1963 Homecoming queen remembers tradition

K-State Alumni Communications
Louanne Theilmann Isernhagen '64 attended the 1963 K-State football team's 50-year reunion with her husband, Glenn Isernhagen '64, former K-State football player. (Photo: K-State Alumni Association)

A crown, sash, bouquet of flowers and a tearful wave to a cheering crowd are images you might imagine when you hear the phrase “Homecoming queen.”

But to Louanne Theilmann Isernhagen ’64, the Kansas State University tradition of being crowned Homecoming queen in 1963 meant much more. 

“I think the Homecoming queen tradition was designed to honor women with high standards who modeled the best qualities of Kansas State University,” Isernhagen said in an email interview. 

In 1963, K-State was 100 years old and the Homecoming tradition was nearly 50. Isernhagen was a K-State cheerleader, a resident adviser at West Hall, which opened in 1962, and a member of the choir at the First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Kan.

Isernhagen also participated in other social activities during her time at K-State.

“There were lots of dances and mixers at dorms, sororities, fraternities and clubs,” she said.

“The [K-State Student] Union was a great social center for dancing, bowling, movies, cards, Coke dates and formal dances in the ballroom.”

In late September 1963, she said, she found out her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, had nominated her for Homecoming queen. Candidates were nominated based on their leadership, friendliness and involvement at K-State. Isernhagen, who competed with 16 others, attended the Homecoming preview on Oct. 11 of that year in the K-State auditorium. 

“The place was packed. It was a big deal,” she said.

Each of the 17 candidates performed a short skit on stage. Isernhagen’s skit, titled “Charlie Rejected, Louanne Elected,” was based on the 1960s cartoon commercials for Starkist Tuna, where Charlie the tuna is never selected to become a Starkist brand tuna. 
On the steps of Seaton Hall, Louanne Thielmann Isernhagan '64 is announced the 1963 Homecoming queen. (Photo: Royal Purple, 1964)

After the skits, the judges chose five finalists, including Isernhagen. Blue Key Honor Society was in charge of Homecoming at the time and assigned an escort to each finalist as they toured the fraternities and men’s living groups campaigning. 

At noon Oct. 21 on the steps of Seaton Hall, Blue Key officials announced Isernhagen as the 1963 K-State Homecoming queen.

“Probably my favorite part of Homecoming was riding in the convertible in the parade and around the football field at halftime of the K-State versus Oklahoma football game,” she said.

“The flashcard section spelled out my name, and the band played ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses,’ which I had chosen. U.S. Sen. James Pearson crowned me on the field.”

The crowd in Memorial Stadium spells out "Lou" in flashcards to honor the 1963 Homecoming queen, Louanne Thielmann Isernhagan '64. (Photo: Royal Purple, 1964)
Everything did come up roses for Isernhagen that year. She met her husband, Glenn Isernhagen ’64, a former K-State football player. Fifty years later, they are married with children and grandchildren, tending to a family farm that has been in her husband’s family for decades.

Now retired, Isernhagen stays busy in her community. She says the people skills she learned at K-State have helped her become the community leader she is today.

“I enjoy playing violin at the local care center where my mother-in-law is a resident,” she said.

“I sing in a community choir and direct a women’s chorus. I play trombone in a band called the Once Again Sound made up of people like me who played in high school band 40 years ago. I’m active in a music club, book club, PEO [Philanthropic Educational Organization], a writer’s group and Bible study.”

To read the full interview, visit www.k-state.com/Homecoming.

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