Recruiting Redbirds leads to lovebird proposal
For many, the most comforting and rewarding component of attending a college or university is discovering a home away from home. For “lovebirds” Robert Heaser ’19 and Meghan Gingrich ’19, their experience at Illinois State University achieved just that. Prior to enrollment, the soon-to-be couple shared aspirations of achieving both academic excellence as well as developing lifelong friendships. Now engaged, there is no doubt the two were successful in their endeavors.
Eager to pursue the military, as well as a career in law enforcement, Heaser was encouraged to get involved with the Redbird Battalion. Gingrich, who would graduate with honors in nursing, knew ISU was a good fit for her goals of completing a prominent medical program while remaining a comfortable distance from where she grew up. Both seeking admirable fields of service, it was just a matter of time before the two met and began to share their passions.
So when was the introduction? The couple first met in 2017 at an all-staff Office of Admissions retreat in Hovey Hall. Although their first encounter did not involve romantic intentions, they immediately were drawn to each other’s friendly energy. This initial conversation transitioned into a three- hour long coffee date only slowing down at closing when they were asked to leave.
Due to their various schedules, the two did not always cross paths in the office; however, this made the few occasions they did work together quite special. Their experience in the Office of Admissions helped build their public speaking skills and developed a further sense of gratitude for Illinois State.
Outside of the admissions office, there were countless basketball games, dinners with President Dietz and dances at the Army Ball. This is when Heaser was confident this was the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. The obvious place to pop the question was the place that started it all, the admission office, a place of great significance, symbolizing not only their growth as individuals but the beginning of a life journey together.
“It was where we first met, and if Theresa Wiese (program assistant in the Office of Admissions) had not hired the two of us we may have never met,” he said.
Prior to getting down on one knee, Heaser sent an email to everyone who would be present for the proposal. Former boss, Wiese, arranged a fake task for Gingrich to carry out in order for Heaser’s plan to run smoothly. As soon as he entered the office, Gingrich turned red from utter surprise and excitement.
Although the two had spoken previously about a future together, she could not have anticipated it would all begin that day. The office erupted in applause and Heaser revealed a Portillo’s chocolate cake that read “Happy Engagement.”
Just as the two were influenced by their Admissions family at ISU, they have been overjoyed becoming familiar with each other’s relatives. Gingrich says the best part about the engagement has been, “knowing that I have a partner who has basically signed up to be by my side forever. It has made this transition from graduation to living on our own so much easier.”
Post-graduation, the two remain ambitious. Heaser graduated as a commissioned cyber officer in the Army National Guard and has started working as a cybersecurity analyst at Discover Financial. Now a hopeful alumnus, he aspires to one day present his own research at a cybersecurity conference with Redbird pride. Gingrich is in the process of attaining her dream job as a registered nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Reflecting upon ISU, the two agree what contributed most to their prosperity as students, as well as their greatest piece of advice for incoming freshmen, would be to dedicate yourself to campus involvement. This engagement has built strong staff and faculty relationships as well as the foundation of a lifelong friendship.
As the wedding gets closer and they continue to form new memories, the couple expresses their excitement to invite Redbird alumni and a handful of current staff and students to join them on their special day. Reggie will be sure to save the date too.