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Hoos in love: The stories of two wedded Cavalier couples

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are two couples who found each other on Grounds

<p>This Valentine’s Day, two stories of married alumni give hope to all of the hopeless romantics on Grounds.&nbsp;</p>

This Valentine’s Day, two stories of married alumni give hope to all of the hopeless romantics on Grounds. 

More likely than not, you have considered the possibility of finding “The One” as a University student. It may have crossed your mind at the sight of two people walking hand-in-hand on the Lawn, or maybe a couple clad in orange and blue at a basketball game tugged at your heartstrings. Whether or not you have pined for college love, there is no denying that the University has brought together thousands of couples over the years. This Valentine’s Day, two stories of married alumni give hope to all of the hopeless romantics on Grounds.

Musically yours

Years before the wedding bells rang, Class of 1996 alumna Jennifer Walker and Class of 1997 alumnus Kris Walker made music on Grounds. As members of the New Dominions and the Virginia Gentlemen, respectively, the two became friends through the University a cappella community.

The couple had their first date at the seventh annual Colonnade Ball in 1995, a philanthropic semi-formal event. A double date with his friends posed the perfect opportunity for Kris to ask Jennifer out.

“I saw this beautiful blonde girl, and I was like, ‘Man, I hope she'll go to the dance with me,’” Kris said.

Their courtship ensued after that night, filled with moments of joy and self-discovery shared amongst themselves and with friends.

“We had lots of fun nights out with friends, whether it was the a capella community or others,” Kris said. “A lot of late evenings just learning about life and studying … and figuring out what we wanted to do when we grew up.”

The Lawn held particular significance in the Walkers’ University romance. It was a site of exciting young love and new beginnings.

“We had our first kiss … on one of the sidewalks on the Lawn,” Jennfier said. “Four years later, [Kris] proposed to me in the same spot.”

The two got married exactly one year after their on-Grounds engagement — on the fifth anniversary of their first kiss. At their wedding, Kris surprised Jennifer with a callback to their first night together at the Colonnade Ball.

“The [Virginia Gentlemen] had a tradition of singing ‘Can't Help Falling In Love’ by Elvis Presley,” Jennifer said. “[They] would pick someone in the crowd to serenade, and so I got picked that night, and they all serenaded me to that song. And then at our wedding, the VGs [and] Kris serenaded me with that song.”

In recent years, a capella reunions on Grounds have become a tradition for the Walkers. They allow Kris and Jennifer to reflect on the magical origins of their relationship.

“It's special because we both met here,” Kris said. “So we're able to go back and reminisce together because we have that shared experience at the University.”

Two writers walk into a bar

Over the lively din of music and chatter, Class of 1991 alumna Jennifer Howard and Class of 1990 alumnus Mark Trainer began a conversation in Zipper's Restaurant that would blossom into their relationship. Completing a Master of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing, respectively, the two wrote the beginnings of their love story that fateful night. They arrived at the bar separately but wound up sitting next to each other — a chance encounter that, for Howard, felt predestined.

“Our meeting was sort of serendipitous,” Howard said. “But looking back, it makes sense given that we probably would have met eventually.”

As they neared the end of their stay at Zipper’s, Howard offered Trainer a car ride home. He accepted, not wanting his conversation with Howard to end.

“I didn't tell her that I probably lived about two blocks away,” Trainer said. “But it seemed like a good opportunity to talk to [her].”

The two began to see each other more often, spending time with fellow writers outside of Wilson Hall and picnicking together in the Pavilion Gardens. For Howard, Grounds became entwined in the early days of their relationship.

“We would often meet up at the Rotunda and go to lunch,” Howard said. “Grounds is really part of the tradition for us. It's such a nice living space, and it was a good place to fall in love … So much of our romance played out right on the Lawn and Grounds and The Corner.”

Howard and Trainer got married on Park Street in downtown Charlottesville just one day before the anniversary of the night they met. Although Zipper’s Restaurant is gone, the University remains a treasured place for the couple. The two frequent the area to visit their two children, who are current undergraduate students at the University. Fond memories resurface as soon as the couple arrives on Grounds.

“Charlottesville is a big part of our relationship,” Trainer said. “Once you hit University Avenue and Emmet Street, it all comes back.”


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