When Elaine Johnson Coates ’59 arrived at Maryland in August 1955, she was one of just seven black students living on campus—the first group to do so. Coates was the only one to graduate four years later, despite social isolation, racist taunts and a general climate of discrimination.

“I wanted to make my family and my church proud of me, and those whose shoulders I was standing on were very strong,” said Coates, who was the university's first African-American female undergraduate to complete her degree. She went on to a nearly 40-year career as a teacher and social worker in Maryland and retired in 2006.

Tonight, Coates will be one of seven Terps honored at the University of Maryland Alumni Association’s first annual Celebration of Terps: Featuring the Maryland Awards. She will be the inaugural recipient of an award in her name, meant to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to fostering diversity and inclusion nationally and globally.

"We are honored to bestow the highest-level awards that alumni can receive from the university," said Amy Eichhorst, executive director of the Alumni Association. "We are proud of what our honorees have accomplished, both personally and professionally, and we uphold these individuals as icons to our students, alumni and the broader community."

The other six honorees are:

  • Florent “Flo” Groberg ’06, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Groberg enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2008 and received a Medal of Honor in 2015, the United States’ highest military decoration, for heroic actions taken during battle in Afghanistan in 2012, when he disrupted two suicide bombers. He is now chief of staff at Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle.
  • Raymond Ferrara ’70, who will receive the President’s Award. He is a certified financial planner and member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, serving as chair from 2016–18. He was featured as one of America’s best financial planners in the book “Secrets of the Wealth Makers” and received the P. Kemp Fain Award for qualities and contributions that demonstrate superior professionalism.
  • Jonathan Fix ’16, who will receive the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. Fix founded Terps Against Hunger, a student organization that packages meals to support local families experiencing food insecurity. He is now a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying infectious disease epidemiology.
  • Anne S.K. Turkos, who will receive the Spirit of Maryland Award. Turkos, university archivist emerita, has worked at UMD for 32 years. She helped establish the first-ever semester-long class on UMD history.
  • Linda Powers ’15, who is receiving the Do Good Award. Powers founded Miles for Smiles, a 5K run that raises awareness about the importance of oral health and funds dental missions to underserved communities. Powers is now a student at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
  • Steve Leonard ’78, who is being honored with the Tyser Gottwals Award. Leonard was the first general manager of Shuttle-UM, and is a life member of the Alumni Association. He’s also past president of the Terrapin Club, an Academic Achievement Program mentor, chair of the Fearless Ideas Campaign Committee for Undergraduate Studies and a university instructor.