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Rich Eckert never imagined that accepting a position at Illinois State would lead him to the love of his life.

He was studying in Pennsylvania when a job offer came from ISU Athletics in 2010. He relocated to Normal for the opportunity, focused on the job and completing his graduate work. He earned a master’s in sport management in 2012.

It was through the Athletics program that Rich met his future bride, Ashley Kuhlmann ’06. She studied to be a physical education teacher. Ashley continued living in Normal while teaching health and PE at Pekin Community High School.

Mutual friends brought the two together for an ISU home football game in September 2010. Afterwards the group went to the Pub II, where Rich and Ashley were formally introduced. They had an instant attraction to each other and stayed in contact, continuing to attend numerous campus athletic events with friends. By December, the two were officially dating.

Rich and Ashley were engaged in April 2013. The rehearsal dinner was held at the Pub II, where they celebrated over pizza, cheese balls, and beers with the friends who had brought them together. The group took photos on campus and all around town. Those same Redbird friends were at the wedding in June 2014.

Rich and Ashley now work at Marian University in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, where they reside. He is the associate athletic director for external relations, while she serves as coordinator of special events in the advancement area.

The two continue to hold fond memories of their days at ISU. They especially appreciate Cindy Harris ’84, who made the job offer to Rich. She is their cupid who brought him to Illinois State, which is the only way the two would have met and married. Their Redbird romance is especially sweet for Ashley’s parents, who also found each other at ISU. Jennifer (Schone) and Ron Kuhlmann, both 1977 alums and shown above, married as undergraduates.