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KU Mentoring connects neuroscience student with surgeon

Posted on Oct 11, 2018 in Career/Life

Thomas Angel took the long road to the University of Kansas, but he’s making sure his time here counts. Thanks to the power of the KU Mentoring platform, Angel connected with a practicing surgeon who he will shadow over winter break.

Coming to KU

After nearly a decade deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, Angel tore his PCL and had microfracture surgery. He chose to be “med boarded out” and  applied to the University of Kansas on his girlfriend’s recommendation.

Angel is pursuing a double major in Latin and behavioral neuroscience, the latter of which requires an extensive amount of shadowing to be accepted into medical school. After studying abroad in Italy last summer, he was looking for a mentorship with someone in his dream career of neurosurgery.

Thomas Angel in KuwaitThomas Angel at an Italian hospital

Making a Connection

After learning about the KU Alumni Mentoring platform through the Student Alumni Leadership Board, Angel jumped at the opportunity. “I don’t think people realize how hard it is to find doctors who are willing to let students shadow,” he said.

One of the recommended mentors was Dr. John Aucar, an acute care surgeon and KU alumnus. Angel connected with him through the platform and they set up a meeting that Saturday.

“When I met Dr. Aucar we immediately made a connection. My first duty station was in El Paso, Texas, and he practices in the area. Over winter break he’ll be in El Paso, and he invited me to join him. To be able to meet a mentor that you instantly click with, can have a successful relationship with and both benefit in different ways from the experience is a dream come true.”

Angel wants to be a neurosurgeon, a goal that comes with seven to eight years of residency. With that much preparation required, he strives to make his experiences count.

“My number one goal for job shadowing is to make a personal connection with the person I’m shadowing. Beyond that, it’s about making sure you understand what’s actually happening. A lot of times, especially with medical, the doctors aren’t teachers. You have to work to get answers from them. It’s easy to just stand and watch, but understanding why they’re doing it is my key to shadowing.”

Thomas AngelHelping Students Succeed

Since arriving at KU, Angel has taken advantage of the many opportunities provided to him, including joining the Student Alumni Leadership Board to add a voice for students like him. “I wanted to find a niche on campus for non-traditional students to be in leadership positions. I saw it as a place for me where my opinion matters and where I can help create and shape [Student Alumni Network] events.”

Angel draws from a completely different set of experiences compared to traditional students, but he wants those in his shoes to know that they belong on this campus.

“The KU community is completely different than how you think it would be from the outside looking in. I am involved in several different clubs and boards around campus and fit in just fine. I’m 12 years older than my average peer at this stage in my academic career and I learn things from them daily, and I hope that they learn from me just as well. Non-traditional students have life experiences and stories of their own that can positively impact this campus.”

–Ryan Camenzind

Stay tuned for more about Angel’s job-shadowing experience during winter break. For more information on how the Jayhawk Career Network can help you connect with KU alumni, visit

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Lawrence community invited to KU’s second annual Trunk or Treat

Posted on Oct 11, 2018 in Campus News

Trunk or Treat at the University of Kansas
The University of Kansas Student Involvement & Leadership Center, Student Alumni Network and Center for Community Outreach will host KU’s second annual Trunk or Treat from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Adams Alumni Center parking lot, 1266 Oread Ave. on the Lawrence campus. Admission is free.

The family-friendly event features decorated trunks and candy stations for community members and their children to trick-or-trick in a safe and fun environment. Other activities include pumpkin painting, photos with Baby Jay, games and a contest for Best Halloween Costume. The event is sponsored by Hy-Vee grocery stores, with two locations in Lawrence, and is supported by Kansas Athletics.

Families are encouraged to bring a donation for the KU Fights Hunger food drive, which collects nonperishable food items for Just Food of Douglas County. Items of greatest need include canned protein, beans, whole-grain cereals, pasta and nuts.

For more information, contact Erin Kelly, SILC student engagement graduate assistant, at 785-864-9177 or Or, contact Keon Stowers, KUAA assistant director of student programs, at 785-864-4795 or

Trunk or Treat

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KU to honor Rob Riggle with Distinguished Alumni award

Posted on Oct 9, 2018 in Alumni News

Rob Riggle Distinguished Alumni Award
Rob Riggle, one of the most recognizable Jayhawk alumni, will be honored this year with the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Kansas. He will visit Lawrence in November to accept the award.

Two distinct careers

Riggle has forged two distinct and notable careers since graduating from KU in 1992 with a B.A. in theatre and film. Following a career with the United States Marine Corps during which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Riggle has become well-known in comedic films and television. He is also known for his philanthropic efforts and as an enthusiastic fan of KU.

“Rob Riggle’s accomplished and varied career exemplifies the many paths open to graduates with a well-rounded education in the liberal arts and sciences,” said Clarence Lang, interim dean of the College. “We are pleased to recognize him and welcome him back to campus.”

“An Evening with Rob Riggle”

The College will host “An Evening with Rob Riggle” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, at the Burge Union. Tickets are required and free. They are available at the Kansas Union. More details on tickets and the event are available here.

In a Q&A with the College, Riggle shared how his KU education has been of value in his career.

“My theatre and film degree helped me tremendously in pursuing my dreams,” he said. “Unless you’re going to specialize in a certain field, like medicine or accounting, I think you should seek an education that is well rounded. You should seek social and emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence.”

Comedic turns

Riggle is familiar to filmgoers and TV fans alike for comedic roles in films such as “The Hangover” and “Step Brothers,” as well as his stints on “Saturday Night Live” and as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” His most recent film appearance is in “Night School” with Kevin Hart, which debuted at the top of the box office this fall. On the small screen, Riggle has most recently appeared in “Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy,” available on Sony Crackle. For his voice-over talents, he earned a 2012 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for Disney’s “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice.”

Rob Riggle at a KU basketball game | Rob Riggle Distinguished Alumni Award

He is one of KU’s most well-known fans, appearing regularly at football and basketball games. During KU’s appearance last spring in the NCAA Final Four against Villanova, Riggle was the sideline reporter on the Kansas TeamCast broadcast on TNT. He hosted KU’s Late Night in the Phog in 2013 and served as the grand marshal of the KU Homecoming Parade in 2014. Sports fans may also know Riggle from the “Riggle’s Picks” skits during NFL coverage on FOX, or his podcast of the same name.

Philanthropic endeavors

In addition to maintaining close connections to KU, Riggle has kept close ties in the Kansas City area. He is a founder of the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend in Kansas City, an annual fundraising event that benefits Children’s Mercy. He and other celebrity hosts, several with ties to Kansas City, have raised more than $6 million since the initial event in 2010. Riggle grew up in Overland Park, Kansas and attended Shawnee Mission South High School.

As he broke into comedy, Riggle was still on active duty with the United States Marine Corps, which he initially joined at the age of 19. Riggle served in various countries including Albania, Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve, having served 23 years total (9 years active duty, 14 years in the reserves) and earned more than 22 medals and ribbons. This fall, he will also be recognized by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) with the 2018 IAVA Veteran Leadership Award.

About the College

As the largest academic unit with the most alumni, students and faculty, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. The College has recognized more than 50 liberal arts and sciences graduates with its Distinguished Alumni Award since 1996. Alumni have been honored for accomplishments across a span of career paths, including public and military service, business, arts, medicine, entertainment and publishing, and research. The full list can be viewed here.

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KU Alumni Association announces partnership with Nationwide Insurance

Posted on Oct 8, 2018 in News

Nationwide insurance partnership
The University of Kansas Alumni Association has partnered with Nationwide Insurance to offer alumni an expansive portfolio of products, including auto, home, renters, power sports and pet care insurance. As part of a five-year agreement, alumni will be eligible for special discounts on auto insurance and will receive additional savings when auto and home insurance policies are bundled. More information on the available options can be found at

“We’re excited to introduce Nationwide as the newest partner in the KU Alumni Association family,” said Heath Peterson, Alumni Association president. “Not only will alumni benefit from the multitude of insurance options and discounts Nationwide provides, but this partnership will also strengthen the Association’s mission to connect, unite and serve Jayhawks in our home state and beyond.”

“Nationwide Insurance is thrilled to have entered into a mutual relationship with the University of Kansas Alumni Association that not only helps Jayhawks save on Nationwide products, like auto insurance, but also helps support the Alumni Association’s mission,” said Ann Ritterspach, associate vice president of Nationwide Affinity. “We are excited about helping Jayhawks with their insurance needs and supporting their good work.”

In addition to the new Nationwide insurance options described above, the Alumni Association will continue to offer life, long-term care, health, dental, vision and travel insurance through the Alumni Insurance Program.

Nationwide Insurance has made a financial contribution to this organization in return for the opportunity to market products and services to its members or customers. Find more discounts and special offers for alumni as well as KU Alumni Association members on our benefits page

Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2017 Nationwide.

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Jayhawks in the News | Oct. 5

Posted on Oct 5, 2018 in Alumni News

Jayhawks in the News

Find out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our weekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes. If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at


KU Endowment board elects new chair, trustees | The University of Kansas

At the Sept. 28 annual meeting of the KU Endowment board of trustees, the board elected David Dillon, b’73, as chair, William Docking, c’73 l’77 g’77, as vice chair and two other KU alumni as trustees. Dillon succeeds Deanell Reece Tacha, who served as chair since 2014.
Read full article.


Alumni Spotlight: Keeleigh Smith | KU Center for Undergraduate Research

Keeleigh Smith, c’16, explains how her undergraduate research experience help her prepare for role as a behavior analyst and gives advice to current students looking for research opportunities.
Read full article.


School of Architecture & Design announces 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards | The University of Kansas

The School of Architecture & Design (Arc/D) at the University of Kansas has announced the recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards. This year’s honorees are architect John Guenther, a’76 a’77, Distinguished Alumnus; designer and executive David Hill, f’82, Distinguished Alumnus; and architect Laura Eder, g’10, Young Architect/Designer.
Read full article.


Black Stag Brewery to open on Mass Street | The University Daily Kansan

John Hampton, c’92, started brewing beers in his kitchen a few years ago. But what started out as a hobby is about to become the family business. Hampton, his wife Kathryn Myers, j’85 l’91 g’05, and her father William Myers, c’62, are opening The Black Stag, a brewery and restaurant at 623 Massachusetts St.
Read full article.


Monikur app sets boundaries for clients | Missouri Lawyers Weekly

A cellphone, for many small-firm and solo practitioners, is both an excellent servant and a terrible master. Texting and messaging apps enable attorneys to coordi- nate with current clients and chat with potential ones, but they also permit late-night pings from those same contacts, plus numbers unknown. The problem, according to Richard Lozano, l’93, a criminal defense attorney in St. Louis, is that texting and messaging apps today don’t offer a middle ground. Their underlying as- sumption is that people want to be reached by cell.
Read full article.


On the Job with J-School Graduates | William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Alana Flinn, j’18, is now working and living in Chicago, Illinois. As a news & information major, Alana received 13 official job offers by May graduation, including positions as marketing manager, producer, digital coordinator, anchor, reporter. She planned to work in sports broadcast after an ESPN internship her junior year, but ultimately accepted a position as an account manager on the Sitefinity team at Inc.
Read full article.


Gift to Dole Institute launches Edward F. Reilly Lecture | The University of Kansas

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas announced this week a gift from Edward F. Reilly Jr., c’61, to establish and endow the Edward F. Reilly Lecture. The inaugural lecture will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the institute. The Edward F. Reilly Lecture will be a public program exploring the role of civil discourse and bipartisanship in contemporary politics. The lecture will take place in two- to three-year intervals.
Read full article.

Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read more about newsworthy Jayhawks.

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Recruiting our next generation of Jayhawks

Posted on Oct 4, 2018 in Campus News

Strong Hall | Chancellor message recruiting Jayhawks
The following message was sent to University of Kansas faculty and staff members. Read past messages from Chancellor Douglas A. Girod.

Dear Jayhawks,

This week, we saw good news that accompanied our annual 20th day enrollment announcement.

Our new class of freshmen has the highest average ACT score and the highest average high school GPA of any class in history. Our six-year graduation rate and freshman retention rate are the highest they’ve ever been.

We also grew our university’s overall headcount for the fifth straight year. The Edwards Campus in particular saw a 12.5 percent student credit hour increase in its academic programs.

All of this is a testament to the good work you do each day to attract, recruit and retain talented students.

These efforts are always ongoing, of course. Next week, we will have a special opportunity to welcome prospective students and families to Lawrence for our annual Crimson & Blue Day.

On Friday, Oct. 12, high school students, transfer students and their families will participate in campus tours, academic sessions, resource fairs and open houses to all the residence halls and scholarship halls and some fraternities and sororities to help them explore KU. More information, including a full schedule of events, is available at

All of us contribute to our recruitment efforts, so I want to thank you in advance for helping to showcase the best parts of being a Jayhawk.

So if you see a prospective student on campus next Friday, stop and say hello — or ask and see if they need directions!

Again, thank you for all that you do to attract great students to our university and to help them develop into the leaders of tomorrow.



Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas


Video: Sarah Smarsh at Liberty Hall

Posted on Oct 2, 2018 in Alumni News

Watch the video below to hear alumna Sarah Smarsh at her book reading and talk at Lawrence’s Liberty Hall. Read additional coverage in issue No. 5, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.

Hard Stories

Journalist Sarah Smarsh, c’03, j’03, brought her 12-city book tour for Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth to Lawrence’s Liberty Hall Sept. 25. The southeastern Kansas native discussed the role education—including her time at KU—played in her drive to escape poverty while remaining true to the place she calls home.

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KU Alumni’s own hosts Late Night in the Phog

Posted on Oct 1, 2018 in News

KU’s annual Late Night in the Phog brings with it the excitement of a new basketball season. And when Kansas Athletics needed a high-energy host to keep the crowd of 16,300 buzzing, they turned to KU Alumni’s own Danny Woods.

Woods, j’13, helps manage the 50-plus networks of Jayhawk alumni across the country with a level of enthusiasm worthy of the Phog. We sat down with him to hear about his experience on James Naismith Court.

Danny Woods hosts Late NightHow did you get the job?

I was approached by KU Athletics around the time of the KU vs. Rutgers football game. They asked if I would be interested in doing pregame PA announcements for Gameday on the Hill, a tailgating experience on Campanile Hill with food, beverages, retail and live music before football games. Nothing was mentioned about Late Night at this time, but I think it was a test run. Athletics was just making sure I could, as the saying goes, walk and chew gum at the same time. I was offered the emcee position the following week.

How much freedom were you given?

Working with the Athletics marketing office was great. Leading up to Late Night they provided me with a script and a timeline of events. But they told me, “We want you to be yourself out there. Change up any of the language so it feels comfortable and natural to you.” It was a great feeling to have the framework of the house, but then be able to furnish it myself.

How did you think your performance went?

Well, I didn’t get fired yet, so that’s always a plus! But for real, it was awesome. To be honest, I was super nervous. Late Night is a huge night for KU students, alumni and fans, and I just wanted to make sure they had a great experience. There are definitely opportunities for me to grow and make future emcee performances better. And yes, this is definitely me openly lobbying to be the emcee for future Late Nights.

What was your favorite part of the night?

Can I take the easy road out and say the whole thing? This was actually the first Late Night I have been to since I was a student. When I worked in the Office of Admissions, Late Night always fell during travel and recruitment season. *cough cough* Any prospective students out there reading this make sure you apply by the Nov. 1st scholarship deadline! And since I have been at the Alumni Association, I have always been out in one of our national networks during Late Night. So just having the opportunity to be in Allen Fieldhouse during Late Night was the best.

Most importantly: Did you get to meet 2 Chainz?

2 Chainz and I got to be in the same room and we definitely breathed the same air. I did not, however, formally meet him. I was afraid if I actually tried to introduce myself to him before Late Night that I would pass out from excitement.

There you have it, folks. Make sure you get out to one of our national alumni network events to meet the man himself!

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University of Kansas announces Ex.C.E.L. Award winners, concludes 106th Homecoming celebration

Posted on Oct 1, 2018 in Campus News

Home on the Hill | KU Homecoming 2018 | Sept. 23-29 | 2018 Homecoming winners
Two University of Kansas students, Jose Montoya of Los Lunas, New Mexico, and Jonnette Oakes of Topeka, are winners of the 28th annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) Awards. The award presentation during halftime of the KU-Oklahoma State football game Sept. 29 in the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium concluded KU’s 106th Homecoming celebration.

Jose Montoya

Montoya, a senior majoring in sport management and journalism, is president of the Multicultural Greek Council. He is a Hawk Link Honors Program graduate and participates in the Multicultural Scholars Program. He is treasurer of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and he served as vice president of the Latino fraternity Phi Iota Alpha. He is a Marching Jayhawks rank leader and press announcer for KU Women’s Tennis. He served as a sports reporter and crew member for Playmakers Central on KUJH-TV and was a volunteer crew member for Rock Chalk Video. He won the Earl Falkenstien Honor Award in 2018 and has interned in Washington, D.C., for the past two summers.

Jose Montoya of Los Lunas, New Mexico | Ex.C.E.L. Winner 2018 Homecoming winners

Jonnette Oakes

Oakes, a senior majoring in political science with a minor in business, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and served as the chapter’s president and nominating chair. She was secretary of the law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta and currently serves as vice president of outreach for the National Pan-Hellenic Council. She has been a student ambassador at KU and she assists new students as an Adidas peer mentor. She interned for the Kansas Legislature and was a desk assistant for the KU Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Jonnette Oakes of Topeka | Ex.C.E.L. winner 2018 Homecoming winners

The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to two students. Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations.

“Home on the Hill”

The theme for this year’s Homecoming was “Home on the Hill.” The event was sponsored by Crown Toyota, Volkswagen and Hy-Vee, with two locations in Lawrence, and was supported by Kansas Athletics. Students and alumni participated in several activities throughout the week, including competitions, reunions and tailgates. The Alumni Association also launched KU Mentoring, a program that provides career connections and networking opportunities for students and alumni. The program is the first phase of the Jayhawk Career Network.

The annual Homecoming celebration was organized by the KU Alumni Association and a student-led steering committee, which was chaired by Allyson Bellner, a sophomore from Marion, Iowa, majoring in biology; Ashley Dunn, a Lawrence junior majoring in communication studies; Logan Hotz, a Rose Hill junior majoring in mathematics and economics; Mary Claire McLaughlin, a junior from Ballwin, Missouri, majoring in mechanical engineering and business; and Rebecca Seldin, a junior from Deerfield, Illinois, majoring in strategic communications. They worked with Alumni Association staff members Ally Stanton, director of student programs, and Keon Stowers, assistant director of student programs.

The Homecoming parade was Thursday, Sept. 27, on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence and featured KU alumni Rich and Judy Howard Billings of Lakewood, Colorado, as grand marshals. The Billings are benefactors of the annual Spirit of 1912 Award and participated in their 60th Homecoming celebration this year.

Other 2018 Homecoming event and award winners are:

Jennifer Alderdice Homecoming Award
Brianna Mears, a junior from Georgetown, Texas majoring in strategic communications

Rich and Judy Billings Spirit of 1912 Award
Howard Cohen, a 1979 School of Business alumnus, and his wife, Debra, from Leawood

Overall Winners
Greek Life
1st place: Alpha Delta Pi, Chi Omega, Alpha Tau Omega, Beta Sigma Psi
2nd place: Kappa Delta, Sigma Kappa, Theta Chi, Delta Tau Delta
3rd place: Alpha Chi Omega, Triangle, Delta Gamma, Sigma Pi

Student Life – Chalk & Rock Competition
Best Interpretation of Theme: Sellards Scholarship Hall
Best Use of Space: Watkins Scholarship Hall
Difficulty Level – Picasso: Krehbiel Scholarship Hall
Most Spirited: The Big Event
Best Incorporation of Organization: Women in Medicine

For more information about this year’s event, visit the Homecoming website.

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KU’s “Kramer” brings Late Night memories

Posted on Sep 28, 2018 in Alumni News

Jeremy Boldra as Kramer at KU basketball games

It’s been 25 years since the 1993-94 basketball season, when Jacque Vaughn introduced himself to the world with an overtime buzzer-beater against Indiana. For some Jayhawks, their experience that season was special not just for what happened on the court, but also in the stands.

Jeremy Boldra spent his sophomore year in the stands as Kramer, Jerry’s goofy neighbor in the hit television series “Seinfeld”. What began as an idea for a Halloween costume put Boldra, d’97 g’03, into Captain Jayhawk-levels of fame for one fun season.

We could try to tell the story, but perhaps it’s best to let the man himself share how Kramer came to be.

Jeremy Boldra as Kramer at KU basketball games

An idea is born

The idea came to me when a roommate saw me with my hair standing up and told me I looked like Kramer. At the time I had no idea who that was, so he introduced me to “Seinfeld,” which we soon were all watching together every Thursday night. As we watched, I knew I could totally play that character. So I decided I’d do it for a Halloween party my sophomore year. That fall, I saw an ad in the Daily Kansan for a sitcom character contest at Late Night with Roy Williams, which was the night before Halloween.

When I got to the Fieldhouse, I knew I had to make an entrance like Kramer always would. So I swung the door open and stormed in, making so much noise that all the contestants that were already there turned and said “Kramer!” One of the judges literally leaps over a table and tells me “You’re in!”

So it’s time for the contest and we’re in the hallway where the team comes out. They called my name, and I had a plan. I just jogged out there, and once I made it to the free throw line, I wiped out. I hit the floor, then got up shaking, then strutting out to half court. By the time I got there, fans were chanting “Kramer! Kramer!” The chanting went on over the next contestant. One contestant got booed, another got no response. I made it to the finals, the Kramer chants started again, and it was a blast.

Kramer lives on

The next night was Halloween, and we were talking with some cheerleaders at a party who said I should dress up for home games, so after a little convincing I decided to do it.

So I dressed up as Kramer in the student section, and by the second or third game people were asking me for autographs, it was getting a little weird. So I decided to not dress up for the next game. Which was Temple, which we lost. As I was leaving, several people said to me “We lost because you didn’t dress up.” So I start dressing up again and sure enough, we go on a huge winning streak.

I only did it for that year. I had a lot of fun, but it was time. Since then, I’ve run into people who remember me from those games.

Where is Kramer now? Boldra is the superintendent at Flint Hills school district, just outside of El Dorado. Jeremy and his wife, Bryna, have two sons, Landon, 11, and Keenan, 8. This year’s Late Night in the Phog takes place Friday, Sept. 28.

—Ryan Camenzind

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