For several years now, the University of Maryland's Alumni Hall of Fame hasn't had a hall; the plaques were taken down during renovations to the Student Union and have been sitting in storage ever since. But starting Saturday, portraits will be displayed in a permanent home at the new, $33 million privately funded Riggs Alumni Center complex.
And a new and eclectic crop of alums will be honored, including Larry David, co-creator of "Seinfeld" and perpetually disgruntled star of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Nobel Prize-winning physicist Raymond Davis Jr.; former network news anchor Connie Chung; basketball coach Gary Williams; and Carleton S. "Carly" Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Halls of fame let schools show off their stars, said Rae Goldsmith of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and help them reconnect with influential or high-profile alumni who may have forgotten the school -- and forgotten to donate.
So many universities have found ways to honor athletes, alumni, student leaders -- and all sorts of things. The University of Kentucky has the Equine Research Hall of Fame. Ohio State University has the Accounting Hall of Fame. Carnegie Mellon University has the Robot Hall of Fame.
Eastern Illinois University has a hall of fame for athletes -- and an unofficial, not-affiliated-with-the-university hall of fame posted on the Web with the slogan: "Washed-up athletes, porn stars and [ticked-off] actors. Eastern Illinois University has had it all."
Auburn University's mascot, a 26-year-old eagle named Tiger, was inducted into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame in a black-tie ceremony this year, as were a dog that saved its owner's life and the first monkey sent into space.
No such glory for Testudo, U-Md.'s turtle mascot. Only alums.
U-Md. started its Alumni Hall of Fame a decade ago, and every five years it honors a new group. This year's list includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the developer of Crystal City, the president of the Maryland Senate, a MacArthur "genius award" fellow and dance choreographer, a Vietnam War hero-turned-FBI agent and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Past inductees include scientists, executives, a soprano, a governor, an astronaut and one of the university's most famous alumni, Jim Henson, immortalized on campus in a statue with Kermit the Frog.
"It's an honor you dream of your university conferring on you," said Michael Olmert, a visiting professor of English who has won Emmy awards for his documentaries and whose portrait will soon hang on the wall at the Philip R. Rever Alumni Hall of Fame. "It's a bit of an embalming, too -- you're there at your own funeral. You go, 'This is really great!' Then you go, 'God, it's just me.' I keep thinking they're going to show up with storm troopers and say, 'We made a mistake.' "