There are some 20,000 alumni of the University of Maryland living in Northern Virginia alone. Have they no pride?
Dan McGuire of Reston would like to think he could get 350 Terrapins in the state to shell out $10 to buy a special license plate bearing the university's logo.
But after nearly four years of trying, the retired member of the Class of 1962 has not been able to get more than 250 graduates to sign up -- 100 short of the minimum required by the state before it stamps out the plates.
Now, the school's alumni office is telling him it may be time to face reality.
After holding on to the collected fees for all these years, the alumni office has advised him that it will return the money if he has not met his goal by the end of August.
The University of Maryland has held alumni money for the license plates since the fall of 2001, said Robin Chiddo, an official with the school's alumni association. Now it's time to bridge the gap or cut their losses, she said: "People move. Credit cards expire. At this point, we need to make a decision."
The alumni office is the official sponsor of the plate, and a prototype has already been approved. Other than Maryland, where only 25 applicants are needed to get a specialty college plate, Virginia is the only state where there is an active campaign for the tags. Some alumni in Florida had looked into getting Terrapin tags, but so many applicants are required there that it seemed futile to try, Chiddo said.
The school continues to hope the Virginia campaign will be successful in the remaining weeks, Chiddo said. "We want to spread Terrapin spirit and put the Terrapin name on Virginia roadways."
McGuire, who is president of the school's Northern Virginia alumni club, is frustrated.
"Every team in the Atlantic Coast Conference has a license plate," he said. "Even small colleges you never even heard of."
Out-of-state schools and small, specialized schools in Virginia are well represented among the state's special plates.
The jury is still out, but the evidence suggests that Seminoles from Florida State University, Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech and Aggies from Texas A&M now living in Virginia collectively have more school spirit than the state's Terrapin alumni. They all have their own plates, as do alumni of Rutgers, Villanova, Ohio State, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina.
In Virginia, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge has a plate. So does Paul D. Camp Community College, with campuses in Franklin, Suffolk and Smithfield. There are special plates for Liberty University in Lynchburg and Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg.
So where are all the Terrapins?
"We've sent out e-mails and mentioned it in the alumni magazine," said McGuire, sighing. "I think we have to nudge them and build school spirit. For school pride, it's very inexpensive. It's a flag that says, 'Hey, there goes my school.' "
McGuire's school pride runs deep. His father, an all-around athlete who played football and baseball and ran track, was a member of the Class of 1932. McGuire was a pitcher on the school baseball team.
He holds season tickets to football games. He is an alumni adviser to Kappa Alpha fraternity, and on the board of the M Club for holders of athletic letters.
He stashes tokens of his Terrapin pride in a room off the garage. He has a street sign for Terrapin Alley, a championship flag for the basketball team, and "lots of little pompoms and 'Go Terps' signs," he said.
What he doesn't have -- yet -- is a Terrapin license plate from the state of Virginia.
Is it really any wonder that Terrapin is a fancy word for turtle?