The connections were there all along.
Ken Dworznik ‘98 and Ted Klopp ‘94 both grew up on the west side of Cleveland and they attended the same high school. Although their reasons for choosing Ashland were different, they found their way to the school’s television and radio program.
But it wasn’t until they were working at a broadcast station in Mansfield that their paths crossed in 1996. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The hosts of the “Two Middle-Aged Men in Cleveland” podcast have been friends for decades. The idea for the podcast itself was born in the early weeks of the pandemic with a slowdown in their respective careers, and the need for connection, as it did for many, grew acute. The moment the idea was spoken aloud, it seemed like a natural next step for the pair.
“We’d been doing a podcast for decades by that point,” says Ted with just a hint of a smile. “We just hadn’t been recording it.”
“Before I pitched the idea to Ted,” adds Ken, “I spent the previous weekend coming up with the name. It seemed perfect for who we are, our experiences, and what we’re interested in.”
With over 100 episodes under their belt–and available to stream across all major podcast and audio platforms–the show touches on a wide array of light-hearted topics, from local dining and sports to larger cultural discussions, all without going negative or getting too political. And while the overall energy of each family-friendly episode sounds much like what it is–two friends jawing about what interests them–the production value is top tier.
“I can’t think of many other people I’d want to do this with,” Ken says. “Ted is a professional. The editing and production show how much talent and experience he has in broadcasting.”
Their skills can be traced to a single source. Ashland University, they agree, has had a monumental effect on their professional and personal lives, both in terms of their careers and their current work on the podcast.
“I went on a few college tours,” says Ted. “But I knew I wanted to be at Ashland the moment I arrived on campus. The other students, the staff, the faculty–it was a very welcoming environment. Add the fact that you could start getting hands-on experience immediately. You didn’t have to take five classes before getting into the studio or behind the microphone. I worked on an AU football broadcast the first weekend I was there.”
While Ken’s first experience with Ashland took a slightly different shape, the results were the same.
“I was a decent track athlete in high school,” Ken says. “A few of my first cousins had gone to Ashland, so I was familiar with the campus. But I got this hand-written letter during my senior year of high school from Bill Gallagher, the track coach at the time, inviting me to be a part of the team. It must’ve taken him at least an hour to write. I was a little shocked. That’s what put me over the top in terms of coming to Ashland.”
These were the reasons that each chose Ashland. What kept them here, though, were the relationships they forged very early on with staff and faculty members.
“Apart from my parents,” says Ted, “probably the two most influential people in my life were Larry Hiner and Jay Pappas. From my first day on campus, they were always there with advice, with guidance.”
Ken agrees, before adding two other names to the list: “I had so much fun at Ashland as an undergrad that I stayed on to get my Master’s in education. During that time, I was hired under Al King as the Assistant Director of Sports Information. After I finished my graduate degree, I went to work at Wayne State in their sports information department. I was back working at Ashland a year later as Bill Goldring’s assistant in marketing and promotions. Both of those men had a big influence on me.”
Two men, now fully within the throes of middle age. Both from Cleveland. Both impacted by their time at Ashland University and–perhaps–even more by the connections that started there and are still bearing fruit all these years later.
It all speaks to an element of Ashland University’s power as an institution that often resonates at the lower registers of what is spoken, what is heard:
The Ashland connections you make in life are strong. Even when they don’t actually start here.