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February 2013

Alumni love

UNCG is where many people find purpose, meaning and direction. However, some students and faculty found a lot more than that during their time on campus. For some, UNCG has proven an outstanding spot for finding love.

Newlyweds Aden and Chris enter the Virginia Dare Room of the Alumni House.

Newlyweds Aden and Chris enter the Virginia Dare Room of the Alumni House.
Image credit: This Paper Ship.

According to university records, there are almost 3,000 UNCG alumni couples out there, from newlyweds to… not-so-newlyweds. Some even chose the university's campus as the backdrop for their wedding day. In honor of Valentine's Day, we wanted to showcase one such couple who found each other right here at UNCG.

It was the summer of 2006, and geography major Aden Hailemariam was preparing for her senior year at UNCG. It was her first summer in Greensboro, having returned home to her native Cary, NC, during previous summer breaks. She had been fortunate enough to land two part-time campus jobs — one with the Office of Technology Transfer, now known as the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, and one with Housing and Residence Life — and she was excited to meet new people and enjoy a little freedom.

One of those new people was Chris Sandman, a new Bryan MBA student and a licensing assistant at the Office of Technology Transfer. The two were little more than passing acquaintances that summer, but stayed in contact throughout the following year before having their first date in the spring of 2007.

The jury is still out on when, exactly, the couple had their first official date. “Chris always refers to the time he invited me to go to a Cirque du Soleil show at the Greensboro Coliseum,” says Aden. “At the time I was interested in him but I always thought we were going as friends.” Chris concedes that the exact definition of the outing may have been unclear. “I don't think she thought it was a date, but I still consider it to be our first date to this day,” he says. “It was a great show and we had an incredible time.”

However, the two do agree on the details of a landmark that occurred shortly thereafter, when the couple attended a costume party thrown by friends. “We went as matching aliens with green paint,” Chris says, “and we had our first kiss while watching ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ after the party.”

After considering several options for graduate school, Aden chose to attend UNCG's Conflict Resolution (now Conflict and Peace Studies) master's program, which meant she would stay in Greensboro where Chris was finishing his MBA. After completing their respective programs, the two hoped to settle in Greensboro. Chris took a position that required frequent international travel, but Aden was even able to accompany him on some of his longer-term trips abroad. Aden took a position with the United Way of Greater Greensboro. The two grew closer. Aden's parents, who are originally from Eritrea, Africa, were initially cautious of the cultural differences between Aden and Chris. However, Chris was undeterred. “I convinced her family over time that although I was not Eritrean, I truly cared for their daughter and gradually earned their trust and respect.“

Then, in 2010, the couple decided to take things one step further. Chris asked Aden to meet him at Old Town Draught House, located just off of the UNCG campus, for a drink, followed by a walk across campus. It was there that Chris planned to propose. All did not go exactly as planned. “Unfortunately, there was a guy on his speaker phone at the fountain and after trying to wait him out for about 30 minutes Aden was getting restless and wanted to leave,” says Chris, “so we walked by a garden closer to the front of the music building and down by a small creek.”

“Chris started fidgeting with his pocket, and I started getting suspicious,” Aden says, and her suspicions were heightened when Chris set up a camera on a tripod to take a picture of the two of them.

Those suspicions were confirmed as Chris dropped to one knee and asked Aden to marry him. She agreed.

The two soon relocated to Baltimore, where Chris had been offered a new job, but when it came time for the ceremony, they knew they wanted to return to where it all began. They found, on a caterer's web site, that the Alumni House was a possible wedding venue. “It seemed perfect,” Aden says. “UNCG was our alma mater and we loved the idea of coming back there and to Greensboro to celebrate our relationship with a wedding.”

The two were married in May 2011, and are in the process of living happily ever after. “We truly were and are college sweethearts,” Chris says, “and I look forward to all of the adventures we will spend together over the rest of our lifetime.”





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