By Hannah Klarner
For Unwind magazine
Testudo, the beloved statue of the University of Maryland mascot, has been bringing students luck on exams since 1933 when he was installed on the campus. But what began as students rubbing his nose or leaving small tokens has escalated into leaving deep fryers, stolen streetlights and even cars.
The statue, a gift from the class of 1933, has moved around the campus several times before eventually ending up outside McKeldin Library in 1965.
Students have been rubbing his nose for good luck when they walk by since the 1970s, according to Anne Turkos, an archivist at this university, but more recently, they have been leaving physical offerings to Testudo for luck on their final exams.
It is not clear when exactly students began leaving trinkets for good luck, and The Diamondback doesn’t include a reference to leaving offerings until well after the tradition was underway.
Turkos said that the tradition began in the mid-1990s and was established on the campus by 1998, which was the last time the class of 1933 gathered on the campus.
She told those class members that there was a new tradition among students and “they really thought that was cool.”
She remembers the tradition starting in a tame manner with students leaving flowers or coins.
Turkos said she likes the idea behind the tradition but wants students to acknowledge the “differences between offerings and trash.”
Chapin Eager, a freshman engineering major, likes the tradition but does think some students take their offerings to an extreme.
“I think leaving small gifts is cool,” Eager said.“But if you’re spending more than $15 or putting that much thought into a gift for a turtle statue, you should probably be studying.”
Eager, who’s getting ready for her first college finals, has already planned her first offering to Testudo.
“I was planning on leaving a scarf because I thought that would be cute,” she said.“It’s going to be cold, and everyone else is just going to leave food and stuff … I was going to put it around his neck.”
Testudo has also taken some beatings during finals. The most notable one occurred in December 2013, when his offerings caught fire and library staff had to extinguish it. An investigation into the fire found that the wind had blown a candle that had been left for Testudo, causing other offerings to catch fire.
Turkos said the event was “upsetting for a lot of people.”
Timmy Ruppersberger, class of 1977 and former president of the alumni association, said that as a student people only rubbed Testudo’s nose, but considers leaving offerings a fun tradition.
She does think the offerings could be used as a philanthropic opportunity and it might be a “better tradition if people left something that could be donated.”
Wanda Alexander, class of 1988 and current alumni association president, also rubbed Testudo’s nose as a student. But she thinks the current behavior is becoming vandalism because students steal things around campus to use as offerings.
“It started off innocently, and now it has turned into vandalism… [because] nobody buys a street light,” Alexander said.
Alexander said that she understands the appeal of traditions — after all, she still rubs Testudo’s nose when she walks past him — but she wants students to remember that offerings alone are not going to get them a better grade.
“Studying and doing the work on the front end are what’s going to get [better grades] for you,” she said.
Students interested in seeing the “original” Testudo can see the taxidermied Diamondback in the university archives and come face to face with the turtle who started it all.