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Courtesy of Special Collections

Birthday wishes from London by Vanessa Rueda

Vanessa Rueda is a former News Editor of The Retriever. Class of ’14.

Happy birthday, UMBC! I wish I were still a student to celebrate with you. There are plenty of alumni events for your big five-oh, but I’m left to only imagine what it’s like to actually celebrate with you.

When I inform people of your upcoming birthday that I’m missing out on, the usual response falls along the line of, “Fifty? That’s cute.”

But that’s okay. You’ve achieved some great things in your relatively short life. You may have only been around to see students discussing the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War when other schools dreaded Prohibition or saw their numbers decrease as students went off to World War I, but that fact hasn’t decreased your potential or impact.

Being an alumna, I often see what other alumni have done since they left and what their various contributions are. While sometimes it makes me feel small, seeing those updates fills me with pride: I shared an institution with those great people. We share traditions and memories and now I share with them the pride and amazement of looking at what you’ve done since we left.

Just in terms of size, you’ve grown in the fifty years since you were erected in the suburbs of Baltimore City. Though I don’t know what you looked like before I got there, I know you grew before my very eyes. I toured PAHB as it was being built then had my senior seminar there. I’ve seen plans for a new athletic facility and a new parking lot and maybe you’ll even get new dorms soon. You’re so grown up now, you might get a second library!

Small and young as you are, you gave me the most memorable four years of my life. Aside from the clichés of lifelong friendships and life-changing experiences, you gave me a home away from home. I’ll forever thank you for facilitating my meeting the wonderful people at The Retriever Weekly. That windowless room saw a lot of craziness and ideas thrown around and I do not doubt you will continue to provide them with the same homey space long after the last person I know there graduates.

You’ve set my expectations for other institutions quite high. While hunting for a graduate school, I automatically compared every one to your gorgeous Academic Row in the fall, or the way the trees converge around the pond with their greenness and give opportunities for epic Instagram posts.

Needless to say, there isn’t another one like you and even the Central London number I chose for graduate school can’t fully capture my affections like you did. Old squares and the ever-present sounds of traffic sort of pale in comparison to the Quad and the view from the top of AOK.

So, happy birthday, my alma matter. My forever home away from home. I will wear your colors with pride on your big day. You may be small and young, but you’re mighty. Even Harvard had a fiftieth birthday once. You’ll get there one day, too, and you’ll be mightier than any of them.