Cheese ball for everyone!

Posted on Feb 3, 2015 in Alumni News and News

It’s Cheese Ball Day here at the Adams Alumni Center. Not that we need an excuse for snacks, but today we have a good one: celebrating what would have been our dear Miss Betty’s 50th work anniversary.

Betty Howe Otto | www.kualumni.orgRecords specialist Betty Howe Otto started working as a graphotype operator for the KU Alumni Association on Feb. 3, 1965, back when we were headquartered in Strong Hall and people still knew what a graphotype machine was. (I once asked Betty to explain the mysterious contraption, which she patiently did, and I still didn’t have the slightest clue, so please don’t ask me to explain it here.)

And then every year afterward, Betty on Feb. 3 celebrated her Alumni Association anniversary by bringing in one of her famous, ginormous, nut-encrusted cheese balls and a big box of crackers.

Don’t like cheese balls, you say? Then you never had one of Miss Betty’s.

“This date was very special to her. She absolutely loved working at KUAA,” records specialist Julie Lowrance wrote this morning in an email to her colleagues here on Oread Avenue. “While I’m sure this store-bought cheese ball won’t be nearly as delicious as hers, I wanted to do something to honor her.”

True, the energetically orange ball-o’-cheese nested in a bed of crackers is not as good as Betty’s. But it is delicious, if only for the memories.

Over the course of her 47 years at the KU Alumni Association, Miss Betty installed herself as the keeper of traditions within our wacky warren: hand-crafted Christmas decorations for everybody in the building, for instance, and our ritual of bringing in treats to celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays. Munchers minis, cinnamon twists, even the occasional veggie-and-dip platter are standard fare, and now the back counter also includes a well-stocked tray of healthy-ish snacks, available for inexpensive purchase, as well as a huge, seemingly bottomless tin of spiced popcorn from a local barbecue restaurant.

The cheese ball, though, that’s the golden ticket, and we’ve gone too long without one.

Miss Betty retired in June 2012; we lost her for good on July 23, 2014.

We’ve hired quite a few new staff members since Betty left, and whenever we welcome them to the crew I feel a fleeting dash of melancholy. As good as their experience will hopefully be here, they’ll never know Miss Betty. Well, that’s how the wheel turns, and our new colleagues will surely create and cherish their own Alumni Association rituals, traditions and memories.

Just do us old-timers one favor: Go ahead and forget all about us, we know you will, but don’t forget the Feb. 3 cheese ball, eh? It’s not for us. It’s for Miss Betty, and honoring her is worth the effort.

Because nobody ever, ever loved the KU Alumni Association and all that it represents—alumni members, Jayhawk traditions, the great good fortune of finding oneself associated in any manner with this university on a Hill—more than Betty Howe Otto.

Quoting Julie: “Miss you, Betty.”

—Chris Lazzarino

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