Creative License

On the day in 1980 when California expanded vehicle license plates from six to seven characters, Bill Martin rose at 6:30 a.m. to be at the DMV when the doors opened. He quickly nabbed his quarry: IM4LSJU. “I thought it was so perfect,” he says. “I was sure hundreds would want it.”

Martin, ’61, MS ’62, estimates he and his Stanford plates have traveled 800,000 miles together—many of them during autumn drives from Newport Beach, Calif., to Stanford Stadium for home football games. Recently, with his tailgate crew dwindling and his 80th birthday approaching, Martin figured it was time to find a younger Cardinal fan to carry the banner. When he came across Leah Tapscott, ’06, who played soccer and ran track on the Farm, he knew he’d found the one. Martin officially transferred the plates to Tapscott this summer.

We got to thinking about the other Stanford license plates out there and the stories they tell in just a few characters. So we flagged down a handful.



Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase DOLLIES

Jonrie Etchemendy Davila, ’81

Silhouette of Illinois license plate with the phrase AXE CAL

Lucy Kohlmeier, ’84

Kohlmeier’s car now sports a California plate that, to her chagrin, omits the E in AXE. Memo to Illinois residents: At press time, the optimal spelling was available.


Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase STN4D97

Karen McKinley, ’97, MA ’97

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase NERDNAT

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase NERDN8N

Chris Andrews, ’04, and Erinn Evans Andrews, ’04, MA ’09

What do you get your wife for her birthday when your license plate says NERDNAT? A companion plate reading NERDN8N, of course.

License plate images, from top; Erin Attkisson (2); Lucy Kohlmeier, '84, Erin Attkisson, Erinn Evans Andrews, '04, MA '09 (2)
Video: Erin Attkisson


Your submissions

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase BEET CAL

John Romero, ’88

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase STANFRD

Brad Davids, ’81, MS ’82

Silhouette of Virginia license plate with the phrase STANFRD

Jim Gordon Clawson, ’69

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase 82 LSJU

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase LSJU

Eric Lutkin, ’82

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase GOCRDNL

Jim Johnston, ’90

Silhouette of Idaho license plate with the phrase STAN4D

Julie Madsen, ’91

Silhouette of Alberta license plate with the phrase Go Tree

Michael Basil, MA ’88, PhD ’92

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase GOSTN4D

Toni Allen, ’75

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase VICICAL

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase ABIURSE

Jim Graber, MBA ’71, and his wife, Deborah, who attended that other school across the Bay.

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase NCAA 1

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase AIAW 1

Former Stanford tennis coaches Dick, ’59, MA ’60, and Anne Gould, ’71, MA ’80.

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase STNFRD

Stanford Schwimer, ’73

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase FRDTREE

Scott Roth, ’89, MA ’90

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase LSJUMB

Bruce Herman, ’82  (Photo: Robby Beyers, ’80, MS ’82, PhD ’89)

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase CAARDNL

Mac Irvin, ’80

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase ALRYTNW

Karen Sipprell, ’82

Silhouette of Washington license plate with the phrase THEFARM

Marsi Lindersmith Gorman, ’91

Silhouette of Michigan license plate with the phrase BEATCAL

Silhouette of Indiana license plate with the phrase BEAT CAL

Silhouette of Kansas license plate with the phrase BEATCAL

Silhouette of Texas license plate with the phrase BEATCL

Tim Williams, ’90, MS ’91

Silhouette of North Carolina license plate with the phrase 2@SU

Proud parent Keefe Hayes, MS ’79

Silhouette of Oregon license plate with the phrase STAN4D

Tod Tolan, ’71

Silhouette of California license plate with the phrase FARMCAR

Richard Brockmeyer, MBA ’75


Got your own Stanford plates? Let us know here. We'll publish our favorites on this page.


Summer Moore Batte, ’99, is the editor of Stanfordmag.org.