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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 29, 2006

License plates that stump us

by Anne Krapfl and Erin Rosacker

Admit it. You've missed a turn or nearly missed a stop sign pondering the translation on the Cyclone vanity plate from the vehicle in front of you. Happens to us all the time. The Inside staff selected a few mildly to excruciatingly baffling plates from around campus and tracked down their owners to find out what they mean. See how well you do with these:

License plate


Diane Muncrief, HR manager for Ames Lab

It translates to "For Lady Cyclones." Muncrief is a big fan of women's basketball (season ticket holder since 1997) and supports all women's sports. "At least two to three times a summer, someone will pull up next to me at a light and ask me what my plate says."

License plate


Evan Hutchinson, senior in meteorology

N198UA is an aircraft registration, specifically for a United Airlines Boeing 747 (400 series). Hutchinson had hoped to become a professional pilot, but a congenital heart defect prevented it. Boeing 747s are his favorite commercial airliner. "As far as putting it on my plate, I wanted something almost no one would get, except for other aviation enthusiasts."

License plate


Sharon Larwick, clerk in the Extension finance office

Larwick has two children, both of whom, by chance, received their bachelor's degrees from Iowa State in May 2005. "It was one of the happiest days of our lives."

License plate


Suzanne Hendrich, professor of food science and human nutrition

It's a variation on "Bat-out of he . . .," substituting her department (FSHN) for that other locale (the "N" is absent because of the 7-letter limit on a plate). "So the plate is sort of a joke about my driving, combined with my doing a Dracula (bat) presentation about blood and anemia in nutrition classes over the years."

License plate


Janis Mesenbrink, clerk in the residence department

It stands for "return queen." Mesenbrink likes to shop and then tends to return some of what she buys (so "I can spend the same money twice," she explained). She first got the plate in 1997 and kept it for a few years. You guessed it. "I returned it, only to rebuy it again a year ago."

License plate


Shelley Coldiron, Ph.D. graduate of ISU (1993) in biomedical engineering and former associate scientist at IPRT

As a graduation gift, her husband (chemistry professor Marc Porter) gave her the plate depicting her name and the year: Fe is the symbol for iron and 4K stands for 4 degrees Kelvin, which is the coldest temperature you can achieve at 1 atmosphere. "If properly depicted, it would be capital F, small e, superscript 4K -- which means iron at 4 degrees Kelvin."

License plate


Carrie Jacobs, police officer in the department of public safety

Read as "law enforcer." Jacobs chose the plate to reflect her career and her support for ISU (she's an alumna). "Most people, when they see my plate, think I am in the lawn care business," -- which has become a standing joke among her friends and family members.


Iowa State specialty plates

In 2005, there were 8,433 ISU license plates registered with the Iowa Department of Transportation, including 6,623 with personalized messages. Collegiate specialty plates require an initial one-time $50 fee and a $5 annual validation fee on top of the usual yearly registration costs. ISU gets $25 of the initial fee, while the validation cost goes to the road use tax fund every year.

The ISU plates have generated more than $83,000 over the last three years. That money goes to the license plate grant account in the office of student financial aid, and the funds are awarded to students based on need.

For more information on collegiate specialty plates, including how to give them as a gift, go to the IDOT Web site.