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.
Records 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.”
We’ve enjoyed reading KU fans’ memories of the 1988 NCAA championship game. Many of our future staff members were at the game or the celebrations that took place afterward, and they shared their memories also.
Lynn Loveland, assistant director of Kansas programs:
I went to the games and had a great seat on the floor. Very exciting–after the games we went to the Plaza to celebrate. I thought Kemper Arena was a great place to hold the game. Though the revenue wouldn’t come close to what they make now, everyone could actually see the game from their seats with no big screen needed.
David Johnston, director of internet services and marketing:
We got tickets to the championship at Kemper from disgruntled Duke fans. My seat ended up being right next to the junior high basketball coach who cut me during tryouts the previous year, effectively ending my basketball career! He was incredibly knowledgeable about the game, and we had a great time. At halftime with the score tied 50-50, he turned to me and said “that was the greatest half of basketball I’ve ever seen in my life.” Unforgettable experience.
Susan Younger, creative director:
The night of the win, we headed to campus and were stuck in our car for hours on Oread Avenue. Our kids sat on the window sills of our car and slapped thousands of hands. Everyone had their hands out the window and a steady stream of students ran by slapping them. My palms hurt for a couple of days. For the parade on campus, I took my sons out of school. We were on the boulevard in front of Snow Hall. My 8-year old Garrett said, “I wish someone would throw ME in the air.” A guy next to me grabbed him and before we could do anything, he was being tossed in the air. He was small, so he was being thrown up high and made it all the way down the mob to the front of Strong Hall, then they started to throw him back my way. The boy who grabbed him in the first place grabbed him back and said to me, “I’m so sorry ma’am, I should have asked if that was okay.” My son was a little scared but also excited.
About four guys came down the road carrying a yellow VW beetle and put it in the garden in front of Hoch. Trees in front of Wescoe were so overloaded, you could hear the trunks splinter and see them cracking in half. We were drenched in beer showers. People were shaking cans and spraying beer over the crowd. It was amazing!
Marcia Wilson, office assistant:
I was at the game and then at the team’s hotel after the game for the celebration in the street. The Oklahoma fans were watching from their hotel across the street. It was awesome!
Julie Lowrance, records specialist and license plate administrator:
I was a junior in high school in 1988. I remember watching the championship game at home with my parents and was so excited when KU won. There was a parade on Massachusetts Street a few days later. They let us out of school for the afternoon and we got to go and see it. It was so awesome! A great memory to have from my youth! I also remember my parents buying me a “Danny and the Miracles” t-shirt after KU won. Wish I still had that shirt!
Michelle Lang, assistant director of Kansas programs:
I was nine years old at the time of the 1988 championship game but I have some pretty clear memories of the night. My family watched the game at my aunt and uncle’s house near downtown Lawrence and I remember right after KU won we went outside and could hear people shooting off fireworks. Then we hopped in the car and drove through campus…that was the thing to do then instead of going to Mass Street.
Tim Brandt, director of the Adams Alumni Center
I was alive and in my prime at 37. We were suited up in the bar in the Marriott, where the team was staying. We had just completed a full day of drinking beer at the opening day of Royals baseball and were settled in. Oklahoma, a one seed and KU a one seed — both big 8 schools — not sure the rest of the basketball world cared much. After the game there was a solid mob assembly inside and outside the hotel. The rest was just a blur — the next day was not quite so much fun as we had to drive back to Wichita.
Photos courtesy of University Archives