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Driving Home Pride

UMD-Themed Vanity Plates Are the Highway Four-Leaf Clovers We Love to Spot. We Share Tales Behind the Tags.

By Maggie Haslam

collage of UMD-themed license plates

CONSIDER THE THRILLING roadway rush of spying a UMD-themed license plate amid the slog of a hellish Beltway commute or bumper-to-bumper beach traffic.

Now, imagine the feeling of finding one 2,700 miles from College Park that’s exactly like yours.

Lee Givens Jr. MBA ’05 was crossing the I-90 bridge in Seattle for a Mariners game in 2019 when he closed in on an SUV with Oregon plates that read “TERPS”—the same plates he had on his Washington State-registered Tesla Model Y.

“I quickly took a picture from my dash and then passed the driver and pulled in front of him,” recalls Givens. “His kid was in the passenger seat and started going crazy when he saw my plates. I mean, what are the chances? It was just awesome.”

Givens is one of hundreds of alums who have emblazoned their Maryland pride on their ride, paying their home state from $20 to $80 annually to own University of Maryland-themed vanity plates: We found “B1G TERP” in North Carolina, “TERP 02” in Minnesota, “TERPFAN” in Pennsylvania and “TERP 72” in Arizona. Some alums go the extra step of ordering UMD-branded plates or frames or sport Maryland-red paint jobs.

In Givens’ case, he tried roughly 40 letter/number combinations while living in Maryland to no avail, finally nabbing the prized “TERPS” after taking a job in Seattle in 2011.

He practically sprinted to the Department of Motor Vehicles to fill out an application as soon as he arrived in town. “I think I did it before I bought my first groceries.”

While UMD-themed plates are prolific in the DMV, as miles from College Park accumulate, so does the confusion. “What the hell is a Terp?” has been uttered by rangers in Yosemite and confused with a love of cannabis on the West Coast. But UMD-themed plates have also elicited honks, fist pumps and an occasional friendly tackle in the grocery store parking lot. (These usually involve sports fans.)

Maryland Today scoured the country’s highways, driveways and parking bays for UMD-themed vanity tags and the proud alums behind them. Buckle up for their origin stories, roadside run-ins and looks that stop traffic.

couple poses by car with "GOTERPS" license plate in garage
Photo by John T. Consoli

The next time you’re walking into the Xfinity Center for a Maryland basketball game, there’s a good chance you’ll see Diane and John Alahouzos’ GOTERPS plates right out front. A former Terrapin Club president and member of University of Maryland College Park Foundation board of trustees, Alahouzos ’71 helped designate the coveted parking spaces steps from Xfinity’s main entrance for UMD’s most ardent backers. He remembers driving through Duke University’s campus with the plates in 2004 after UMD won the ACC tournament. “It was a half-hour detour, but it was worth it,” he says.

ALLTERP, OC TERP, OCTRP2 and OCTERP3 license plates

While Fabian ’89 and Eleanor Jimenez ’89 celebrate their all-Terp family (including kids Andrew ’15 and Chris ’23) with ALLTERP on one car, they also snagged the OG OC TERP. They’re not the only Ocean City Terps: Joe ’82 and Mary Wiedorfer M.S. ’95 registered for OCTRP2 and OCTERP3 when they moved three years ago from Washington, D.C. (Joe owned the coveted DC TERP there.) “We really wanted OC TERP,” says Wiedorfer, “but it was taken.” Joe, meet Fabian!

“I moved (to North Carolina) in 1989 and had to wait years for someone to give up TERPS. I checked each year, and then sometime in the ’90s it was available. I always say someone had to die before I could get that. May they rest in Terrapin peace.”
—Vince Scanlon ’84
student points to TERP2BA license plate

When bioengineering major Scott Regan ’26 was selected to join the Mighty Sound of Maryland, his parents surprised the tuba and sousaphone player with personalized license plates: TERP2BA. “Most of the band parents and students get it,” says his mother, Tiffany. “But a lot of other people have asked if someone got two (bachelor’s) degrees.”

Despite the distance from College Park to the Phoenix suburbs, strangers stop Rodney Adelman ’72 in parking lots and wave to him on the road when they spot TERP 72. When a mechanic recently asked him what the plates mean, he responded,

“Are you a college sports fan? Well, let me tell you about the Terrapins.’”
TERPUMD license plate

Diehard Terps basketball fan Amelia Todaro ’08 bought a bright red car and has owned TERPUMD for about five years. “I was so excited ‘TERPUMD’ was actually available. One of my biggest pet peeves are plates that are so obscure no one else understands them!”

man points to TERP MAN license plate, woman points to CAL GAL license plate

If Sanjay Tolani ’94, MBA ’01 ever chose a life of crime, he’d never be allowed to drive the getaway car. Tolani is known to friends, family—even strangers on the street—as TERP MAN, the yin to his wife Anita’s yang. (A Berkeley grad, she’s CAL GAL.) “People will say,‘Hey! I saw you at the airport!’ I’ve had them for so long, everyone knows it’s me,” he laughs. He once found a note left on his windshield about the 1953 football championship and frequently gets honks on the road. “Sometimes if I’m driving my wife’s car, I’ll get a honk; and then they pull up next to me and start laughing when they see a man behind the wheel.”

FRDTRTL license plate

When Mike Wall ’82 and wife Louise ’79 got their first car together, they celebrated their love—and UMD—with custom plates. “You had to submit by mail back then,” says Wall. “I remember I put 2TERPS as my first choice and PROTERPS for my second, because I was going for ‘pair of Terps.’ And that’s the one that was accepted. But a lot of people just think it’s ‘Pro Terps.’” Wall’s more recent plates for his truck, which say FRDTRTL, conjure just as much confusion. “If I see people behind me in traffic pointing and trying to figure it out, I’ll point to the big Maryland decal on my back window. Some people think it stands for ‘Ford,’ but I’m driving a Toyota; that makes no sense.”

two red cars with TERP07 and TERP06 license plates

Virginia began offering the University of Maryland-branded license plate during Stephanie Casway’s senior year at Maryland. She sat at her computer until midnight the night they were available to snag TERP07. (Her husband, Jason Harris ’05, now has TRPCPA.) After her first child was born in 2016, she went to a new moms’ group at a Northern Virginia church and realized she’d parked next to a car with the plates TERP06. It turned out to belong to one of Casway’s sorority sisters, Sandi Horton ’06, who she hadn’t seen in a decade, and later connected with on Facebook.


When TERP is taken, sometimes you have to get creative—and do a lot of explaining:

DBACK1 license plate

David Rothbard’s car already had the UMD-branded Virginia plate and Alumni Association lifetime member frame when the 1993 grad splurged on a vanity plate. He couldn’t fit TESTUDO because of the turtle-branded plate—and “TERP” in all forms was taken. A former journalism major and avid Diamondback reader, he settled on DBACK1. Rothbard often gets the question “What’s a DBACK?” and is sometimes confused with an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. It took a visit to the University of Virginia for someone to recognize it—sort of. “This guy rolls up in a car completely decked out in UVA stuff, and he rolls down his window and says, ‘Hey! Maryland Diamondbacks!’”

TERP license plate on a birdhouse

Amy ’96 and Scott Beatty ’95 never had vanity plates while in Maryland, but after they moved to Memphis, Tenn., realized they might have better luck. Amy got the coveted TERP while her husband got TERP4LIF. Each time the state updated its plate design, the couple kept the old ones, even repurposing a few into birdhouses (left). “Not many people down here know what a Terp is, and I frequently get questions like, ‘Why does your license plate say Twerp?’”

MD TERP license plate

Tom ’90, M.A. ’96 and Kathy Gray have been representing UMD with MD TERP vanity plates for 15 years, first in Des Moines, Iowa, and now in Charlotte, N.C. In addition to honks and waves from other alums, Gray says the most common reaction is, “What’s a Doctor Terp?”

GOTERPS license plate

When Gretchen Reinhardt Ricks ’98 and her family moved to New Hampshire 14 years ago, she kept a piece of Maryland on her car: GO TERPS.

“It’s fun to get a honk now and then when someone sees my plate and knows what it means,” she says. “I even had one woman get out of her car in the CVS pharmacy drive-thru, knock on my window and tell me how much she loved my plate because she and her husband were both Maryland grads. It made my day!”

W1LLWIN license plate

Noreen Welch ’90 was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on University Boulevard en route to a Maryland basketball game with friends Sander Zaben ’85 and Jay Sivulich ’85 when they spotted the Maryland license plate WILLWIN. The insider reference to the final line of the “Maryland Victory Song” was brilliant, they agreed. She and Sivulich went home that night and immediately registered for W1LLWIN and WILLW1N, respectively.

two license plates that read, "PLATE" "ENVY"

Most letter-number combinations that include UMD or TERP have been exhausted in Maryland, with alums swapping “S” with “5” or “E” for “3” to score their coveted configuration.

If you’re yearning to add a little brag to your bumper, the following tags are still available through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration:


Maryland residents can also show their Terp pride with a UMD-branded license plate, available through the Alumni Association for a $15 donation. Visit



Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.