By Robert Bao, Editor
Scott Westerman, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, considers himself an evangelist. He preaches Spartanhood.
His latest coup goes a long way toward that goal. In the past year, he helped fund an alumni effort to get personalized MSU license plates . . . in the state of Texas.
The campaign succeeded and indeed, one can now get personalized MSU plates deep in the heart of the Longhorn state. Similar efforts to spread the Spartan gospel are ongoing elsewhere, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, although they have not yet reached stampede level.
“Spartan brand equity knows no borders,” says Westerman, who approved a grant for the alumni clubs in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso to pursue this goal. “And our alumni are always looking for new ways to represent."
In March, barely a year after the effort began, Texas officially approved the issuance of MSU plates by a private company, MyPlates.com. Since then, more than 150 MSU-related plates have been sold, raising nearly $3,000 in revenues for MSU, according to the company.
Chris Horner, president of the Dallas/Fort Worth alumni club and former chairperson of the national alumni board, spearheaded the drive.
“One advantage was that we have alumni and clubs throughout the state and everyone got together for this to get the necessary signatures,” he explains. “It was a long process. The plate design had to pass readability tests and so on. But it was worth it.”
A couple of other Big Ten schools also enjoy specialized plates there, but as Horner puts it, “The University of Michigan doesn’t have a plate in Texas, but I have a feeling they’re working on it.”
The Texas success story is music to the ears of Kim Kittleman, MSUAA director for major market engagement, who is based in Birmingham, AL. “It’s impressive how quickly they were able to pull this off,” says Kittleman. “Personally I think the Texas plate has the coolest design.”
So does Meredith DeMaagd (SHDWS), a former member of the Spartan Marching Band, who says, “My friends who still live in Michigan have told me that they like Texas' MSU plates better than Michigan's.”
Bob Nelson, president of the Spartan Plates, a group of people who have personalized MSU plates and meet on campus every year, is delighted with the development. The Spartan Plates was founded in 1979 and now boasts more than 470 members—including Westerman (MSUAA) and Jim Foley (MSU ZEKE), who handles Zeke the Wonder Dog (see group photo).
“Most of us, but not all, are from Michigan,” says Nelson. “We meet once a year. It’s not enough to have the S plate—your plate needs to be a personalized message that is MSU related.”
Some examples—GO MSU, STATE, 4IZZO, SPAR10, I LOV MSU, MICHST, etc. Some have simply MSU and their graduation year.
As far as the university fundraising plates in Michigan—the MSU plate features the block S—it is clear that Michigan State is the university of Michigan, as a popular bumper sticker proclaims. Since the program started in 2000, MSU has led the way. As of May 2012, there are 41,865 MSU plates on passenger cars, by far the top seller of the 15 university fundraising plates in the state. The University of Michigan is second with 28,221, according to statistics furnished by Paul Kelly, the expenditure section manager of the Secretary of State office.
Tom Roth, ’75, who lives in Houston, is very excited with his new MSU plates (TRR 75). “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met, whether in a grocery store or at a restaurant,” he says. “Complete strangers have come up to me and said, ‘Wow, what a good looking plate.’
“Whoever made this possible should be applauded.”
The applause should go to all Spartans who believe in the cause and care enough to help shepherd the MSU plate availability into reality—including Horner, Kittleman and Westerman.
"Projects like these fit perfectly into our mission,” says Westerman. “We help Spartans do great things to enhance and amplify the institution."
Yes, well said. Now let’s let the world know that ST8 IS GR8.
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Aug. 5, 2012: The Spartan Plates gathered for their annual photo by the south end of Spartan Stadium. For more information, visit spartanplates.com.