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Terp After Terp (After Terp After Terp After Terp)

Five-Generation UMD Family Looks Back on Long Legacy

By Karen Shih ’09

Paul and Kelly Kolankowski on McKeldin Mall

With her graduation this week, Kelly Kolanowski, shown with her dad, Paul '94, will become the fifth generation of Terp alums from her family.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Terp families are as common as Maryland flag-themed gear or tins of Old Bay around here. Some students have grandparents who flirted over ice cream at the University of Maryland Dairy, while a few parents visit their freshmen in the same North Campus residence hall they once lived in.

But Kelly Kolanowski ’22 may be unique when she turns her tassel this week: Her great-great grandfather graduated from the university in 1908, starting a five-generation family tradition she’s carrying on.

“My friends here didn’t believe me when I told them,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t realize how unique or rare it was!”

The family’s deep involvement at UMD started with Reuben Brigham, who attended what was then called the Maryland Agricultural College. He served as its secretary of alumni affairs from 1913 to 1917, and his son, David Brigham ’38, became UMD’s first official alumni director just after World War II.

“Maryland was everything to him,” recalled Paul Kolanowski ’94, Kelly’s dad. “I was on campus a lot with my grandfather, and we went to a lot of games growing up.”

One of his favorite memories is from Cole Field House. “There was this catwalk at the very top, maybe a hundred feet above the court, and as a little kid he took me up there—I assume because of his connections!” Paul said.   

Paul’s aunt, Pat Brigham Spilman ’71 (whose husband Tom ’70 and son Daniel ’10 are also UMD grads), recalled with awe the giant Rolodex-esque contraption that stored alums’ information in her father’s office in the Main Administration Building. She also enjoyed the weekly summer picnics he hosted at the family’s home in Ashton, Md., for county alum groups, with steamed crabs and barbecue chicken provided by UMD. 

“It was always really fun! I was amazed by how close and active the alumni were,” said Spilman.

The Terp line was almost broken with Kelly, a competitive swimmer who started her college career at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. But when she decided to change majors and study hearing and speech sciences, Maryland’s world-class program brought her back into the family fold at College Park.

“My parents were very unbiased. They talked to me about how great Maryland was, but they left it up to me,” Kelly said. “I want to do that for my future kids, too. Being part of this legacy of people who all completed their degrees here and went on to have fulfilling and successful careers is pretty inspiring.”

Check out some fun family memorabilia:

Kelly holds a football given to Reuben by his classmate and later university President Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd.

Kelly holds a football given to Reuben by his classmate and later university President Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd.

A pennant from the 1956 Orange Bowl that David attended is framed above a pennant from the 2002 Orange Bowl

A pennant from the 1956 Orange Bowl that David attended is framed above a pennant from the 2002 Orange Bowl that Paul attended.

Students play tug-of-war

A colorized photo shows Reuben and fellow students playing tug-of-war near the Rossborough Inn around 1906.

UMD memorabilia including yearbook, M Book, football program, beanie

The family has kept David Brigham's memorabilia from the 1930s, including a yearbook, a football program, a beanie and several versions of the "M Book" student handbook.

water bottle

An unopened bottle of water commemorated the Queen’s Game in 1957, when a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip attended a Terps football game to learn more about the American sport.

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