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Celebrating a Century of Letter-Winner Camaraderie

From Homecoming to Halls of Fame to Hosting Elvis, Look Back on 100 Years of M Club Highlights

By Annie Krakower

collage of varsity M, student-athletes wearing varsity letter jackets, Elvis performing, group of four at a golf outing, Kentucky-Texas Western basketball game, 1923 football team, and newspaper clipping that reads, "M Club should prove important factor in fostering athletics"

The M Club, founded in 1923, not only awards letter jackets to student-athletes, but also established Homecoming, raises money for scholarships, and even hosted Elvis at Cole Field House.

Photos courtesy of University Archives and Maryland Athletics

The same organization that’s awarded hundreds of University of Maryland student-athletes their varsity letter jackets has also established Homecoming, enshrined dozens of Terps as Hall of Famers and even treated campus to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

The M Club, which connects UMD’s former and current student-athletes, for decades has championed Terp engagement and success through mentorship, career development, promotional events and scholarships. The group, recognized as the fourth oldest of its kind in the country, marks its 100th anniversary this month.

“When you’re a letter winner at the University of Maryland, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself and even your team. You’ve got this built-in network of Terps who root for you when you’re competing as an athlete and continue to want to help you succeed after you graduate,” said M Club Executive Director Laura Chiriaco ‘08, who still displays her competitive cheer letter certificate and President’s Cup academic achievement award from the organization in her office. “A lot of former athletes will tell you the four years they spent at the University of Maryland were the best years of their lives. It’s important to have an organization like ours that can help them stay connected.”

Created on June 15, 1923, by a seven-member founding committee, the M Club originally sought to “maintain the highest ideal of amateur sport in the University of Maryland; to promote the development of physical education; to encourage the standardization of the rules of all athletic games; (and) to urge competition and participation of all students in athletics,” according to the constitution and bylaws.

Dues were set at $1, and within a couple of years, the club boasted more than 100 members. With the funds it raised through membership and events, it established the university’s first athletic scholarship program in 1930. The endeavor continued through the years as the organization influenced the launch of other letter-winner clubs, like at the University of Florida, North Carolina State University and the University of Toledo.

Now with around 1,000 active members, the M Club kicked off its centennial celebration at its annual meeting this month, planning Homecoming Weekend festivities including a golf tournament and an all-sports tailgate. In the meantime, enjoy a highlight reel of some of the M Club’s most noteworthy achievements:

1923 UMD football team with newspaper clipping that reads, "M Club should prove an important factor in fostering athletics"

Homecoming Finds a Home
Terps who return to campus each fall to enjoy football, friends and other fun have the M Club to thank. On Nov. 24, 1923, the group held what’s now recognized as UMD’s first Homecoming with an alum luncheon, a “pep” meeting and parade of alums and students to the Maryland vs. Catholic University game, the dedication of the new football stadium (where Fraternity Row now stands), an M Club dinner with former letter winners, and a dance to close the evening. The slew of spirited activities, deemed “one of the most interesting reunions in the history of the institution” in The Diamondback, would “inaugurate a day which will hereafter be characterized with a red letter on the university calendar.”

Elvis performs

Elvis in the Building
For two nights in 1974, Elvis Presley traded “Jailhouse Rock” for a little Cole Field House rock. Terps scrambled to get their hands on tickets to the weekend shows organized as an M Club fundraiser, with Presley playing to standing-room-only crowds of 15,000. “With his appearance the senses were assaulted with a barrage of screams, moans and shrieks of ecstasy,” read a concert review in Argus, a Diamondback newspaper supplement. “It will be a long time before another entertainer will come along who can command such an allegiance and such money.”

Kentucky vs. Texas Western basketball game

House Hoops
In 1958, the M Club brought the Harlem Globetrotters and their hooping hijinks to campus for an exhibition game against the College All-Star team. The event attracted more than 8,000 fans, but they left disappointed, according to The Diamondback. Known for their tricks—like switching the basketball with weighted, deflated and tennis-ball-sized substitutes during the game—the Trotters just didn’t joke around enough en route to topping the All-Stars, 68-59. (The club also hosted serious sports, like NCAA basketball’s 1966 Final Four, featuring the famous Texas Western upset of Kentucky in the national championship game.)

University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame wall

Hall(s) of Fame
Just one institution to recognize talented Maryland athletes on the field, court and track wasn’t enough: In 1956, the M Club founded the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame, which honors individuals and teams from the state who have achieved a high standard of athletic success and made significant contributions to their sports. The first class included Olympic discus and shot put champion Robert Garrett and Baltimore-born baseball legend Babe Ruth. Then in 1982, the M Club established the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame in collaboration with the athletic department to specifically pay tribute to Terp athletes, coaches and administrators. Initial inductees included former athletes and coaches Geary F. “Swede” Eppley, the rec center’s namesake, and H. Burton Shipley, the baseball field’s namesake. Each hall enshrines new members each year—with some of the most outstanding Terps appearing in both.

group of four men at a golf tournament

Swinging for Scholarships
A 1943 alum and his family punched up the M Club’s mission of awarding student-athlete scholarships. In 1974, the former boxer and the club held the first Len Rodman Celebrity Golf Tournament at the University of Maryland Golf Course, now an annual outing that’s raised more than $800,000 since its inception. UMD greats like “Voice of the Terrapins” Johnny Holliday, former quarterback Jack Scarbath and former basketball player Greg Manning have hit the links for the occasion. Now, Rodman’s son, Roy, and grandson, Nolan, have taken over planning and execution for the event, which will take place this year on Oct. 13, during Homecoming weekend. “It’s a really special family legacy of supporting the M Club and student-athletes,” Chiriaco said.





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