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Forward we go, to our 50th

Planning for the anniversary of our honors university

Jamie Heathcote

Contributing Writer

Members of the UMBC community are coming together to plan celebrations for the University’s semicentennial. A main priority: uniting alumni and current students.

Yes, you read it correctly, 50 years in the making. September 19, 2016 will mark an extra special day for UMBC – a day that begs for a celebration. A school, with an original enrollment of just 750 students, will be turning 50 years old and in the following year, so will our proud canine mascot.

Established in 1966, UMBC found its foothold for higher education in the Baltimore area. The following year, what is known as a loyal companion to most was declared our mascot and later named True Grit, likely after the 1969 movie of that same name and signifying an unwavering perseverance to never back down from a challenge.

The celebration of a key anniversary is not exactly a short-term process. Planning is already underway, and at the 2014 annual University Retreat, preparations for the big day were a major topic of interest.

In the University Center on Wednesday, Aug. 20, faculty, staff, students and alumni came together to discuss the semicentennial event.

Editor of UMBC Magazine and organizer of special projects Richard Byrne, class of 1986, admits UMBC strives to bring people with different connections to the school together. Byrne said, “My experience at UMBC may be different than someone else’s.” Among the many elements of the preparation for the celebration, including the alumni has been made a focal point.

As a member of the Office of Institutional Advancement staff, Byrne says, “I would say the largest mission by Institutional Advancement is to engage alumni and the biggest change in our planning process would be seeking the active participation of the entire UMBC community.” Alumni and current students can have a chance to connect and reconnect in the planning process.

Along with gaining the title of “Honors University,” UMBC is well known as a school motivated to host activities and celebrations that keep the campus alive and upbeat. Fundraisers, club events and Quad Mania are part of our DNA, and there is a tangible sense of togetherness as students are urged to embrace pastimes that don’t exactly begin with a stress-filled cram session.

With an anniversary this meaningful, it will be important to highlight where we started and how far we’ve come. Providing that context, Dr. George R. La Noue, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, made it his mission to write Improbable Excellence: The Saga of UMBC, which explores the storied history of the University.

Indeed, UMBC has come a long way in both an academic and a community sense. Dr. La Noue says, “In a remarkable, utterly unpredictable way, UMBC has become a community flourishing in good times and persevering in bad.” That is a true testament to our style and is befitting of a legacy of true grit.

In just a little over two years, UMBC will be celebrating its golden anniversary with the same spirit and involvement that we’ve come to be known for. And of course, we’ll be having fun doing it.


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