UMBC is a young institution—and not only do we have active alumni from the first four graduating classes still working to make an impact on campus and beyond, we are still discovering new stories about the establishment of the university and the ways the campus community was invited to co- create UMBC at its inception.
In fact, Diane Tichnell ’70, political science, describes the impetus for the Founding Four’s book, This Belongs to Us (2023), as its own sort of inception. Several years ago, she had a dream—literal dream while she was asleep. In it, she was attending a lecture given by then-President Freeman Hrabowski. He was talking about the books he had written, and afterward, Tichnell went up to speak to him. In her dream, she said, “We need to get the first four years of UMBC documented because soon we’re all going to be gone. Maybe in a hundred years, somebody will write it down, but why not do it now?” Dream Freeman replied, “Write that book.”
Mimi Dietrich ’70, American studies, remembers an event at the Wisdom Institute—UMBC’s association for retired faculty and staff—where a UMBC professor expressed surprise by Dietrich’s story about the plywood sidewalks that connected campus during the construction in the early years. “What do you mean you’ve never heard that story?” Dietrich responded—she figured everyone remembered what it was like in the beginning. “So Diane and I, and later Dale [Gough ’70, American studies] and Bob [Dietrich ’70, biological sciences, Mimi’s husband] came together on this; and we just started saying, ‘We have to do this. We have to do this right now.’”
Left: Co-authors Mimi and Bob Dietrich in UMBC’s 1970 yearbook Skipjack. Right: Dale Gough (pictured with Betty Huesman ’70) in the 1969 Skipjack.
Those four brainstormed the idea and knew that this labor of love would need to be as inclusive as possible. “We needed to engage the collective memory of everybody that we could possibly ask to write a story from the first four classes who were on campus,” says Tichnell. They sent newsletters, emails, mail, and even knocked on doors to capture the voices of as many graduates as possible.
In the end, 84 authors contributed more than 100 stories to This Belongs to Us, a kaleidoscopic retelling of the colorful and authentic story of UMBC. Proceeds from the book (at the clever price of $19.66) go to several scholarships supported by the founding four classes.
The Founding Four marvel at what their young institution has grown into. “All those flags in The Commons are so incredible to me,” says Joan Costello ’73, social work, a contributing author. “Because they’re from different countries. But when we came here, we were just from different neighborhoods.”