Love Stories



Last month we asked whether you got married on Rocky Top or proposed on the Hill. We were overwhelmed by the many fantastic #BigOrangeLove stories you shared with us. We’ve collected them below to remind you this Valentine’s Day that all you need is love. And Rocky Top.


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Sarah Kinsler ('14) and Clinton Hall ('15)

Sarah Kinsler and Clinton Hall grew up in church together in the Tri-Cities area and began dating in 2010. She had always been a Vols fan so when she picked UT, he followed a year later.

When it came time to propose, Clinton wanted to include two things—UT and tradition. So he got some of their friends to help paint the Rock to pop the question to Sarah.

"Clinton had never painted the Rock before," says Sarah. "And he still hasn't! Our friends did it!"

Pals Ashley Honeycutt and Geoffrey Smith chipped in to make sure the Rock was picture perfect for Sarah and Clinton. When the big moment came, Sarah says it was made all the more special by passersby honking and clapping.

"UT will always have a special place in my heart as my school and now as the place where we decided to get married," says Sarah. "It will be fun to bring our kids back to this place. And "Rocky Top" will definitely be played at our wedding."

Sarah graduated last spring with a degree in kinesiology, and she's currently working on her master's in public health at ETSU. Clinton will graduate in May with a degree in business management. They're planning a New Years Eve wedding.

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Janice and Jack (’70) Burton

Burton FamilyThere’s a picnic table off of Lake Avenue that holds special meaning for the Burton family. Kym Miller, Janice and Jack Burton’s daughter, studied at that picnic table when she attended UT in the late ’90s. But before that, it was the picnic table where Jack proposed to Janice in 1966.

Janice lived in Humes Hall. She and Jack would meet at the bench after classes on Fridays and go to dinner. One Friday in late October, Janice waited for Jack, but he wasn’t quite ready to head to dinner.

“He got down on one knee, took my hand and asked me, ‘Janice, will you marry me?'” Janice recalls. “To be honest, I wasn’t surprised, but my heart was beating fast and I felt myself blush. The answer was, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course.’ Then he pulled this little box out of his pocket and there was the prettiest engagement ring I ever saw…At this point I don’t remember if we went to dinner or not. Neither does he.”

Janice and Jack have been married for forty-seven years. Jack graduated with an engineering degree in 1970. Their love of Rocky Top was born into all three of their daughters, with Kym, the youngest (pictured above with her parents), earning an art history degree in 2000.


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Amanda (’07) and Cole (’08) Mauer

Amanda and ColeAmanda and Cole Mauer met through Cole’s roommate Drew, who was in the architecture program with Amanda. Cole was studying engineering and sought refuge in the Art and Architecture Building to work on a project after his building had closed. After repeated meetings, the two began dating.

Amanda and ColeWhen it came time to proposed Cole went back to where it all began—the Art and Architecture Building.

“I thought I was meeting some friends before heading to a play at Clarence Brown,” Amanda says. “When I walked in, these string lights flipped on and there was Cole. My reaction was, ‘What are you doing here? Are you going to the play?’ He got down on one knee and proposed, and all of our family and friends came out from the floors above with confetti poppers. It was amazing!”

Amanda and Cole were married on May 19, 2012.


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Kristen ('95) and Jeff Hyman

Kristen Bendon Hyman enjoyed her days as an orientation leader and helping with student activities at UT so much that she chose a career in higher education. You could also say that her career choice helped her meet her husband, Jeff. Kristen was working in student activities at Pennsylvania College of Technology when she met Jeff through the talent-booking agency he worked for. Despite living in different states, they eventually found time to meet for lunch.

Though he's not a UT grad, Kristen's done her duty to make sure Jeff knows the ins and outs of the Orange and White.

"He knows how much my alma mater means to me," Kristen says. "While we were dating, I had told him so much about my college experience and the spots on campus that are meaningful to me. Through our work he was also able to meet my student activities advisors from UT. These are all reasons why he chose to propose on the Hill when we were visiting campus for a football game and a student orientation assistant/orientation leader reunion."

The couple was engaged in September 2000—the weekend of Jeff's first Vols football game. Jeff had arranged for friend and fellow UT grad Stephanie (Glaser) Ransom to be on hand to take photos of the big moment.

Kristen and Jeff got married a year later in Las Vegas and now have a three-year-old daughter, Nora. Kristen's work with LeaderShape brings her back to campus occasionally. Jeff has also had the chance to work with UT through his talent-booking agency.

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Jasmine Hammons (’14) and Ethan Carman (’14)

Jasmine and EthanJasmine Hammons and Ethan Carman met their freshman year at UT in 2010, on a service trip to New Orleans with Remote Area Medical.

“It was in a room full of tired people in need of medical attention and volunteers that we were both working, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her,” recalls Ethan. “We slept on cots and she forgot her pillow that night, and I quickly offered mine up. It was history from there.”

From Greek life to Student Alumni Associates, Jasmine and Ethan were both involved in every corner of campus life. Jasmine was named a Torchbearer at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet during their final semester; Ethan was president of the Sigma Alpha Lambda National honors and leadership fraternity.

Carman-Proposal“From the time I was freshman, I knew I wanted to marry her,” Ethan says. That gave him plenty of time to make a plan. In getting to know Jasmine’s Delta Gamma sorority sisters, he decided to propose at her senior year candlelight ceremony.

“I hid in the former presidents’ room as the girls had their meeting and started to sing. I trembled as I waded my way through 200-plus girls, and as I reached her she screamed and grabbed me in disbelief. She knew what was coming. I have never been more scared in my life, but it was the greatest accomplishment I have.”

Jasmine is in her second semester of the business analytics master’s program at UT, and Ethan works in sales for the Whirlpool Corp. in Knoxville. They’re looking forward to an October wedding in Knoxville.


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A Mixed SEC Marriage

I graduated from UT in 1976. I met a diehard Georgia Bulldog football fan in 1977 and we were were married at the Baptist Student Union on campus in March, 1978.

We are still married and he is a diehard Vol basketball fan now.

Our youngest son graduated from UT also in 2008. We are a mixed marriage as far as football loyalties, but it still works!

—Linda Adams Gilreath (’76, ’03)

“About That Dime…”

I met Nancy (De Jenkins) in the Spring my sophomore year at a bus stop on Cumberland Boulevard. We were both headed for town. Nancy was not able to register for classes that quarter because everything was full, but she was planning to register for the Fall Quarter.
As we stood waiting for the bus, she indicated that she only had a ten dollar bill for the fare. I warned her that Knoxville bus drivers were not happy making that kind of change, so I gave her a dime for the trip.

All that quarter, I couldn’t get that cute gal out of my mind. The moment she registered that fall, I tracked her down and we started dating. We were married our senior year. We were the first married couple to take a class together at UT. The rest is history.

About that dime. I never asked for it back and I’ve been paying ever since—only kidding.

—Tom Willison (’53)


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Jessica Copeland (’12, ’14) and Richard Spencer (’09)

Jessica and RIchardRichard Spencer and Jessica Copeland met through mutual friends who knew of their shared interest in UT’s Ignite programs. Richard was working in the office of Undergraduate Admissions and Jessica was working for the Center for Leadership and Service, the office that coordinates the Ignite programs. In summer 2014, Richard’s Ignite student leaders named him “Most Likely to Put a Ring on It.” And in December, he did.

“We dated for just under two years before getting engaged on December 17 in front of the Torchbearer, a symbol of the very place and reason the two of us are together,” says Richard.

Jessica and SpencerTwo days after their engagement the couple moved to Austin, Texas. Jessica is now working with Dell Inc., and Richard is continuing his work with the admissions office as a recruitment coordinator and regional representative working with incoming students from Texas and the West Coast. The couple plans to wed in Nashville this winter.


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Katie (’07, ’11) and Nathan (’07) Zipper

MKM brickKatie (Mathews) and Nathan Zipper met their sophomore year at UT and became friends through their involvement in several of the same organizations. During their junior year they ran for SGA president and vice president together, an unsuccessful campaign that Katie recalls as being for the best.

“Looking back, I think that is one of the best things that could have ever happened to us,” she says. “If we would have won, I don’t think we would have ever dated.”

ProposalThey both worked for the university at different points after graduating, and Katie started work on two post-graduate degrees. On the Friday night before the Vols’ football game against Georgia in 2009, Nathan told Katie there was a campus event they needed to work.

“He had me park at Tyson House, and we walked through campus, presumably on our way to the event,” Katie says. “We stopped in Circle Park in front of the Torchbearer. Nathan showed me where a new brick had been placed on the sidewalk—a brick that said, ‘MKM, will you marry me?’ Then he got down on his knee and proposed. Several of the cars passing by honked and cheered for us.”

Zipper AnnouncementKatie’s sister was hiding in Circle Park taking pictures of the big moment, and afterwards Nathan brought Katie back to his house where a surprise engagement party was waiting.

The pair married on August 6, 2010, in Knoxville. After Katie graduated from the College of Law they moved to Nashville, but they visit Knoxville often. They are excited to welcome their first child this August.

“We cannot wait to introduce him or her to all of our favorite UT traditions.”


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Meghan (’12) and John (’11) Woodward

Stokely seatsMeghan and John Woodward met—of all places—in Italy in 2005, during separate high school trips. Meghan, a freshman from Franklin, Tennessee, and John, a sophomore from Baltimore, traded AIM screen names and kept in touch for a year and a half until John ended up in Knoxville for a baseball camp on campus.

Meghan’s dad brought her to Knoxville to see him. They met up at Stokely Athletic Center and then had lunch at Calhoun’s on the River.

Fast forward a few years, and both Meghan and John attended UT.

A month after Meghan graduated, she was working for the Parents Association before leaving for grad school in South Carolina. On their anniversary in June 2012, John met Meghan outside her office and walked her to his car—parked outside Stokely Athletic Center. A trip to the bookstore inside turned into a trip to the gym, the place where they had first seen each other again after they met in Italy.

Woodwards“We sat and talked about seeing each other during his baseball camp so many years before,” says Meghan. “The next thing I knew, John was getting down on one knee (as best he could in an old stadium aisle!) and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said ‘yes!’ After we left Stokely, we drove to Calhoun’s on the River, where my family and our friends were waiting to celebrate with us! It was an afternoon I will never forget.”

Meghan finished grad school in May 2014, and the two married in Lenoir City in June of that year. They had several UT touches at their reception, including orange and white shakers and a “Rocky Top” exit.

Meghan currently works part time both in the Office of the Dean of Students and for Alzheimer’s Tennessee. Bringing things full circle, John works for the Copper Cellar group of restaurants, which owns Calhoun’s on the River.

Skakers“UT has come to mean so much more to me than I could have ever imagined,” Meghan says. “To know that John and I reconnected here, we have a great group of friends that came from here—our Tennessee family. We’re definitely Vols for Life. I get so excited being here. This is an electric place. I’m really passionate about this place, and so excited to tell people about this place. That’s how John ended up here!”


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Emily Butcher (’15) and Nick Moore (’13)

Emily and NickNick Moore met Emily Butcher met through mutual friends when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman.

As they got to know each other, Nick learned Emily ran track in high school and asked if she wanted to go running with him sometime. Emily agreed and after a few running dates and casual PCB meals together, Nick asked Emily on a real date and their adventure began.

Three years later on October 25, 2014, Nick asked Emily to marry him in a Big Orange way. He got down on one knee on Shield-Watkins Field in Neyland Stadium.

Under the pretense that they were going to lunch downtown, Nick picked up Emily from her apartment and began driving. But as they neared campus, Nick asked Emily to put on a blindfold.

“I kind of started expecting it, but I had no idea where we were going,” says Emily.

Nick led Emily into the stadium and took the blindfold off once they were on the field.

“I think she knew something was up, obviously, but when she opened her eyes and realized she was in the stadium she was totally shocked,” says Nick. “It was everything I wanted it to be.”

“When she and I met, it was pretty obvious that Tennessee was important to both of us,” Nick says. “We loved going to games together—basketball or football. Tennessee is special to us. We want to live in Knoxville and I wanted that to be a part of asking her to marry me.”

Nick and Emily are getting married on August 29 at their church in Knoxville.


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