Why were UMBC dormitories named after bodies of water?
—Carla Jarvis ’91

It was all so simple when UMBC’s first three dormitories opened between 1970 and 1973. Students lived in Dorm I, Dorm II, or Dorm III.

By 1978, however, students were grumbling about the campus’ impersonal feel, and one target was the numerical names for campus dorms. Jeffrey J. Silver ’79, remembers it well from his tenure as a student member of the university system’s Board of Regents.

“Everybody said we should name the dorms,” Silver recalls. He presented the idea to University of Maryland System President John Toll, who previously expressed a desire to name buildings after donors to the university.

fa15-dorms2-webBut since College Park’s dormitories were named after Maryland counties and cities, Silver and others at UMBC wanted its dorms named in a similar vein. The concept of bodies of water floated to the top of the list, and Toll and UMBC Chancellor John Dorsey acceded to a vote of on-campus student residents.

In the spring of 1979, the Board of Regents approved the new names. Dorm I became Susquehanna. Dorm II became Chesapeake, and Dorm III became Patapsco.

In 1992, when a fourth building opened, it was named Potomac Hall. Nobody ever called it Dorm IV. But Toll’s original concept did win out in 2000, when the fifth UMBC dorm was named after John and Nancy Erickson – who also founded the university’s school of aging studies.

— Mary K. Tilghman ’79

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