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Penn State Love Stories: A Christmastime Meeting

For Penn State alumni Lee and Emily Cunningham, holiday romance wasn’t just something that happens in movies and books.

During his freshman year in 2008, Lee worked Theta Delta Chi’s annual Christmas philanthropy in which volunteers gave out books to children at the fraternity house. The event was a joint effort with Sigma Kappa sorority, and Lee had no idea one of the sisters would be turn out to be his future wife.

Lee and Emily only talked briefly on the first night of the event, but Lee instantly felt a connection the moment they met. On the second night, he gladly volunteered to work the holiday trivia table alongside her. The two students spent the night working together, and luckily for Lee, his crush happened to be reciprocated.

“Rumor has it, she told all the girls in the sorority that ‘he’s mine’ and I was off limits,” Lee said.

At the social later that night, Lee knew he had to make an effort to get to know Emily further. He even ended up fishing her cell phone out of a trash can that was completely full. Of course, the two students knew they simply had to exchange their own numbers after that.

“When she first gave me her number, I thought it would be charming to say “Hey I think your really cute” to which her text back was ‘you’re,'” Lee said. “So we were off to a good start.”

The end of the semester soon rolled around, and Emily and Lee continued to chat frequently throughout winter break. Once they arrived back to Happy Valley in January, they went on their first official date at Rotelli’s. After that, Lee and Emily frequently combined date nights with study sessions.

(Photo: Lee Cunningham)

“We had a lot of dates in the Sproul Hall computer lab where Emily lived and I helped her with her Spanish quizzes,” Lee said.

After months spent simply enjoying each other’s company, the pair made the relationship official at the end of the spring 2009 semester. From that moment on, the couple spent nearly the entirety of their Penn State careers together.

Post-graduation, Lee and Emily enjoyed making trips back to Penn State to hang out with old friends. But on one particular trip in 2016, Lee decided to surprise Emily and take the next step in the relationship.

“I convinced some of her sorority sisters to plan a trip back for a weekend,” Lee said. “They made plans to take some pictures on campus.”

Eventually, Emily and rest of the crew headed to Old Main for some photos. But little did she know Lee was waiting right around the corner to surprise her with a proposal.

Emily and Lee got married September 9, 2017 and currently reside in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The couple shares an engraved brick outside Penn State’s Student Bookstore and, of course, make trips back to campus to see My Hero Zero perform whenever possible.

(Photo: Lee Cunningham)
(Photo: Lee Cunningham)

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About the Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]

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