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Meet three couples brought together by Indiana University

Feb 14, 2018

It’s no coincidence that the colors that represent Valentine’s Day also represent Indiana University – a place that inspires passion and brings people together from all parts of the globe.

Inside IU caught up with three couples for whom their campus played a role in their relationship. Meet them:

Kristen and Kevin Boehnlein, IU Southeast

Kevin and Kristen Boehnlein
Kevin and Kristen Boehnlein

When Kristen and Kevin Boehnlein were set up on their first date, they had more in common than the mutual friend who set them up.

They were both students in political science at Indiana University Southeast, and they used their shared interests to build their relationship. When Kevin became student body president, Kristen joined the Student Government Association. They participated in Model United Nations together. On breaks during long days on campus, the couple would meet up for a dinner date at the campus grill or to take a stroll.

“We created great bonds at IU Southeast with new friends and kept old ones with friends from high school,” Kevin said. “It was those bonds that led to us meeting each other. We saw each other frequently through student government and other social functions. We met often after classes and had some of our most important future planning meetings together on campus.”

One of those important planning moments came in May 1996. The two were chatting on the phone about the future, when Kristen could feel things were getting serious. She hopped in the car and met Kevin on campus. They decided in the IU Southeast parking lot that they would spend the rest of their lives together.

The Boehnleins felt that since IU Southeast played such a large role in their engagement, it should play a role in their wedding, too. They hosted their rehearsal dinner on campus and invited several IU Southeast professors to the wedding.

“Our professors took a personal interest in each of us,” Kristen said. “Many of the same professors had built close relationships with both Kevin and I separately and poured into us as a young couple preparing for marriage and careers. Dr. Linda Gugin, Jim St. Clair, Dr. Cliff Staten, Dr. Thomas Wolf, Jim Stammerman and many other faculty and staff invited us to dinners and even into their homes as we approached graduation. Some of these professors are still in close contact with us more than 20 years later.”

Though they won’t be spending their Valentine’s Day on the IU Southeast campus this year, IU will still play a role in how they celebrate the holiday. The two plan to cheer on the Hoosier basketball team against University of Illinois with their two “sports-crazed” daughters, the oldest of whom said “IU” as her first words.

For more IU Southeast love stories from alumni and students, check out Southeast Sweethearts.

Jim Johnson and Barry Magee, IU Bloomington

Jim Johnson and Barry Magee
Jim Johnson and Barry Magee

Jim Johnson and Barry Magee work on the same college campus today, but this isn’t their first experience in sharing a workspace. Barry, who worked for the national headquarters of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, met Jim when he came to work for the headquarters as well.

Jim and Barry took on IU as a couple when they came to pursue master’s degrees in higher education. They said their coursework was a key factor in their choosing IU, but they also loved extracurricular opportunities in town.

“Both of us came here and really loved campus,” Barry said. “We loved Bloomington. There’s so much for both of us here, and there are things we grew to love. Both of us have undergrad degrees in music, and there are so many arts things to do here – performances, opera, dance.”

Today, Jim is the assistant director of the Undergraduate Program in the Kelley School of Business. Barry is the associate director for selection, diversity and inclusion in Residential Life.

Busy schedules with undergraduates keep the couple from seeing each other at work as much as they’d like, but they have been able to streamline certain factors over the years.

“Sometimes we trade cars; there’s a convenience factor to it,” Jim said. “Sometimes we run into each other at campus meetings or events.”

Jim and Barry took their IU bond to the next level in 1999, when they married in Beck Chapel and held their wedding reception in the Federal Room on campus. They legally married at the Zietlow Justice Center in town in 2014.

Being on a campus that is socially conscious, engaged and involved keeps the couple content.

“There are lots of factors keeping us here, just because we love the campus so much,” Jim said. “We feel welcomed and supported.”

Sydney and Brandon Sparks, IUPUI

Sydney and Brandon Sparks
Brandon and Sydney Sparks

The last thing IUPUI student Sydney Sparks expected to hear from her co-worker at the IUPUI University Writing Center on a nondescript Monday morning was that his son would be there to meet her in 15 minutes.

She’d worked alongside Terry Sparks – a nontraditional, older student working toward his teaching certification in the School of Education – at the writing center for several months at that point, and she both respected and admired him. He’d become a mentor.

But she’d expected nothing special for her day and had dressed to reflect that: ripped jeans, T-shirt, a sweatshirt. “I just thought ‘Well, this is just going to be hilarious,’” she recalled.

In walked Brandon Sparks. Terry introduced them, and they chatted while she tended the phones and greeted visitors to the writing center.

“I was sure I was never going to see him again,” Sydney said. “And I told everyone I knew, because I like telling stories, and I just thought it was funny.”

But then Terry told Sydney that his son thanked him for introducing them and asked for her phone number. First, there were texts. Then, some friendly visits to coffee shops and museums. And finally, a conversation about the awkwardness of their first date, when neither of them knew each other or even realized it was a date.

But the friendship was so easy and comfortable and just right that, within the next month or so, they were officially dating and discussing more serious potential commitments.

“There were a lot of things that just kind of fell into place that showed he was the one,” Sydney said.

In November 2016, both families gathered at Sydney’s grandparents’ house to celebrate birthdays. Sydney’s dad announced they were going outside to the gazebo to pray over the meal. After the prayer led by Terry, Sydney realized all eyes were on her and Brandon – who then dropped to one knee.

They married in June 2017.


IU Newsroom

Marah Yankey

Deputy director for storytelling

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