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The Proposal Behind the Picture

On Sunday, we posted a remarkable photo (seen above) from former Social Media Manager David Morar of a couple, mere seconds after their engagement proposal. Morar, not wanting to detract from the moment, left the two to enjoy their day, and didn’t ask for their names. Onward State has since tracked down the two Penn State graduates to find out more about their story and how they arrived at Old Main yesterday for this special moment.

Some seven years before the big day, two Penns Valley teenagers, Chris Melville and Donelle Cook, met on the set of a play. They weren’t veteran thespians or even remotely interested in acting, though. They just wanted to help a mutual friend with her senior project.

Flash-forward to February 3rd, 2013. When Chris, a Class of 2010 Penn State grad, woke up on Sunday morning, proposing to his longtime love was not on the agenda. But buying the engagement ring was. Jim, a friend who had offered to help finance the ring, notified Melville that he was making a stop in State College on Sunday.

(The name “Jim” is used to replace the name of a friend who asked not to be mentioned directly.)

The two friends met up a bit before noon and strolled down to Kranich’s Jewelers — the only jewelry store open at that time. Chris didn’t waste much time; there wasn’t any reason to. He knew what he wanted, but more importantly, he knew what Donelle wanted.

After examining a few rings, he settled on a classic 14-karat white gold band with a flawlessly centered single diamond that caught the eye of anyone in the same room. With the ring selection process over, the two pals went to meet Chris’ soon-to-be-fiancée, a Class of 2011 grad herself, for lunch.

Keep in mind, Chris didn’t really anticipate proposing to Donelle on Sunday, despite having the ring. He thought he would hold off until he devised a more structured plan. But as the day progressed, his thoughts changed — so did the weather. As the three were finishing a late lunch at Indian Pavilion, Chris glanced out the window, and noticed the huge snowflakes swirling onto Calder Way.

“It was snowing so beautifully out there,” he thought to himself, fully aware that Donelle’s engagement ring sat in his pant pocket.

He couldn’t pass up the moment. When the trio left the restaurant, Chris and Jim fell back a bit, allowing Donelle to casually walk a few feet in front of them.

“Dude, when are we gonna do this,” Jim quietly whispered.

“Let’s go up to Old Main and do it right now,” Chris replied, with a grin on his face.

But Chris couldn’t just ask Donelle if she wanted to take a walk up to Old Main; that’d be too random and out of the ordinary. Chris had to preserve the element of surprise. Jim, who brought a camera with him to lunch, stuck to the newly conspired idea. He politely asked the couple if they’d like to trek up to Old Main to take pictures of Penn State’s most prestigious edifice in the snow. Chris quickly agreed. Donelle, having not a clue about what was soon to occur, hesitated for a moment, but eventually obliged.

So off they went across College Avenue, and up onto the picturesque, snowy Old Main lawn…to “take pictures.”

At this point, there was a slight problem. Chris and Jim never agreed on a pinpoint location. “Old Main” is, as any Penn Stater would know, quite a large location. Did Chris mean the Old Main lawn? The steps? The recently restored Old Main Bell?

“Where are we gonna take these pictures,” Jim innocently inquired, wanting Chris to decide the perfect spot. “Maybe we should go up by the [sun dial].”

Standing amidst a heavy snow shower in the middle of an Old Main lawn crosswalk, Chris looked down at Donelle for a moment. Then he shifted his eyes back to Jim.

“Let’s just do it right here,” he said.

That was it. That was the moment. That was when Chris knelt on his right knee and asked the girl he’s loved since the 12th grade to marry him.

Donelle tried to say “yes,” but she couldn’t. She was too overcome with emotion to utter any words, let alone articulate sentences.

“I realized a few hours afterward that I never actually told Chris, ‘Yes, I will marry you,’” Donelle said. “I was that speechless.”

The rest of the day was theirs. The newly engaged couple basked in their elation all afternoon and later continued their celebration at a local bar, where they watched the Super Bowl with a group of friends.

After the Sunday was winding down and coming to a close, Chris and Donelle retreated back to their State College apartment. Chris had graduate classes to attend to the next day.

For Donelle, well, she’s having a hard time controlling her excitement.

“My cheeks still hurt from smiling,” she said.

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About the Author

Ryan Beckler

Ryan is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He is a Lion Ambassador who loves giving tours to prospective students. His favorite activities include distributing news and consuming Chipotle.

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