WILMINGTON — When Wilmington College’s Michael Allbright sets his mind to something, get out of his way. Several years ago, he achieved a goal of losing half his body weight. He’s met 556 cast members (94 percent!) of TV’s long-running Survivor and he achieved his goal of reading all 70 of Stephen King’s books in fewer than four years.
His latest challenge arose when he and his wife, Isabelle, were vacationing in New England in August. Allbright, associate vice president for student affairs at WC and a 2002 alumnus, was impressed with Vermont’s green and white license plate and thought that might make a nice vacation souvenir. He spotted one for sale at a shop in Bar Harbor, ME.
“They were selling Vermont plates for $25 and I thought, ‘That’s a lot for a piece of metal, even a cool piece of metal.’”
With more than 4,000 Facebook friends, Allbright posted his desire to collect all 50 states while requesting that friends send him plates from their state.
“I asked people to sign the backs of the plates with a Sharpie so I’d remember the connection between the people and the plates,” he said. “For me, it’s all about interacting with people. I’m a social person.”
Quickly, his friends and relatives inundated him with plates.
Allbright obtained his first license plate — New Hampshire — before they left the Northeast when a friend arranged to meet them while they were visiting the Granite State. Their arrival home in Wilmington was met with packages from all over the country.
“One friend sent me four plates. Because of Survivor, I got Alaska. Hawaii, Oregon and Connecticut all came from friends in Wilmington,” he said, noting that his cousin from Alabama presented him with the 40th plate.
“As they arrived, I posted pictures of the plates on Facebook.”
That effective marketing ploy reminded his friends to keep digging deep. Locating plates from some states proved especially difficult since several like Maryland require turning in expired plates in order to receive new ones, and many states, like Ohio, give the option of simply purchasing renewal stickers year after year.
Allbright admitted he purchased nine of the plates on eBay and, in late November, received his 50th state license — Oklahoma. With his collection complete, he placed them on a wall in the order they entered the Union.
“When I get interested in something, I go for it,” he said. “I like to do things that are fun, interesting and different.”
Not willing to rest on his laurels, Allbright expanded his collection goal to include U.S. territories and Canada, he already has Manitoba in hand.