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Featured Golden Eagle Lovebirds

2021 Golden Eagle Lovebirds Winners

J.D. and Mary Kitchen

John David (J.D.) and Mary Ramsay Van Brink from Acworth, Georgia, are the 2021 Golden Eagle Lovebirds winners. J.D. graduated from Tech in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and in 1984 with a master’s degree in business administration, and Mary graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. 

Here, J.D. remembers how he met Mary nearly 40 years ago, but it wasn’t exactly love at first sight!

“My wife Mary and I met at Tech in our senior year in the fall of 1982. If you had asked us after our first meeting whether we would be celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary in 2021, we both would have called you crazy. We were standing outside the University Center and my future wife stepped on my left shoe. When I said, ‘Excuse me, but these are new shoes that I just bought yesterday,’ she stepped on my right shoe and said, ‘There. Now they are even.’ To say the least, I was not impressed by this obnoxious shoe-stepper.

“Not long after that dubious first encounter, we met again when Mary came to the lobby in her dormitory to tell me that she was supposed to keep me occupied because her roommate, Sallye, was going to be late for our study date. Sallye and I both majored in management information systems, had similar class schedules and got together frequently to study. While engaging in small talk, I noticed that the bottom of Mary’s shirt was moving. When I asked her if she had some strange deformity, she unbuttoned the bottom two buttons of her shirt and pulled out Babette, her pet guinea pig. At that point I thought that Mary was both obnoxious and weird and certainly not future wife material.

“Well, that all changed a couple months later when Mary offered to drive me home from work one night.  I worked at the College of Business computer facility and lived in my Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity house, which was a couple blocks from the other side of the campus. Mary was taking a pass/fail computer programming class in her last quarter and, as I did for anyone else who needed it, I helped her a few times with her programs. So, when she heard my fraternity brother tell me that he would not be able to give me a ride home later that night, Mary offered to chauffer me to show her appreciation for my help.

“In her car, I mentioned that there was a Simon and Garfunkel concert on HBO that night. Mary told me that they were her favorite group and that she could play ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ on the piano.  I was impressed and asked her if she would like to watch the concert with me at my fraternity house, and she accepted.

“Next, I asked her if she liked beer. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she was actually a beer-chugging champion. We decided to pool our money and buy a six-pack of Michelob at the convenience store that was near my fraternity house.

“We sat in the back of the common room, watching the concert, quietly singing the songs, giving each other shoulder massages, talking about ourselves and our futures, and realized that we had a lot in common. We found out that we both enjoyed cooking, browsed my cookbook and made a date for the next day to make a Dutch Beef recipe in my crockpot. Early the next morning Mary bought the ingredients with our pooled cash, and the food cooked all that day in my fraternity house while we were in class. Needless to say, my fraternity brothers were quite envious.

“We got together every night that week. On Valentine’s Day, exactly one week from our first date, I asked Mary to marry me, and she quickly accepted. About six weeks later, we were married in my fraternity house by County Commissioner Waldo Powers – with family and friends in attendance. Our entire wedding cost about $100, including one borrowed ring, a $20 tip to Mr. Powers, a decorated Kroger wedding cake and flowers, and a roll of film for pictures taken by a fraternity brother.

“As part of our vows I asked that Mary never lie to me, and she asked that I never take her for granted.  Our marriage began as a friendship based on mutual trust and admiration, has grown to a love that will never end, and we have always kept our vows. In addition to getting a great education at Tech, Mary and I found each other, and we will be forever grateful.”

Previously Featured Lovebirds

  • 2020 Lovebirds - Tom and Jackie Moore

    Portrait of Tom and Jackie Moore

    Tom Moore, electrical engineering '62
    Jackie Wall Moore

    "We met in 1962 in the student government office. I asked Leonard Crawford if he had a work scholarship recipient who could do some clerical work for the ASB (student government). He sent this beautiful young co-ed. The rest is history. We married in December of 1962. Fifty-seven years later, we’re still married and enjoying retirement."

  • 2019 Lovebirds - Bruce and Melinda Hatfield

    The Hatfields on Overall Field

    Melinda Clayton Hatfield, accounting '90
    Bruce Hatfield, health and physical education '90

    Bruce was a member of the TTU football team and I was a member of the Lady Eaglette basketball team. We had mutual friends and saw each other a lot in the back cafe for athletes. I finally got up enough nerve to talk to him one day, then after a few days he asked me out. He took me to the seafood buffet at the Holiday Inn, which was a huge deal for me since I had never eaten seafood before. First and last time eating an oyster. We dated at Tech for 4 years, then graduated together. He proposed to me in Paris France the next Spring and we were married in 1992. After 25 years of marriage, 2 daughters and many more football and basketball seasons, Bruce accepted a position as an Assistant Football coach at Tech in January 2018. So 33 years later, we are walking the halls of the UC, eating in the cafe, and cheering on the football and basketball teams again. Some things have changed, but the relationships with coaches, administrators, professors and fans makes being back in Purple and Gold so special!

  • 2018 Lovebirds - Chris and Karen Nelson Savage

    The Savages

    Karen Nelson Savage, marketing '91
    Chris Savage, civil engineering '94

    In the 80s there were not co-ed dorms, but there was however, brother and sister dorms. I was a resident of White Hall and Chris lived in Miller Hall. The resident leaders of our dorms planned activities for us to do together. We met at one of these activities and became fast friends. We had so much in common and spent time together hanging out most every day and also on weekends. I remember telling a friend that I could never date him because he was too much like a brother to me. Luckily, those feelings changed for both of us, as we soon realized that our friendship had blossomed into so much more. One night, Chris called me from the lobby to come check him in, and when I got there he had a single red rose. He handed it to me and said, "Would you like to go out on a date with me on Thursday night?" Of course, I said "yes!" We dated for six months and became engaged, and then after a year of engagement, we were married in 1989--28 years ago this past August. We both have fond memories of late night strolls on the Tennessee Tech campus, snow ball fights in the quad, watching movies in the dorm lobby, and ball games. Getting an exceptional education was definitely the key attraction we both initially had, but we got so much more! We got each other!

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