A Decent Proposal

August 21, 2007

Steven Farrell, BBA '05, certainly knows how to make a lasting impression. On the evening of May 19, the Longview, Texas native and his girlfriend, Nancy Sarine, BA '06, traveled from Dallas to Waco to attend a Baylor baseball game against Big 12 opponent Kansas State. While the night would prove successful for the Bears, posting the second win of a three-game sweep of the Wildcats, the evening would forever be memorable to Sarine and Farrell for an altogether different reason.
The drive to Waco seemed normal enough; however, after only a few innings, Farrell began acting strange. "He wanted to leave the baseball game early," Sarine says. They were at Baylor Ballpark for only half an hour before Farrell was ready to leave. "He said he was really hungry and that he wanted to walk around campus! It is very, very unlike Steven to pay for tickets and only stay for 30 minutes," she says. Meanwhile, Farrell's biggest concern was not simply the price of a couple of baseball tickets, but something that threatened to ruin his entire plan: the sun was quickly setting.
Sarine and Farrell headed out across a campus mostly deserted, except for the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, where a few other guests were also visiting Baylor's two live bear mascots. While Farrell was relieved to find the area well-lit, Sarine noticed that he seemed a bit agitated that another couple was standing right where he wanted to be. Although Sarine didn't know why, she says Farrell "began sweating and became a little flushed" upon their arrival. Sarine found it odd when "Steven suggested that we 'sneak up on the bears to get a picture of them.'" In reality, Farrell was stalling. 
"I think we read every sign and looked at the bears for about 20 minutes," Sarine says. "Finally the people left the area and we began walking around to the other side [of the Bear Habitat]. We came up to the brick sidewalk and he directed my attention down to the engraved bricks. ... We were looking at the names and noticed a few that we knew." After discovering her name on the last marked brick, Sarine went in for a closer look. The brick read, "Nancy, will you marry me? SBF."
For months, Farrell had been planning on proposing to Sarine by having a brick engraved and set in the pathway at the Bear Habitat. The Baylor game was his ploy to lure the unsuspecting Sarine to Waco because they had enjoyed many games together as students. As May rolled around, Farrell's window of opportunity was closing along with the Bears' 2007 home schedule; he had to work quickly. 
Farrell contacted Donna Price, stewardship coordinator for University Development, to ask about the possibility of having a brick engraved and installed at the Bear Habitat within two weeks. Price explained that the next brick installation was not scheduled until Homecoming, but once Farrell revealed his intentions, she sprang into action, enlisting the help of development administrative assistant Susan McCallister and other Baylor facilities personnel. "Of course Steven's story inspired me to want to help him--who wouldn't want to help with such a romantic proposal?" Price asks. "When I told those involved of Steven's plan, everyone was eager to help make it work."
"Donna made the impossible happen, flawlessly," Farrell says. "She did an amazing job and stayed in contact throughout the whole process." Price phoned and e-mailed Farrell more than a dozen times over a two-week period, even e-mailing him a layout of the brick path so he could choose the exact spot for his brick. She sent him a draft of the engraving to make sure the message was exactly what Farrell wanted to say. 
"Obviously, it was important to get this right," Price says. The regular engraver was on vacation, so she scrambled to find another who could meet the short deadline. Price's work was so thorough, Farrell did not even need to venture to Waco until the night he proposed. "Donna was on top of my special needs, and it made a difference. She made me feel very comfortable and secure doing this without ever seeing the brick." 
To ensure the proposal would be a surprise, Farrell asked to have the brick installed only the day before "just to make sure that none of Nancy's friends happened to see the brick and call to ask her about it." Once the brick was set, Price sent Farrell a photo confirming its location. On her way home from work, she went out of her way to sweep sand out of the brick's letters in order to make it completely legible for the big event. All of the preparation and hard work paid off.
"I read it about eight times before it really sunk in," Sarine says. Farrell remembers her staring at the brick: "Nancy kept saying, 'Okay, that's me, and that's you.' She was shocked beyond all belief. Her jaw just fell. Then I dropped down to one knee, and she said 'yes.'" 
"I was completely surprised," Sarine recalls. "I didn't have any idea about his proposal ideas and never thought that he would come up with something this creative!  I am so glad he did it at Baylor, because this is where we met."
Farrell says he and Sarine have great memories of quality time spent at the Bear Habitat while attending Baylor, and now, thanks to the efforts of some very committed Baylor personnel, they will have one more memory to top them all. "This is something that will be there forever, something that we can reflect on, go back to, and show our friends and family," Farrell notes. "Without Donna's help, special attention to detail, and ambition to make a difference, none of this would have been possible." 
Farrell and Sarine plan to wed on May 18, 2008, in the bride's hometown of Sulphur Springs, Texas.