Tom Martin ’11 was anything but pleased when he failed a business technology class by two-tenths of a percentage point in fall 2009. He had to take the class again the following fall because it wasn’t offered in the spring, which changed his graduation plans.

“I felt terrible that I had to stay,” said Tom, who studied business teacher education. His dismay turned to delight, however, as he met his wife and renewed his faith during the extended time on campus.

Both life events came through ISU’s John Paul II Catholic Newman Center. Special education major Katie Seidenberg ’11 was very involved in the center’s fellowship. They met at a retreat she led and he attended. Tom soon became active as well.

A friendship developed and turned into more with an unexpected kiss on Halloween during a porch conversation that went into the middle of the night. Dating was a bit difficult, as the two had student teaching assignments that started in January. Tom’s location unexpectedly changed to a suburb closer to Katie, and their romance blossomed.

In November 2017, Tom arranged for the two to come back to campus. With the help of friends, he created a scavenger hunt. Mason jars with notes he had written about the couple’s romance were left at strategic places—from the love bench to Newman Center to the apartment where they first kissed. The last stop was Comlara Park, where Martin proposed. They married on November 3, 2018.

The couple lives in Woodstock. Katie is a special education teacher working with elementary school students. Tom is a manager at Topgolf. While they have not returned to campus as often as they would like, their memories of time spent together as Redbirds are precious. Even the need to repeat the course—which Tom did pass on the second try—is now considered a blessing.

“Had I not failed that class, my life would not be the same,” Tom said. “I was reintroduced to my Catholic faith, which is the source of my strength, and unexpectedly fell in love with a friend.”