Fans of the book and film series Diary of a Wimpy Kid packed the ground floor of Stamp Student Union Saturday morning for the unveiling of the new Greg Heffley statue.
Armed with their book copies, families and Maryland students alike hoped for the chance to meet author and University of Maryland alum Jeff Kinney and get his autograph.
Similar to the attendees, much of my childhood involved reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid and resonating with the adolescent struggles of Greg and his friends. When given the chance to speak with Kinney about the unveiling, I couldn’t help but share my nostalgia around the Scholastic Book Fair days of seeing his latest work.
“It’s really cool to think that Greg Heffley has entered the cultural lexicon,” Kinney said. “The students at Maryland right now are the ones that grew up on my books, so it’s really rewarding to me.”
The process of bringing Greg to the university took almost a year.
Seven years ago, the author first came into contact with Allyson Vought, a sculptor known for her Disney-inspired work, and he asked her to make a Heffley statue for his bookstore in Plainville, Massachusetts. Then last year, when Kinney was inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame, Susan Smith, the executive director for principal gifts, suggested the idea for the statue on campus.
The building process then began, and the Massachusetts bookstore piece became the model for the one unveiled at Maryland Day.
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“It’s Greg in the classic pose,” Kinney said. “He’s got his backpack on and he’s sort of slumped over. And I thought that was the right pose for the University of Maryland.”
Kinney’s publishing journey began with early works like Igdoof, a comic strip published in The Diamondback that gained much attention from his peers.
Joe Tonkin, an alum of this university who graduated in 1997, remembered seeing Kinney’s Diamondback cartoon often during college.
Later in life, Tonkin recognized Kinney’s illustrations in his friend’s kid’s copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
“Of course, I’m in my 30’s [then], and I’ve got to go out and get Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A lot of the jokes in Wimpy Kid are from Igdoof, although toned down a little bit,” Tonkin said.
During Saturday’s event, Tonkin showed off his copy of the Igdoof comic compilation alongside his son’s edition of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” His family now owns all of Kinney’s books, Tonkin said.
For senior psychology major and self-proclaimed Diary of a Wimpy Kid fan Lauren Macek, the statue’s presence is a reminder that if Greg can overcome his worst days, students at this university can as well.
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“I think having that reminder on campus is a really good example for people who are going through a tough time to remember coming of age,” Macek said.
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series undoubtedly served as an inspiration for many students during their own youth.
Sarah McGill, a freshman architecture major, remembers the relatability of Kinney’s books and how they helped her connect with others. The books helped McGill to make friends and created an escape from the world around her, she said.
Kinney said he’s still unsure if he should be compared to Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets and a university alum with his own statue outside Stamp. However, Kinney was enthusiastic knowing that Greg Heffley will be immortalized alongside Henson’s Kermit the Frog.
“I’m really excited about [the unveiling]. It’s an unbelievable honor. I’m not sure I really deserve it. But it’s cool and fun and sort of hilarious to me,” Kinney said.