By Braden Hamelin

It’s been 30 years since Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney graduated from the University of Maryland (UMD) and launched what has become a wildly successful writing career, but the Maryland alum hasn’t forgotten his roots. 

Kinney returned to the university for its flagship Maryland Day celebration and unveiled a statue of his famous character, Greg Heffley. Kinney also signed books for fans at UMD’s Stamp Student Union. 

Author Jeff Kinney gathered with fans at Maryland Day on April 29.
Credit: Lauren Reeder

Kinney, one of the university’s most high-profile alums, said that his time at UMD was a springboard for success.

“I ended up with a Criminal Justice degree; I loved every class I took. Ultimately I became a computer programmer, graphic designer, and children’s author,” Kinney wrote in an email to the Here & Now. “So the path you set out on doesn’t always take you where you planned to go, but you use everything you learn along the way.”

Kinney noted that his experiences beyond the classroom were key. He pointed to his cartoon strip published in The Diamondback and his time with Gymkana Troupe, the university’s acrobatic outreach group. 

These experiences opened up new worlds to me and gave me the confidence I needed to step out into the real world,” he said. “I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of every opportunity that the school provides. Chase after what engages you and makes you happy, and it’ll lead to great things.”

kinney crowd2
Author Jeff Kinney gathered with fans at Maryland Day on April 29.
Credit: Lauren Reederyland

And outside of his love for his alma mater, Kinney has another connection to Maryland through his son, Will, a sophomore at the school. The two of them were planning to head to Ledo Pizza College Park and shared a pie — Kinney said he was excited to be back at his old haunt.

“It’s really amazing to meet readers who grew up on my books, who are also students at my alma mater. We’re bound together by these stories, and by our experiences at Maryland,” Kinney said. “It’s such an honor to have my character become a permanent part of this campus.” 

Fans of all ages jostled into the student union, shoulder to shoulder for a chance to see Kinney unveil the statue and get his signature. 

“People were here outside the building at 7a.m. to line up to make sure that they got to meet him,” said Laura Hood, manager of student programs at STAMP. 

Hood estimated that about 500 people were at STAMP for the event and said Kinney was happy with the turnout. 

Kinney was eager to interact with people and even hung out after the event to relax and talk to fans after the mad rush subsided. Snapping selfies with him was a hit — one fan reported ran through the student union screaming, “My inner child is so happy right now!” 

Given the extraordinary energy on campus sparked by Kinney’s visit — and now a new statue in his name — it’s a safe bet that the university’s inner child is happy right about now, too.