Last April, Marty Parkes, Maryville’s associate vice president of marketing and community relations was invited to participate in an engaging scheme. Following is his eye-witness account of a unique campus romance …
It certainly wasn’t a routine Maryville assignment asked of me one Saturday last April. Most of my weekend engagements on campus require attendance at large social events with plenty of students, parents, and alumni in attendance. But this particular day would be completely different. I was a co-conspirator engaged in a bit of deception perpetrated by one Maryville alumnus upon another. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
At the request of A.J. Fox ’09, ’10, I helped set the stage for him to ask Amanda Noe, ’09, for her hand in marriage. My job, along with co-conspirator Nina Caldwell, PhD, dean of students, was to help ensure that Amanda’s verbal response to A.J.’s question was the direct opposite of the pronunciation of her last name.
A.J.’s initial request for my conspiratorial assistance came in the form of a vague e-mail asking if I were free on April 24 to perform a very important task. When I replied affirmatively, he informed me that he planned to ask Amanda to marry him. But he wished to make his proposal on campus – and have it be a complete surprise to her. He asked that I help stage a deception.
That date marked the couple’s four-year anniversary and he knew Amanda would be suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, so we devised a ruse to lure her to Maryville that involved taking photos for a fictitious alumni brochure. I sent them both an e-mail asking them to come to campus for a photo shoot during the afternoon. Amanda quickly and naively pledged her cooperation.
The President’s Conference Center (PCC) was chosen as the venue for A.J.’s proposal. That afternoon our secret group met in the PCC to go over the plan before Amanda arrived. When the actual time came, both Nina and I were there, along with a professional photographer secured by A.J., to document the big occasion.
We assembled before the fireplace. Nina cleared her throat and stepped forward to set the stage.
“Thanks for coming today,” she said to the four of us. “We appreciate your willingness to help us get some photographs for this very important alumni brochure.” Her deception was flawless.
“Nina was amazing,” A.J. said. “The way she prefaced the shoot, for a moment I forgot the whole thing was a set up.”
The photographer shot a few initial photographs to allay any remaining suspicions. Then, at the right time, A.J. slid out a large black book which had been pre-positioned near the fireplace.
“Since we started dating, she has been asking me to write ‘our story,’” he explained. “So, for our anniversary, I put together a picture book of our years together at Maryville.”
The final page of the book was A.J.’s cue; at that moment the three of us backed away from the fireplace. Out of Amanda’s sight line on a nearby chair sat a circular twist tie; yes, that’s right, a twist tie, the kind used to tie a plastic bag of bread. A.J. fumbled for the twist tie before picking it up in his right hand. In his pocket rested the true, elegant wedding band featuring a gleaming, clear diamond in the middle.
A.J. whispered a few words to Amanda, who promptly nodded her head, “yes,” as tears streamed down her face. He slipped the twist tie upon her finger and she burst into laughter.
“She’s been joking with me for awhile about when I was planning to propose,” A.J. later explained, “Each time I would respond, ‘let me get a twist-tie and we’ll do it right now.’” Then, with the outcome a certainty, A.J. stood Amanda up, dropped to one knee, and presented her with the contents of a small gray box.
“Well, what did she say?” Nina asked. Both heads of the couple shook up and down affirmatively and we three witnesses burst into applause, with the photographer simultaneously fumbling with her camera as she clicked her shutter between claps.
Once these formalities were out of the way, our group proceeded to walk around campus and take shots of sentimental value to A.J. and Amanda—Amanda’s old dormitory room in Duchesne, the lobby of the Simon Athletic Center, the front gates of the University, the Donius University Center and the University Library. The circuit was completed while dodging downpours from passing storms.
As the final piece of the couple’s special day, A.J. had informed both families and a circle of close friends who had secretly prepared a surprise reception for the couple in Buder Commons to celebrate. So as dark clouds gathered, tornado sirens wailed and rain started to fall in torrents, we dashed from our last photo site, the Library, across the parking lot to Buder Commons to join the 40 or so guests waiting to welcome the newly betrothed couple.
“What did he say?” “What did she say?” I was asked these same questions again and again. Of course, I merely told the truth that I didn’t hear a thing as I watched A.J. balance upon one knee.
Like I said at the outset, this wasn’t a routine assignment. But it sure was an unusual and fun one for me.
Brooke Boyer, photographer