Sue Senner’s (’80 Comm.) travels occasionally take her to places like Chornobyl, Ukraine, and Moscow, Russia. She is a project manager for the International Nuclear Safety Program (INSP) at Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

For several years, she has provided communications support to international nuclear safety groups. She also manages a safety project for the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Russia, currently helping staff there coordinate an emergency preparedness exercise for later this summer.

“We want to assure that appropriate procedures are in place and staff are trained to handle an emergency situation,” she said in May. Ultimately, she said, “We’re working to make sure that the world doesn’t experience another nuclear accident like Chornobyl.”

While in Moscow for a series of meetings in April, she visited several street vendors to purchase gifts for family and friends, including colleague Gary R. Petersen, INSP information manager. “He is a diehard Cougar,” says Senner.

To her surprise, she spotted some Russian matryoshka dolls that depicted the Miami Dolphins and other U.S. professional sports teams. The Russian vendors were not shy about selling their wares and kept pushing her to buy these dolls. They asked where she lived in the United States and quickly brought out their selection of dolls for professional and college teams in Washington.

Senner turned the vendors down flat when offered a University of Washington Huskies matryoshka, but said, “Now if you had some Washington State University dolls…”

The vendor told her to “Wait, Wait,” and took off running down the street.

A few minutes later, he returned—matryoshka dolls in hand. To Senner’s delight, the five dolls in the set depicted 2001 Cougar football players Jason Gesser, Dave Minnich, Mike Bush, Lamont Thompson, and Jason David. Each doll was hand-painted with the player’s facial likeness and name. The tallest doll, Gesser, is about eight inches high.

On the spot, she knew she had to buy these dolls for Petersen.

“Many Cougars have stopped at my office to look in awe at this amazing set,” says Petersen (’65 Comm.).

Senner has seen other matryoshka dolls with as many as 15 pieces and has three different sets in her office from Ukraine. Traditional Ukrainian sets depict a father, a mother, and children.
Senner, eldest of five siblings to attend WSU, was initially looking for a Miami Dolphins set for her brother Mark McKenna, a big fan of former quarterback Dan Marino. Another brother, Mike McKenna, works in promotion/sales with the Seattle Mariners and part-time as a statistician for the Seattle SuperSonics pro basketball team. Senner found him a set of Gary Payton dolls that depict the Sonics’s all-star guard.

“It appears that I will have more orders to fill during my next trip to Russia,” Senner says.

And if the Cougar football team wins nine games this fall, including the Apple Cup, Petersen promises to give his set of dolls to Gesser, WSU quarterback.