Written by: 
Erin Cristales
Photography by: 
Michael Clements

“Should we go to this?”

Karen Alday (’16) wasn’t certain she should accept the UNT Alumni Association’s invitation to speak at a focus group for recent graduates. What if, the political science and history alum worried, her input wouldn’t be all that valuable?

Her boyfriend, Chris Lee (’17), fought back a smile. “Yes,” he told her, “I think we should go.”

Friends and family gathered at the UNT Alumni Association office to congratulate the newly engaged couple.
Friends and family gathered at the UNT Alumni Association office to congratulate the newly engaged couple.

It’s a good thing she RSVP’d considering the whole event — or rather, fake event — was planned in her honor, a way to lure her back to the pedestrian bridge whose connection, at least to the couple, is a lot more significant than just linking the UNT campus to Apogee Stadium. It’s where Lee, a photography alum, first realized that Alday was “the one” — and a place uniquely suited, he’d decided, to ensuring their connection was of the forever variety.

“When we first started dating, we would go for runs around campus — her favorite things to do were run and bake cookies,” says Lee, who served as a UNT System student regent and vice president of UNT’s Student Government Association, where Alday was the director of leadership and development. “One day, we were running across the campus bridge, and I just had this moment like, ‘This is it — I know it.’”

The two started dating four years before Lee, now an associate mobilization manager at JUUL Labs in Dallas, popped the question July 13. In the weeks leading up to the proposal, Lee was able to quell his nerves, even as he kept the engagement ring hidden in a bag that he always carries with him — one that Alday came in contact with almost daily.

Alday shows her new engagement ring to friends.
Alday shows her new engagement ring to friends.

The big moment was a different story. Prior to the “event,” Lee led Alday — currently a student at Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth — out to the bridge, dropped to one knee and posed the life-altering question. It took a couple of times to get it exactly right.

“Once I got up there, the words didn’t really work,” Lee laughs. “I was like, ‘Here, I have something for you.’ So she made me do it again.”

“The second time was great,” Alday says. “And I’m happy that it happened in a spot that’s so special to us.”

Afterward, the two headed to the UNT Alumni Association office, where friends and family waited in secret to congratulate them. As soon as the couple walked through the door, the room burst into applause, with Lee and Alday receiving hugs and congratulations.   

So is Alday glad she chose to attend the “focus group”?

“I’m very happy that I RSVP’d,” she says. “I honestly did think it was a real thing.”

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