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AlumniFebruary 14, 2022

Lions Find Love at UAFS

Written By: Samantha Contreras

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith gathered together generations of our Lion Love Stories. Dedicated to the students who met in our Westark Community College days and the university as it is known today.

A Proposal to Remember

CarolAnn S., ’07, and Lavelle S., ‘14

Carol Ann and Lavelle Sturgis

CarolAnn writes: “I graduated with my associate degree in December of 2007. While taking classes at UAFS, I became a huge Lions fan! I continued coming to all the games after I graduated. In 2013, I met Lavelle. He and my brother were the managers for the Men’s Basketball team. They were good friends. We were all at the same Volleyball game cheering on the Lady Lions, and as luck would have it, Lavelle noticed me and asked my brother if he knew me. He told him, “Yeah, dude, that’s my sister!”

Lavelle then asked me if I was single, and when he heard yes, he was determined to date me. It was not an easy task on his part! I told him no – a lot. But he never gave up, and I’m so grateful he didn’t. We started dating in December of 2013.

Lavelle graduated with his associate degree in December of 2014. We kept going to the games and enjoyed cheering on the Lions. On Feb. 5, 2015, I started my new job in the Athletic Department at UAFS. That was right up my alley since I loved sports and loved the Lions. It was a tough first week; there were lots of activities and lots of hours of work. Even my co-workers were surprised I didn’t quit. But I didn’t mind the work and knew I would like it. What I didn’t realize was Lavelle had teamed up with my co-workers and the Cheer team to plan an incredible, unforgettable proposal.

He kept making excuses about why he was “busy,” when actually he was preparing his performance with the Cheer team for the big day, Feb.14, 2015, Valentine’s Day. We had home basketball games. I got to work, and there were flowers, candy, and a sweet card on my desk. There were a lot of things going on that day during the games. One was the Little Lions Cheer Camp, where the Cheer team helps the little kids with their cheer performances. I take pictures as a hobby, and my co-workers used that as an excuse to get me on the court at halftime. They told me they needed me to take pictures of the little kids performing.

Halftime came, and I went down and sat on the side of the court in the center and waited to take pictures as I was supposed to do. Little did I know I was taking pictures of my own engagement proposal! I was oblivious to what was going on. The song “Marry You” by Bruno Mars playing in the background, and I didn’t even realize it. I was there to take pictures, and that’s what I was doing. The Cheer team started performing, and the Lion mascot came out dancing down center court. He came straight to me and put his hand out. I said, “Heck no, I’m not going out there!” I thought my co-workers liked me! Was this some kind of initiation?

The cheer coach was beside me and reached for my camera, and she said, “You gotta go!”

 I still had no idea what was going on. It was my second week of work, and I was dancing with the school mascot in the center of the court during halftime in front of a packed gym. I was so nervous! I didn’t even see the Cheer team holding up signs that said, “Will You Marry Me?”

 The Lion got down on one knee and took his head off, and it was Lavelle! Right there, in front of all those people in the middle of a basketball game, Lavelle asked me to marry him, and I said YES!

We hugged, and he went back to the team to get ready for the second half of the game. People kept asking me to see the ring, and realized he didn’t give it to me. He was so nervous he forgot! He had handed the box to my aunt, and the ring was still in it.

We met on campus and got engaged on campus, so it was only fitting that we got married on campus as well.

On June 11, 2016, we got married at The Blue Lion – UAFS Downtown. UAFS is so special to both of us. It is our love story. We both went to school there, we met there, we got engaged there, we got married there, and now we both work there. The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith is a huge part of our life, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are happily married, and we are enjoying life with our sweet dogs, Ozzie and Bear. We love to cruise and go on trips, and of course, we still love our Lions!


A Friend of a Friend

Regina M., ’77

Regina writes: “My husband and I went to the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith because it was local. His sisters had gone there and gotten nursing degrees. I didn’t know him until we went to college together. I met him through a friend who was dating his best friend. He was a non-traditional student who started taking night classes after three years of service in the US Navy.

My favorite memory is being a cheerleader for a semester. All the home games were memorable, and it was a nice atmosphere. The other memorable thing was the friends that I made. A lot of my classmates from high school went to Westark Community College. I was also the secretary of the Black Student Alliance. I think college helped in my career because of my business major. A lot of the things that I learned there, like communication and the nature of business law, have helped me in my career.

My husband’s degree was in mechanical drafting, which helped him in his job with Entergy. He started in that field first and then went to mechanical engineering. I think it’s great. Westark was one of the top junior colleges academically and in sports, especially baseball and basketball. I just always thought it was a good college. I liked the overall experience. It was nice to have people I knew from high school. We came over, and people were close and did campus activities together. I’ve always thought it was a well-rounded school.


Cub Camp Survival Guide to Romance

Hannah W., ’22, and Bao H., ’22

Hannah and Bao

Hannah writes: My partner’s name is Bao, and we have been dating for two years and four months now, since September of 2019. I am a senior biology major, and he is a senior organizational leadership major. We initially met through one of my best friends, someone Bao went on a date with during our freshman year. He saw us hanging out in the South Den lobby one night and sent a box of McDonald’s cookies down the elevator to her with his name and number on it. Of course, I ate a cookie and supported her going on a date with him – they were good cookies. Despite the sweet gesture, nothing came of their date, and I would later find out that was to my benefit.

I always thought Bao was a nice, attractive guy, but I hadn’t considered dating him as he didn’t cross my mind often. It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that I found myself crushing on him hard. We had spent the summer working together as Red Camp counselors for Cub Camp. Even though I hardly knew anything about him, I would come home from almost every Cub Camp workday and let my friends know just how big of a crush I had on him. It wasn’t just his looks or sense of humor that got me (although they definitely played a part), but he was easygoing, fun to be around, and a kind human. Despite how much I had started to like him, I didn’t think he felt the same way, so I didn’t put much hope into the potential for a future relationship but just enjoyed getting to know him as summer went on.

Eventually, August rolled around, and with it came Cub Camp. I was excited because I love Cub Camp and getting to introduce freshmen to UAFS and all it has to offer.  but I was feeling like every moment was bittersweet because Red Camp 2019 had given me so many good friends and memories. At this point, Bao and I had gotten closer, to the point where we would just look at each other and laugh about the same thing because we knew what the other was thinking,. However, I had basically given up on us ever being together because I never got the feeling that he thought of me as more than a friend. We got through the end of Cub Camp and nothing had really changed until the first day of classes at Howdy Dance.

One of our fellow red camp counselors broke the news to me that Bao had liked me for a long time. The whole time. Little did I know that some of our campers knew about it and were in on setting us up on a date! I never thought of myself as clueless in social settings until that night. How I could have not known that he felt the same way about me all summer. With this new revelation, Bao invited me to Benson’s to eat and hang out with some mutual friends and ended up asking me out on a date later that week. Pretty quickly, we were spending most of our free time together. We would eat lunch in the Lion’s Den dining hall together and hang out between classes. I would even bring snacks and do homework with him while he practiced his music. (He was a music major at the time.)

He taught me how to greet his family and say basic Vietnamese phrases, and I met his parents and sisters early in our relationship. I had assumed we were already dating until I came home late from cheer practice one night and walked into my apartment to find it dark, covered in rose petals, and with a lot of people I didn’t know standing in line to hand me roses as I walked to my room- they turned out to be his fraternity brothers. I nervously laughed the whole time and was still very sweaty from practice, but melted when I got to my room and he was standing there, had cleaned my room (I was mortified about that at the time), and with a very large bouquet of roses, asked me to be his girlfriend! Of course I said yes and we have been dating ever since! I still crush on him as much today as I did summer of 2019 and now we live together, have a pet cat named Louis, and we can’t wait to graduate and see what the future holds!”


Saved by the Bell

Nancy B. ’93, and Charlie B. ’93

Nancy writes: “My husband and I took an accounting class together. We sat by each other in class, and it took three meetings in the course before our teacher figured things out. He said, “Are you two married?” We said, “Yes.”

My husband, Charlie, loves to tell the grandchildren that he had an A grade point average at Westark Community College. He took three classes: accounting with me, a piano class, and a business law class, but what he got was an A for effort. One of my favorite professors happened to be my neighbor down the street. I had to do very well in his class because he was my neighbor. Charlie and I took night classes, and that was so good to have because I worked 40 hours a week. I also got a lot of my hours done during summer classes, and that helped as well. I still drive by the campus weekly. It has continued to grow larger, and it was amazing to see what happened.