Two Turtles?

Did you know the University Archives’ collections actually contain two turtles? One, of course, is our beloved model for the original statue of Testudo. The other is a huge hawksbill turtle that was a gift to the University  from  J.L. Enyart, Captain and Commanding Officer of the Naval Medical School on April 19, 1952, before a lacrosse game between UMD and Navy.

Gift of Hawksbill Turtle-small
Captain Enyart presenting his turtle.

This turtle originally resided in the Gossett Football Team House, and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics transferred it to the Archives prior to one of the facility’s renovations.

Hawksbill Turtle-small


For a long time, the only clues the Archives staff had about the origins of the turtle were the small brass plate inside the turtle’s case noting Captain Enyart’s name and the date of his gift and the photograph above. Fortunately UMD journalism and iSchool alumnus Rob Garner was intrigued by this amazing specimen and volunteered to help us track down the story behind this 64-year-old gift.

Rob turned out to be quite the sleuth! He managed to find Capt. John Enyart’s son living in Florida several years ago, who told him:

“In the 1930s, the family happened to live in Guam.  Naturally, that area of the world has some strange wildlife in comparison to what we have around here.  Captain Enyart would collect the turtles’ shells, some of which could reach upwards of two or three feet in size.

Fast forward a few years to the 1950s.  The Enyarts live in the D.C. area, now that Capt. Enyart heads the Naval Medical School.  The Enyarts were evidently fans of the school; both father and son (according to John Jr.) did graduate course work here.  Knowing the school’s affinity for all things turtle, Enyart Sr. asked himself why he was keeping this turtle from Guam in his garage, where it took up space and didn’t do anybody any good.  So, some conversation took place between Enyart Sr. and the University, which resulted in the presentation at the lacrosse game (in 1952).”

The Archives loves a happy ending.  Thanks to Rob for tracking down the answer!!!


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