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.



Jonrie Etchemendy Davila, ’81


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.


Karen McKinley, ’97, MA ’97

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 NRDN8N, of course.

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

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


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