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McDaniel College unveils McTeer-Zepp Plaza

Victor McTeer greets McDaniel wide receiver Mike Oliveto, left, and offensive lineman Riley Johnson before the start of the Terror's season opener against Catholic in Westminster Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.
Victor McTeer greets McDaniel wide receiver Mike Oliveto, left, and offensive lineman Riley Johnson before the start of the Terror's season opener against Catholic in Westminster Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLESTAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Honorary McDaniel College football captain Victor McTeer smiled widely as he tossed the coin, kicking off the Green Terror's season opener against Catholic University in Westminster on Saturday evening.

McTeer, who wore number 78 during his four years at the college, said he was pleased to join the young men on the field to launch the season.

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"I was proud to be there and see the young men who represent a much more diverse McDaniel," McTeer said after he left the field.

And now that a new plaza named after him — and the late Dr. Ira Zepp, another notable figure at the college — has been unveiled, he will be a representation of McDaniel as well.

According to McDaniel's director of media relations Cheryl Knauer, McTeer is a celebrated civil rights attorney, a member of the Class of 1969, one of the college's first African-American graduates and a member of the college's board of trustees. McTeer, in cooperation with the family of Zepp, recently supported the new McTeer-Zepp Plaza, which features a granite fountain and seating area that will become a community gathering place in front of the Baker Memorial Chapel, as a major gift to the college.

"I hope it becomes a place of peace and a celebration of diversity. It's important to remember in this space that all people are treated equally and fairly with an opportunity to be whatever they want to become," McTeer said.

The project, which is still a work in progress, was designed by Derk & Edson. The fountain itself was designed by Fountain Craft. The plaza will include five fountain heads; a fountain wall veneer made of white Mount Airy granite with a honed finish and a fountain cap made of Virginia Mist granite with a honed finish, both by the North Carolina Granite Corp.; a fountain interior veneer made of Daltile Exhibition Colorbody porcelain tile; and 4-by-8-by-2 3/8-inch and 16-by-16-by-2 3/8-inch charcoal Tudor finished concrete pavers from Hanover Architectural Products.

The project will include quotes from Zepp on each side of the fountain that will read, "Know when to be water and when to be rock" and "Love each other always and in all ways."

"We wanted to give honor to God for blessing me as part of the college campus and to honor Rev. Ira Zepp, my mentor, for his wise council and spirit," McTeer said.

McTeer said the plaza is a lasting tribute to Zepp, who was a human rights activist and professor emeritus of religious studies at McDaniel.

"Without Ira, I would have not graduated and moved to become part of the civil rights movement. I owe him a great deal, and I owe this college a great deal. After I consider what I went through and how I was inspired, the Hill was not a bad place for me," McTeer said.

McTeer said he was one of two black students on campus, and his time at the school was very difficult. He said the college has made great steps forward, and now 30 percent of McDaniel's student population are people of color.

"During my time here, I learned some things about people. … I learned to distinguish people on the content of their character. I learned there were people who were not hateful, they were fun and full of laughter. McDaniel taught me to look for the best in people and not expect the worst. That lesson was of immeasurable value," McTeer said.

According to Knauer, Zepp joined the Western Maryland College, as the school was then known, faculty in 1963, first as dean of the chapel, then as a professor of religious studies and continued to teach full time until his retirement in 1994. His courses on taboo topics at the time — such as human sexuality, death and racism — packed classrooms and changed lives, as did his serious scholarship and prolific writings on a wide range of subjects, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to the culture and religion of Islam.

Knauer said Zepp was a three-time winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award and the 1989 Maryland Professor of the Year award. He was also a founding director and the inspiration behind Common Ground on the Hill, and both taught and took classes at its summer programs on campus that foster an appreciation for diversity through music, art and philosophy.

After Zepp's death in August 2009, more than 600 family, friends, colleagues and former students of Zepp attended a service in Baker Memorial Chapel to honor him. Zepp's family could not be reached for comment.

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"I hope Ira will be remembered on a daily basis. …It's not the Student Center, but I hope the plaza will become the "student center." I hope to see a bunch of kids sitting around on a fall afternoon engaged in ordinary civil discourse. It should be a joyous place of civil interaction and meaningful conversation," McTeer said.

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Times staff writer Natalie Eastwood contributed to this article.

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An official dedication of the new plaza and fountain will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 17 during McDaniel's Homecoming.

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