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KU employees career-minded, philosophical with tags

Anthony Mattingly/University Relations

Deb Teeter, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, displays her personalized plate “DZRT1ST,” or “dessert first.” The plate has drawn both smiles and confusion, much like many of the personalized plates on campus.

We’ve all been there: stuck in traffic with nothing to do but read the clever, and sometimes confusing, personalized license plates in front of us. KU has its share of the career-oriented, Jayhawk-centric or personally descriptive tags motoring around the hill.

Whether other drivers can decode the message or not, they tell a story about the vehicle’s owner. For Deb Teeter, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, her plate “DZRT1ST,” or “dessert first,” says something about her.

“It’s been my personal motto for at least 25 years,” she said of her habit of asking for the end of the meal first in restaurants around the country. “The reaction I get from people is always amazing. I’ve done this from coast to coast. I’ve only been outright refused once.”

While her habit has drawn all sorts of reactions in restaurants, the plate usually draws smiles and gestures of dessert-loving agreement. It has on occasion caused suspicion, given that it is awfully close to desertist. Teeter often tells the story of the time she was interviewing a former two-star U.S. Marine general for a university position. When she was taking him to lunch, she noticed him eyeing her plate.

“I knew what he was thinking,” she said. “I told him ‘that is a one, not an I.’ ”

While Teeter’s plate doesn’t necessarily reflect her profession, John Hoopes’ does. Hoopes sports the phrase “DIG IT” on his bumper.

Hoopes, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Global Indigenous Studies Program, takes part in archaeological digs for a living. Hoopes, who does most of his digging in Costa Rica, doesn’t drive for that part of his job but does get comments on campus and in Lawrence.

“People remark on it once in a while,” he said. “Usually people ask if I work in construction.”

For others, the personalized plates can serve as a reminder of a far off, relaxing locale, one that can take the mind off of the stresses of daily life.

Meredith Porter, a retiree who worked in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, sports “2BNMAUI” on her vehicle. The plate can be especially popular on cold Kansas days.

“(The plate is a) reference to how I would like to be on Maui lying on the beach. I get lots of comments on it in parking lots around town,” Porter said. “I always say ‘It’s a happy thought, isn’t it?’ To a person, everyone who has commented on my license plate has had a smile on their face. And I’ve had a couple of recently married couples who’ve said ‘oh, we went there for our honeymoon. It was so much fun.’ I don’t think there’s anything negative about Maui ... just the most perfect spot ever.”

John Schott, assistant director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning refers to a spot on the map and a state of mind with his “OBX” plate. The letters are a designation for the Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina. Schott took a vacation bicycling through the outer banks a few years ago and uses the plate as a reminder of a fun, relaxing time.

“I got the plate to remind myself of that wonderful trip and how relaxed I could get,” Schott said. “So now, if I’m ever in a traffic jam or someone cuts in front of me, I just think about the OBX, and all tension vanishes — a quick, efficient stress remedy that doesn’t require a prescription.”

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