October 4, 2013
By Mark Janssen
It was a late-August day in 1968 when I was introduced to my first genuine friendly face and smile as a student at Kansas State University.
The face and smile was that of Norma Lawrence, who sadly passed away this past Monday at the age of 86.
I skipped up the steps that day ... I could skip back then ... to the offices above the Ahearn Gymnasium and knocked on the door of the sports information director in the far southwest corner of the top floor. I was in search of whatever part-time work an 18-year-old freshman from western Kansas could do in the world of Wildcat athletics.
A rap on the door wasn't necessary as a cheerful voice invited her unknown visitor to "Come on in."
I quickly entered the one-room office and introduced myself to Norma, who I found to be the secretary to the Kansas State Sports Information staff that consisted of Dev Nelson and his assistant, Charlie Eppler, as the lone fulltime workers.
For the majority of the next 40 years, Norma held either that same post under directors Nelson (1966-72), Glen Stone (1973-82), Mike Scott (1982-85), Duane DaPron (1985-88), Kenny Mossman (1988-91), Ben Boyle (1991-96) and Kent Brown (1996), and later with Boyle in the communications and broadcasting area until her retirement in 2006.
No one summed up Norma better than Scott: "She was a nice person."
A "nice person" to everyone, whether that be as a fraternity housemother on campus or to mothering sports writers and broadcasters from the Little Apple to Kansas City, and Los Angeles to the Big Apple. While true to the school she loved, Norma took special pride in friendships developed with the media.
Oh yes, she loved her Wildcats, and oh yes, she detested the Jayhawks: "She was quick to let that be known," laughed Scott.
A true K-Stater, for sure.
"Norma was perfect for Kansas State, and Kansas State was perfect for her," said Scott. " She was such a good friend to the staff, to the media and to the university. You could tell that she took great pride in how she dressed, how she presented herself and how hard that she worked."
In particular, Scott said, "I remember when we went to the Independence Bowl. She had to put in so many extra hours but didn't mind because she was so thrilled that Kansas State was going to its first bowl game."
In her own department, she was the "First Lady" to the sports information arena starting in 1967, to even attending the 2013 opening football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium just a bit more than a month ago.
A special tie that I remember having with Norma was my job of figuring, by hand, all the statistics after football and basketball games so Norma, by fingertips on a manual typewriter, could have them ready the next morning. Yes, it was way, way, way, way before the punch-a-button computer age.
Stone called Norma "...the best worker and most loyal person I've ever been around."
And more than one former SID said it was Norma who kept the ship sailing on smooth waters.
"K-State was really my first job and Norma did a great job of guiding me through those early years," said Mossman. "Different guys may have held the title of director but it was in name only. Norma had control of that office. She was just incredibly organized and made things dummy-proof so people like me could get by."
Laughing at the memory, Scott said, "Norma ran our office. She was the director, and I say that as a compliment. I was replacing a legend in Glen Stone and Norma made my job 100 times easier than it could have been. She took me under her wing and showed me what had been done before."
Brown worked with Norma only a few months but said, "You quickly learned that she had the respect from everyone in the department. That was immediately evident. She was full of K-State information and even when she retired from our office, people would still search her out as a resource."
When Norma left the sports information area in 1996, it was Brown who presented her with a lifetime K-State press pass that she used through the opening game of the 2013 football season.
Boyle summarized, "It's often said that people are what make K-State so special and Norma was one of those people."
Simply said, Norma Lawrence was a one-of-a-kind "nice person."
(Visitation will take place from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Yorgenson-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home in Manhattan, while services are set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning at the same location.)
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.