Profiles In K-State Fandom – Meri Miller-Kahle

Profiles In K-State Fandom – Meri Miller-Kahle

The 11th installment of “Profiles in K-State fandom” features Meri Miller-Kahle. Meri and I follow each other on X, but have never met in person. She was nominated by someone that I profiled previously.

I consider myself one of the biggest K-State fans out there, but I am willing to admit that I pale in comparison to Meri. Reading through her profile makes me think I need to step up my game if I ever want to catch up with her in the “fandom” category. This one is a must-read K-State fans! Meri’s K-State stories go back to the early 70’s and she and her family are still going strong. I can’t decide which of her stories I enjoy more. They’re all good. I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning about Meri and her K-State fandom journey…..

JM: Tell me a little bit about your background.  Where were you born/where did you grow up and how did you become such a huge K-State fan?

MM: I was born in Medicine Lodge, Kansas and grew up in Cawker City. My family included my parents and one brother who was 12 years older.  I graduated from kindergarten in the morning and that same May night, he graduated from high school.  We moved to Manhattan, two weeks after my 6th birthday, in May of 1972.  My brother had already enrolled at KU for that fall.  The first week of August, he told our parents that if he could get his dorm deposit back, he would rather live at home and go to K-State.  We all had fallen in love with Manhattan!  

When we moved to town, my parents’ new friends and business associates told them they had to get KSU Men’s Basketball season tickets.  So my Dad made the trek to the ticket office, then located in Ahearn.  He came home & plopped down season football and basketball tickets.  My Mom asked why we had both.  He said that they wouldn’t let him buy season basketball unless he also bought season football.  In the fall of 1972, we started attending football games and sat in Section 6, Row 11 for the next 12 years. I saw a LOT of bad football growing up in Manhattan, but I also saw a lot of GREAT basketball in Section 6 Row 3 in Ahearn! 

My love for K-State started all those years ago and besides family, it’s the greatest constant in my life. 

JM: Did you attend K-State? Did you graduate? What years did you attend? If you attended K-State, tell me a little bit about how you came to that decision.

MM: I graduated from Manhattan High School in 1984, and began attending K-State in the fall of 1984, but my path would take me other places.  I’ve always told people that I had a BS from K-State, a MS from Emporia State and a Doctorate in Aggieville.  After my freshman year, I decided to get away from home and go to Cloud County Community College in Concordia.  (Plausible story?) I graduated from CCCC with an Associate of Arts in 1987, and came back to K-State. I graduated with a BS in Elementary Education in December of 1989.  

That fall was Coach Bill Snyder’s first year at K-State.  I had also gotten married for the first time in June of 1987, and we moved to Topeka.  I completed my student teaching through the MITEC (Multi Institution Teaching Education Cooperative) program.  It was set up for students from K-State, Ft, Hays State, Emporia State and Wichita State (I think that is all the schools) who wanted to complete their student teaching in the Topeka area districts.  We had 24 in our cohort.  Instead of coming back to Manhattan, we had classes once a week for four hours in Topeka and were supervised by staff in the MITEC program. It was interesting because we could compare university programs and even then K-State had the winning College of Ed.

JM: Are you married?  Kids? 

MM: My first husband and I were married for 12 years and didn’t have any children. My second (and last) husband, Rick, and I will celebrate 24 years on New Year’s Eve. We have one daughter, Kyndra, who is 20 and working on her Associates of Arts at the Cloud County Campus – Geary County, in Junction City. She is then transferring to K-State. 

JM: Are they K-State fans as well? 

MM: Both of my husbands have had very little choice in becoming Wildcat fans! 😁 

Meri’s Mom, Charlene, and her daughter, Kyndra, at the Big 12 Women’s basketball tournament in Kansas City

JM: What do you do for a living?

MM: I retired June 1, 2023, after 32 years teaching special education, in grades from 3-12, but 26 years in middle school. I sat out for my mandatory KPERS six months & have been a Math Intervention teacher since January. You can’t keep teachers from teaching.

JM: Do you live in or around Manhattan? What’s your favorite restaurant or hangout when you’re in town?

MM: Rick & I moved back to Manhattan from KC in 2002, to take care of my parents, and have lived here since. 

We really like JP’s at Jardine, Little Grill, and So Long Saloon. Is there a K-State fan that doesn’t love the Raspberry Chipotle Black Bean Dip with a Nancy?

JM: Do you have a favorite sport? Favorite K-State team?

MM: Yes. I honestly think that I was born to be a sports fan. I love basketball (Men’s & Women’s) and football the most, but I’m answering these questions waiting for first pitch at a K-State baseball game. I absolutely LOVE the energy in Morgan Family Arena (thanks Wade & Brenda) and our Kickin Soccer Cats are fun to watch, too. So I guess the answer is the same as when I’m asked about my favorite student…”I love them all!”

Meri, her Mom, and Kyndra at a K-State/Iowa State football game

JM: Do you have season tickets? If so, which sports?

MM: My Dad died in 2006 from complications of Alzheimer’s and my Mom passed away in 2009 after a five year battle with lung cancer. We couldn’t make season tickets work, especially after Kyndra was born in 2004. 

This last fall, we did have the Gotls Pack of Season Tickets to soccer, volleyball and women’s basketball, but we bought single game tickets to six men’s basketball games.

JM: Do you travel to K-State away games? If so, do you have a favorite away game place or story to tell?

MM: My parents were great supporters of both football & men’s basketball. When I was growing up, we traveled a lot with their friends and my Dad’s Shrine Club friends. In football, we went to the Big 8 towns of Columbia, Lawrence, Lincoln, Ames, & Stillwater. In basketball, we went to NCAA games in Ames, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, & Salt Lake City. They also took me to the Independence Bowl, Copper Bowl, & Fiesta Bowl.

From 1987, until we separated in 1998, my first hubby & I were lucky enough to travel to the Copper & two Cotton Bowls, the Big XII Championship game against A&M, and Big 8/XII regular season games in Ames, Boulder, Lawrence & way too many games in Columbia. Most of the time with my parents. We also traveled to Kansas City for the Big 8 Basketball Tournament in Kemper Arena. 

Rick & I have traveled to regular season football games in Columbia, Dallas for the Stanford game and in Los Angeles, when Troy Palamalu almost took off Aaron Lockett’s head in the Coliseum. We’ve been to the Liberty and Sugar Bowls. We also went to Kansas City to watch basketball at the Sprint Center. 

My mom, Kyndra, & I went to the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2006. Kyndra also got to go to the Iowa State football game with her Grandma here in Manhattan.

Rick, Kyndra and I were lucky enough to go to the Bahamas to watch the men’s basketball Wildcats play last November. It was an amazing trip! We stayed at a VRBO house and got to see the “real” Bahamas and the beautiful beaches. 

Kyndra I have spent Spring Breaks at the Big XII Women’s Tournament in KC, too. 

JM: Any negative experiences?

Besides the heartbreaking losses, most of our experiences have been positive, except in Lawrence for football & I will never go back. When we were living in Topeka, I won two tickets to the KU game in Lawrence. We had to park in a front yard. When we came back after the game, our car, with Riley County plates had sugary, syrupy alcoholic drinks poured all over it. When I went on bus trips to Lawrence with my parents, booze bottles would fly by.  I don’t ever have to go back.

There are several calamitous events that occurred:

*We drove our motorhome with my parents, one of my best friends, two other couples and me to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl. On the drive from the hotel the couples were staying at to the game, a small engine fire broke out due to faulty insulation in the engine cover. Our trip was extended by two days, but the Shreveport firemen were awesome & dropped us off at the gate to the game in two fire trucks. 

*At the 1997 Cotton Bowl, we were flying with friends from KC to Dallas on New Year’s Eve day, around 4pm. We got to KCI and there was horrible fog and they didn’t know if we would be able to fly out that night.  We were stuck in a bar at the airport that stayed open past closing time because we were a plane of K-State fans who were drinking and tipping well.  We ended up being able to take off and arrived in Dallas at our hotel at the New Year’s Eve Party at about 11:45.  We toasted at midnight and then went to bed. We had celebrated enough at KCI.

*Rick & I were married in Kihei, Maui, at sunset on the beach, on New Year’s Eve 2000.  We had 14 family members and friends that made the trip with us.  After the ceremony, we had dinner, enjoyed the fireworks and got up at 3am to go see the sunrise on the top of Mount Haleakala.  We were dead tired, but we ate breakfast and then watched the Cotton Bowl when we played Tennessee. We had nine people in the living room of a condo, watching a television with probably a 26 inch screen. I heard we won.  I passed out from exhaustion at halftime.

Meri, Rick, Willie & Kyndra at a Homecoming parade in Aggieville 

JM: What is your favorite K-State sports memory?

MM: In 1981, I was a freshman at Manhattan High School.  We had a family friend who played baseball at K-State and was a HUGE Wildcat fan.  About five minutes after Rolando Blackman sank the “shot heard around the country,” to beat Oregon State, BJ, who was in his 70-80s, called us.  My Dad answered and BJ wanted my Dad to go to the Western Regional in Salt Lake City. BJ’s wife did not appreciate sports and my Dad knew she probably wouldn’t want him to go, so he used my mom and I as his excuse. “They will be so mad if I go without them, so maybe we should just get together and watch it on tv.” BJ hung up & then my Dad explained the situation to my mom and me. No sooner had he finished his explanation and the phone rang again. BJ told my dad that he had “talked to Ernie (Barrett) and we have tickets to go to Salt Lake City.  We will be staying at a hotel with other fans and it is my gift to your family for everything that you have done for us.” My parents were gobsmacked and I was screaming for joy!!! Little did I know that when we arrived at the Manhattan Airport, we would be flying on the same plane as the team! We stayed at the Holiday Inn Holidome in Salt Lake City with the band and cheerleaders and as an almost 15 year old I was in HEAVEN!!! One day, the “old people” were going to tour the Mormon sites and I stayed at the hotel and watched the pep band rehearse and the cheerleaders practice. I remember that the band had about 7-8 electric woks with them and they put frozen pizzas in them and “cooked” them. That cardboard pizza tasted wonderful!

We beat Illinois, but got beat by North Carolina, who lost to Indiana in the NCAA Championship game. At the airport in Salt Lake City I was able to get autographs from Ro, Eddie, Randy & Tyrone. Memories I will cherish forever!

JM: Who is your favorite K-State player(s), past or present?

MM: Favorite MBB player past: It’s a tie…Curtis Redding, Ed Nealy & Chuckie Williams.

Favorite MBB player present: Keyontae Johnson & David N’Guessan.

Favorite WBB player past: Priscilla Gary.

Favorite WBB player present: ALL of them.

Favorite FB player past: All the Locketts & David Allen.

Favorite FB player present: Cooper Beebe & Avery Johnson.

JM: Who is your favorite K-State coach(es), past or present?

MM: Again, it’s a tie.  Bill Snyder, Chris Klieman, Jack Hartman & Jerome Tang. I’ve been a Wildcat for over 50 years and the energy and passion Coach Tang has brought to the program is truly historical.

Meri, Rick & Kyndra at the BahaMar Hoops in Nassau, Bahamas

JM: If you had to guess, what percentage of your wardrobe is purple?

MM: If you ask my friends, they would say 100%, but it’s really about 65%. I just love to wear my K-State stuff a lot.

JM: What does the “K-State Family” mean to you?

MM: K-State Family is synonymous with my family. In my extended family, I’ve had an uncle, brother, and cousins too numerous to count, who have attended K-State. In education alone, I have cousins who are teachers, principals and even a superintendent, who are all KSU College of Education grads. I also have a multitude of friends who are Wildcat alumni. The shared experiences of growing up in Manhattan and having K-State in our backyard, have formed friendships and bonds that can’t be broken. 

We drove my parents motorhome to Tucson for the Copper Bowl. We spent Christmas with my brother in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then drove onto Arizona. My mom had some exchanges to make at Dillard’s and we saw one at the Tucson Mall as we arrived in town. The clerk who helped her asked where we were from.  We told her Kansas State University.  She said, “well, that explains the ‘Purple People’ who were taking over Tucson.” We didn’t have any idea until we got to the parade and that there were THOUSANDS of K-Staters in town and lining the streets. When we got back to the car and parked right next to us was my husband and I’s landlord from Frankfort, Kansas.  We had driven 1,100 miles, yet we found someone we knew.  The same thing happened when Rick & I flew to LA and found our seats at the LA Coliseum. I heard, “Does your mom know where you are?” I turned around and their neighbors from up the hill, who had a son in my Manhattan High School graduating class, were seated right behind us. At any event, there are thousands of “Purple People,” but you can always find a friend, old or new. That is FAMILY.

JM: Anything else you’d like to add?

MM: I can honestly say that my mom is the reason I am such a big fan. She was a steadfast supporter of the coaches & athletes and provided me with a great role model. During all those horrible 56-0 or 63-0 drubbings we received in football from Oklahoma, Nebraska and anyone else who came to town, she always said, “Those boys can’t leave that field until that clock says 0:00.  If you are going to support K-State when they win, then you have to be there until the very end, when they lose.”  That is true in life as well.  

Thank you for this opportunity.  I have really enjoyed reading about other fans! And as always, Go Cats!l

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If you would like to nominate someone to be featured in “Profiles in K-State fandom,” please message me and I’ll reach out to them. Thanks!

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