. Langhorne now plays in the WNBA where she is a two-time all-star.

photo courtesy of: gettyimages

photo courtesy of: gettyimages

3. Shawne Merriman – “Lights Out”

Shawne Merriman was a nightmare for opposing offenses during his time at Maryland. However, it was in high school where Merriman earned the nickname “Lights Out” after knocking four opposing players unconscious during the first half of a game. The Maryland native would go on to have a successful career in the NFL as a three-time All-Pro.


2. Walt Williams – “The Wizard”

We told you that Howard “H” White was the only player to wear his nickname on the back of his jersey, but as you can see below, Walt Williams took his nickname to a whole different level. Williams was given the nickname “The Wizard” by former Maryland coach Bob Wade in reference to his finesse passing and ball-handling skills.

Walt Williams

1. Randy White – “The Manster”

To be fair, Randy White’s nickname “The Manster” is not one he earned while playing at Maryland, but that doesn’t mean the nickname is not one of the best to ever be given to a Maryland athlete. It wasn’t until White was with the Dallas Cowboys that he earned the name “The Manster.” His Cowboys teammate Charlie Waters was the first to use the nickname explaining “the way Randy plays he has to be part-man and part-monster.”

Randy White


Honorable Mentions: Bob “Turtle” Smith, “Chief” Millard Tydings, Maureen “Bean” Scott

Leroy Mackert Stuns Maryland-Hopkins Rivalry, 1920

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be appropriate to share a bit of Maryland athletics/Thanksgiving history. In a 2012 blog post, we told you about the bitter athletic rivalry between Maryland and Johns Hopkins in the early twentieth century, including the annual football contest between the two. This game was nearly always held on Thanksgiving day, and usually determined the state championship. No single game better exemplifies the rivalry than the 1920 Thanksgiving Day matchup.

Maryland Agricultural College vs. Johns Hopkins Football Game, 1919

Maryland Agricultural College vs. Johns Hopkins Football Game, 1919

The year is 1920, Thanksgiving Day, state title up for grabs, and Hopkins hasn’t scored a touchdown against the Maryland squad since 1910. Just when you thought the rivalry between Hopkins and Maryland couldn’t get any more exciting, enter Leroy Mackert.

Leroy Mackert

Leroy Mackert

Leroy Mackert was Maryland’s star tackle and fullback, a true force to be reckoned with on the field. What makes Mackert so controversial, however, is the simple fact that he had attended Lebanon Valley College before transferring to Maryland where he would play the 1919 and 1920 seasons. In the weeks leading up to the big Thanksgiving game, Hopkins Athletic Director Ronald Abercrombie suddenly began making claims questioning the eligibility of Mackert. Hopkins accused Maryland of playing an athlete who had used up all of his collegiate eligibility in Junior College. In response to the accusations, Maryland coach Curly Byrd fired back that Mackert had been and was still eligible to play.

Maryland defense stops "Turkey" Jones of Johns Hopkins, Maryland Agricultural College football, 1919

Maryland defense stops “Turkey” Jones of Johns Hopkins, Maryland Agricultural College football, 1919

After the game Hopkins demanded that Maryland had to apologize for playing Mackert and if not, they would cut off athletic relations with Maryland. Needless to say, neither happened. Leroy Mackert went on to play football professionally and serve in the military. He also returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach and physical education instructor. He will always be remembered by Terps fans as the guy who abruptly turned the world of Maryland collegiate sports upside down.

From the 1979 Diamondback: Giant shark believed to be in bay

University of Maryland researchers conclude that a bull shark, about one foot shy of the longest one sighted in the world, made a visit to the Chesapeake Bay! See article below for more:

From the 1979 Diamondback – Archives aid researchers

In skimming through the 1979 Diamondback we came across a headline that naturally caught our eye: “Archives aid researchers, McKeldin room gains popularity.” We’re glad to see that students and researchers were so satisfied in 1979, however, we’ve come along way and have a bigger space with even more resources now in 2014! So stop in Hornbake Library and discover the archives for yourself! We have plenty of knowledgeable librarians ready to help.

Small correction in the article. The Archives was established in 1972, not 1976.

Remembering the first “Voice of the Terrapins”

Today marks the 49th anniversary of the passing of George F. Batka, the one-time director of the University of Maryland’s radio and television program in the Department of Speech.  Dr. Batka also had the distinction of being the “Voice of the Terrapins” as the public address announcer when Byrd Stadium opened in 1950, as well as at commencement each year.  His voice was instantly recognizable for countless Terrapin students and fans, and when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack at age 50, his loss was keenly felt.

Dr. George Batka (left), consults with Dr. Theodore Aylesworth (center) and a student in the UMD television studio, 1962.

Dr. George Batka (left), consults with Dr. Theodore Aylesworth (center) and a student in the UMD television studio, 1962.

Dr. Batka came to campus in 1948, and in addition to running the radio and television department, served as faculty adviser to the campus radio station, WMUC.  In 1959 he was named Outstanding Faculty Member by the Men’s League, a campus student organization, and in 1961, the Air Force ROTC chapter on campus made him an honorary colonel. He presided over the debut of closed-circuit television on campus in 1958 and produced numerous radio and television programs for Baltimore and Washington stations.

So, the next time you’re at a game, and you hear the public address announcer, remember Dr. Batka and his contributions to the university, as well as to technology that is now completely ingrained into American life.

Dr. George Batka watching a cue being delivered in the UMD studio, 1962.

Dr. George Batka watching a cue being delivered in the UMD studio, 1962.

Archival Mysteries: The Stolen Silver

Between the evening of June 19 and the morning of June 20, 1969, thieves broke into the Memorial Chapel on the University of Maryland campus. They made it past the new lock system and found their way into Room 13. Why this particular spot? Room 13 happened to be where the Chapel’s silver was housed, including the communion set donated to the Chapel by its architect, Henry Powell Hopkins.

Memorial Chapel

Continue reading

Remembering a Veteran Terp: Colonel Martin Jordan “Stormy” Sexton

This Veteran’s Day, University Archives would like to remember a very special and inspirational Terp. Martin Jordan Sexton arrived at College Park in the Fall of 1937 and left behind quite a story in 1941, only to be outshined by his long-lasting career in the United States Marine Corps. Sexton was a leader on the lacrosse field at Maryland and as a Marine, and proved to be an inspiration to a very wide array of people over the course of his life.

Jordan, which he was more commonly referred to in the yearbooks, entered the University of Maryland as an engineering major and part of ROTC. He was also a member of the freshman lacrosse team. After a few trying semesters Jordan found his niche in the Education department. He excelled in history and social studies courses, and soon he became much more involved in student life activities.


Jordan “Smiley” Sexton, 1939 Varsity Lacrosse

In 1939, Jordan Sexton pledged and became a brother of Kappa Alpha fraternity on campus. That same year he joined the varsity lacrosse team, and quickly became one of the best players on the team. By 1940, he was a standout, playing alongside Billy Cole, another famous Terp from that era. In 1940, Sexton had started out playing defense, but his speed and handling skills got him shifted into the midfield. He earned his first “M” from this season as well. Outside of athletics, Sexton was also a member of the Latch-key club, which helped welcome teams from other schools on campus when they came to play at Maryland, served as the junior basketball manager, and was a member of the Men’s League.

1941, Jordan’s would-be senior year (he did not graduate), was by far his most notable year as a member of the varsity lacrosse team. Anyone paying attention to Maryland Lacrosse knew Sexton’s name.  In July 1941, he was selected as one of five men from Maryland for the nation’s All-American teams.


Jordan “Smiley” Sexton, 1940 Varsity Lacrosse

In August 1941, Sexton, who would later be nicknamed “Stormy,” enlisted in the US Marine Corps for what would become a very, very successful 25-year military career. When the United States entered World War II following Pearl Harbor, Corporal Sexton was stationed at Parris Island as a drill instructor. He became a second lieutenant just a year later. “Stormy” became a capable and inspirational leader, serving in a position of command through three wars – World War II in the Pacific, Korea, and Vietnam. His excellence as a battalion commander was recognized in 1962 when Stormy was featured in an article in Life Magazine, where his men referred to him as “the best battalion commander in the Marines.”

Eventually Colonel Sexton was appointed the Chief of Staff of the entire 4th Marine Division. Sexton was awarded several medals: the Silver Star for his help in recapturing Guam during WWII, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. He was stationed in Italy between Korea and Vietnam.

Stormy Life Magazine

Colonel “Stormy” Sexton, featured in Life Magazine

Stormy Sexton retired from the Marines in 1970, and he became a high school coach and teacher in Oceanside, California. There he became a champion tennis coach, winning several championships and over 500 matches. Sexton was also an instructor for the Marine Corps Junior ROTC in Oceanside for nine years.

Stormy Sexton passed away in June of 1999, at the age of 81. He is remembered today by the Marine Corps in quite a unique and special way. In September 2002, a study alcove was created and dedicated in Colonel Sexton’s name at the General Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center Archives and Libraries at Quantico, VA. The alcove is decorated with several features to “portray his lasting influence and impact on so many individuals taught, led, coached, and inspired by him.” You can read about Colonel Sexton, the alcove, and where it’s located here.

30th Anniversary of the Miracle in Miami

Thirty years ago today, the Terrapin football team trudged off the field in disgust after the trash-talking and defending national champion Miami Hurricanes ran out to an embarrassing 31-0 halftime lead. Everything was going wrong for the Terps, who looked both physically and emotionally defeated. Looking for a spark, Coach Bobby Ross sent quarterback Frank Reich in to replace Stan Gelbaugh to start the second half. What happened next would become one of Maryland’s most memorable sports moments. Reich led the team to six second-half touchdowns, as the Terps devastated the Hurricanes 42-40 for what was then the greatest comeback in Division I football history.

Any large comeback win takes a certain amount of grit and determination, but often times it cannot be accomplished without a few big breaks going the team’s way. Maryland’s biggest breaks came in the fourth quarter. After fighting back to make the score 34-28, with five and a half minutes left, Reich launched a pass that deflected off a Miami safety’s hands and into the hands of receiver Greg Hill who proceeded to run it in for a touchdown. Miami fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Maryland recovered and scored once again. The Terps led by a score of 42-34 before Miami scored one more late game touchdown. Maryland denied Miami’s 2-point conversion attempt to secure the victory.

Reich would equal the record-setting feat nine years later in the NFL, leading the Buffalo Bills back from 32 points down to defeat the Houston Oilers in the 1993 playoffs.

As for the Terrapins, their reward for winning the game was no practice when they returned home!

You can watch all of the footage from Maryland’s Miracle in Miami here.

Terrapin Yearbooks

Did you know we’ve digitized our yearbooks? We have over 110 volumes of the yearbook available online, from our first yearbook in 1897 to the present. This record of student life has been called Reveille (1897-1920, 1925-1934), Terra Mariae (1921-1922), Us (1971-1972), and Terrapin (1935-1970, 1973-present). You can page through each book, search for names and events, or download your own PDF copy through this site.

Click on these yearbooks to see what student life was like in 1915, 1952, 1977, and 2007!

1915 Reveille     1952 Terrapin     1977 Terrapin     2007 Terrapin

If you’re looking for students who attended the college before 1897, make sure to check out our digitized course catalogs!