Marry Me, Sooner Style?
Consider it written in stone. Literally, in the case of Braden Bowles (’17, Human Relations).
When Bowles decided he was going to propose last month to his girlfriend, Nicole Dunton (’17, Medical Imaging and Radiation Science), he figured the moment should be etched in both their memories, as well as a paver in the University of Oklahoma’s Memorial Union Courtyard.
“I knew I wanted to propose somewhere on campus all along,” Braden explained. “However, when I came across the paver idea, I knew it was perfect. Nicole and I will continue to come back to home football games for as long as we live, and I just kept thinking how cool it would be to be able to show our friends and family any time we are in Norman, the exact spot where we got engaged.”
That spot is now permanently marked in the Courtyard, covered by the collegiate gothic arches of the Archie W. Dunham Conoco Student Leadership Center, mixed among more familiar milestones, like the graduation pavers that dot the courtyard as part of OU Alumni Association’s paver program. Nicole says the first moment she saw Braden’s limestone love letter, it was as special as he had hoped.
“I was completely surprised,” she recalled. “When we walked around the corner and I saw our names and ‘will you marry me’ cemented in the ground...wow, there’s no vocabulary to describe how special it was. I immediately put my hand on my heart because I thought it was going to pop out of my chest.”
The idea to drop to a knee on a blustery Oklahoma afternoon in January surrounded by the friendly confines of the courtyard came from Braden’s memories of his mother and father reminiscing about meeting on their college campus.
“They met at East Central University (in Ada, Oklahoma), and love to talk about their college days,” he noted. “They think it is great that Nicole and I will always be able to go back to the exact spot that we got engaged.”
Despite being the coldest of January days, with clouds casting their gray mood on campus, Nicole said all involved, including her parents and sister, were warmed by the moment, which they were able to witness from inside the Union.
“It meant so much to my parents that Braden was so thoughtful and intentional about the proposal,” she recalled. “I think it is a great reflection of the man he is. My parents especially love the legacy it will leave.”
The future bride, now a radiation therapist in Dallas, and groom, who works in Virginia for Ft. Worth-based Escalante Golf, have a history of big moments on campus. Soon after meeting during dinner with a friend, Braden asked Nicole to be his girlfriend in the Passion Pit on the South Oval during their sophomore year. They also enjoyed the smaller moments together. At least Braden did.
“Nicole had no idea at the time, but since she spent so much time studying in the Biz (Bizzell Memorial Library), I used to go with her and watch movies on my laptop just to be around her,” Braden said of the couple’s early “dates.” “She has always been the smart one.”
Braden, according to Nicole, also has had his bright moments. Like that first dinner.
“He paid for my dinner that night,” she pointed out. “Pretty smart, huh?”
“OU is a special place for so many reasons,” Braden explained about the couple’s deep connection to their alma mater. “For me, it’s because of the relationships that were formed there. Not only did I meet the love of my life at OU, but I also made some of the best friends that I will have for the rest of my life – friends who will stand next to me on my wedding day and be active in my life forever.”
Nicole echoed Braden’s sentiment.
“OU provided me with an incredible education and gave me all the tools I need to be successful in a career that I am extremely passionate about,” she said. “But, most importantly, it gave us relationships. A relationship with each other and a relationship with the friends we love. We cherish OU. So many times, we find ourselves in situations and say to each other, ‘if it wasn’t for OU, we wouldn’t be here’.”
Among the next places the couple will find themselves is the altar in January 2020 in The Woodlands, Texas, Nicole’s hometown. Their wedding will come almost a year to the day an inscription in a peaceful courtyard became the opening line of a shared story. That day, as well, will involve a little Sooner planning.
“We had to make sure we didn’t schedule the wedding on a football gameday or during the College Football Playoffs,” Braden noted. “It’s safe to say we will pay tribute to Oklahoma at our wedding.”