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AU News

AU Sweethearts: Couples Reflect on Courtships, Romance

February 14, 2022
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Seven couples share about campus courtships—how they met, fell in love and continue their lives together. Pictured are recent grad Bryce Goodwyn and his fiancé Kamryn Osterbind, who graduates in May.

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February. We often associate the month with romance, valentines, bouquets of roses and boxes of chocolates. And for decades, couples would court on one of the white swings at the front of the Anderson University’s historic campus (they still do, though there are newer white swings now). 

It’s told in the legend of the swings that when a guy sits on one of the swings with the same girl three times, wedding bells will ensue. 

We asked the following couples to share their stories of how they met, fell in love and continue on their life journey. Each story is unique. 

As for the white swing story, we found that results vary with different individuals. 

One couple actually broke up on one of the swings. Fortunately, they got back together and remain a happily married couple decades later. One alumnus bought one of the older swings as an anniversary gift for his wife. Still another couple has a swing story—but with a different swing. 

Swing or no swing, each story is one of lasting love.

Read on.

Ray and Mary Anne Bunton (1960)

Ray and Mary Anne Bunton started their lives together as high school sweethearts at Palmetto High School in Williamston, South Carolina. 

Mary Anne recalled, “Ray was a football player, and this friend of ours who lived close to us rode the school bus with me and he would say ‘Ray Bunton thinks you’re peaches and cream.’ Unknown to me he was telling Ray the same thing that I thought he was peaches and cream.’” 

When they began dating, Mary Ann remembers watching Ray play a baseball game. She remembers that Ray pitched well, but players on his team didn’t field very well, so they lost the game. When they got to her house after the game, Ray, still upset over the lost game, abruptly told her to get out of the car. Though her mother thought they shouldn’t date anymore, Mary Anne felt she understood why Ray acted as he did. 

“I used to be rather a hothead. But somehow or another over the years I gave it all over to Mary Anne,” Ray joked. 

Mary Anne thought Anderson was the right place for her when she finished high school. She enrolled and also received a scholarship from the Baraca Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church in Anderson. 

Career opportunities for women in those days were pretty much limited to jobs like nursing or becoming a secretary. Mary Anne pursued the secretarial track, getting the business courses she needed, graduated from Anderson and finished her education at another college. She also helped manage the telephone switchboard when it was located in the Merritt Administration Building. Looking back on a successful career in corporate planning and becoming a corporate vice president of human resources, she feels her experiences at Anderson prepared her well. She also feels Anderson prepared her well spiritually.

Ray joined Mary Anne at Anderson after a brief period of attending a military school. He also played on the college baseball team. Both spent a lot of time in the library and on the swings and enjoyed sporting events together. He commuted to campus, while she lived in a residence hall under the watchful eye of a hall mother (few men lived on campus then). Couples would often meet in the parlor located in the front of Merritt. 

“We’d go on dates Saturday night,” said Mary Anne, adding that women weren’t allowed to wear pants. “There were some people that would put on shorts underneath their long skirts and take the skirts off as soon as they got in the car. I did not do that.”

Ray gave Mary Anne an engagement ring the Christmas of her sophomore year and they got married after graduation. Ray entered the textile industry, working 26 years and rising up into supervisory roles before leaving to start his own lawn maintenance and landscaping business.

Ray and Mary Anne have been married for 61 years. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. 

They recently donated a new white swing that now graces the historic Anderson University campus, providing a special place for students to make memories for many years to come.

Now chairing the Anderson University Board of Trust, Mary Anne feels God has abundantly blessed the University, as evidenced by its growth and the visionary leadership of President Evans Whitaker. 

Mary Anne concludes, “As I look back at my two years as a student at Anderson from 1958-1960, they were two of the most important years of my life. They strengthened my faith in God, provided a solid base upon which to build my business acumen, gave me lifetime friends, and fond memories! What more could be expected from a college experience?”


Marion (1971) and Deborah (1972) Shaw

As a seventh-grader in Columbia, South Carolina, Marion Shaw recalled a day in class when he didn’t have his homework. So he turned to a girl who let him look at her homework. 

“After I did that a couple of times I thought, ‘you know, she’s a cute little girl.’ She’s going to let me look over her homework, so let’s go out on a date,” Marion recalled. “We got started like that and stayed together.” He and Deborah went on to become high school sweethearts. But after graduating high school, he went to Anderson and she went to another college not as far away.

Deborah remembers telling Marion they should date other people since they were going to be at two separate campuses. She reasoned that it was only fair for him to talk to other girls and for her to other guys where she was attending. 

Thankfully, the separation was short-lived. In later years, Deborah heard from one of Marion’s old college roommates, telling her, “That was one sad little fella that freshman year. He would mope around.” 

“We started dating again that October, and at Christmastime, that’s when he gave me the diamond,” said Deborah. After briefly working a job, she followed him to Anderson the next academic year. 

Together at Anderson they enjoyed sitting together at meals and going to games. Christmas First Night was a favorite event for Deborah. Sometimes a rock n’ roll group would be invited to play on campus, but Marion is quick to point out that dancing was strictly forbidden. Deborah remembered curfews and nighttime calls that had to be made before 8 p.m. when the campus switchboard would close for the night. 

“I enjoyed walking to the library. We would go to the library, do our homework together and study together. He would walk over to my dorm and would walk me to the library at night,” Deborah said. “Usually we’d sit in the swings after a meal.”

Marion recalled, “Neither one of us had a vehicle. We’d bum rides with people from Columbia back and forth to school. When we had spare time in Anderson, most of the time the swings were where we’d be.”

To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Marion bought Deborah one of the older white swings being auctioned off. They hope to soon have it reassembled at their home in Aynor, South Carolina, where they can relive those times and also enjoy their grandchildren.

Though retired from Horry County Schools after several years of teaching, coaching and serving in administration, Marion still helps his school district out as needed.


Brian and Kelly Whitley (1989)

Brian and Kelly Whitley (pictured in the middle of their children) met each other at Orientation and became close friends their freshman year. Coming from Florida, Kelly had fallen in love with Anderson’s campus. Brian came to Anderson from Richmond, Virginia, as a recruit for the Trojans men’s basketball team.

While most students lived nearby and went home for the weekends, Brian and Kelly spent time with each other, as well as with other students who, like them, were from out of state. For them, everything was centered on campus life. 

“We were there all the time,” Kelly recalled. “We’d sit out on the steps of Merritt and that was our meeting place.”

“We talked every night for hours,” Brian recalled. “We kind of hung out together—never really formally dated that first year. During the summer between their freshman and sophomore years they sent each other cards and talked on the phone for hours. Kelly visited Brian and his family in Richmond that summer, and their relationship flourished. When Kelly’s parents relocated to nearby Greenville, South Carolina, it became a home base where they could enjoy some home cooking.

“Her dad was a fabulous cook—still is,” Brian said.

With graduation looming, Brian and Kelly came to a crossroads as both considered education next steps. Kelly was considering either returning to Virginia or going to North Carolina. Sitting in front of Merritt, Brian remembers Kelly looking at her and saying “Okay buddy, where’s this relationship going?” 

“I guess in my book I’d say that’s when I knew we were probably going to be together a long, long time,” Brian said. 

After both graduated from Anderson, Kelly followed Brian to Richmond and their relationship flourished. He continued playing basketball for VCU, a Division I team, then graduated and worked for a downtown hotel while she pursued a healthcare career, studying at the Medical College of Virginia to become a nurse. She worked at a Richmond hospital, then as a school nurse in Michigan when their family relocated for Brian’s job. 

Kelly remembered, “We were dating six years before we got engaged and then almost another full year before we were married.”

They currently live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Brian is president of a transportation and logistics company. Being closer to Anderson now, they continue to give back to their alma mater. Brian has returned to share experiences from his leadership in the transportation industry to students at the College of Business, while Kelly has spoken to nursing students in the College of Health Professions. 

Anderson remains near and dear to both Brian and Kelly. When their oldest son was born, they decided “Anderson” would be his middle name. They have four children, ranging in age from 26 to 19.


Jason (2003) and Shelli Rutland (2004)

Growing up together in Barnwell, South Carolina, Jason and Shelli Rutland both went through grade school and middle school knowing each other, though Shelli might not have chosen that boy with the mullet haircut back then.

“Jason and I started dating in high school. I was 16. Then he left to go to play baseball (at Anderson) as a pitcher,” Shelli said. “For the lack of a better plan he could tell you I followed him there.”

“I was supposed to go to another school in the state and their coach left. I didn’t make the decision to come here until June after I graduated,” Jason said, adding that one of the coaches who was familiar with Anderson asked him to check it out.

When Jason and Shelli found themselves together again in Anderson, Shelli recalled, “My freshman year, we broke up in the white swings. Then there were a couple of months when we didn’t date.” Fortunately, they got back together. Jason recalls when he popped the question while they were walking together on land near her apartment where the Anderson Area YMCA now sits. 

“I proposed to her at what was just a dirt path at that point,” Jason said. “I thought it was funny that they renamed that to Life Choice Road. Literally where we were standing was where the sign sits for the YMCA.”

After graduation, Jason taught and coached in public schools, then came back to his alma mater to coach baseball. He then became the director of admission. He’s now the associate vice president for alumni and parent engagement. Shelli went to work in Anderson’s print shop, where she’s seen operations expand exponentially. She’s now the associate director of marketing and brand. 

Living near Anderson University, Jason and Shelli’s weekend rides often take them somewhere around the campus. Growing up hearing her parents’ stories about experiences they had at Anderson University, their daughter wants to be a part of it when she’s ready for college.

Reflecting on their years together, Jason commented, “We grew a lot as a couple. It’s like a muscle—you have to tear it down to build it up. We did that in the white swings by breaking up. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve known each other our entire lives, but really just got to know each other as we grew and got out of the town we lived in. I think this place did a tremendous service to our relationship and foundation and it’s always very helpful when you can call back to those memories of things we both know.”


JJ and Elizabeth Lies (2013) 

JJ and Elizabeth Lies knew each other as classmates at Anderson University, but didn’t actually become a couple until some time after graduation. 

JJ recalls, “At the time in college I thought she was cute. I remember talking to my best friend about her and him saying she’s too good for me. Then after her first year of teaching—we were out of college at this point—we reconnected through Facebook and met for coffee.”

Meeting at a coffee shop in downtown Anderson, Elizabeth recalls JJ was 30 minutes late, but is quick to add that something clicked that night. They both lost track of time, sitting in that coffee shop talking for hours.

“Because I’m very introverted, finding someone that’s as easy to talk to as it was to JJ was really hard for me,” Elizabeth said. “That night when we met for coffee I didn’t have to think to come up with something to say—it was completely natural. I was like, ‘hmmm, this is different.’ The rest was history.”

JJ continued, “When I walked her to her car, that’s when I first thought ‘she could be it.’ Then we started to go on dates a few months later. There was one time in particular I came home from work exhausted. She was coming over to the apartment to meet me so we could go out on our date. I fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up she was still sitting there talking to one of my good friends, one of my roommates in the apartment. She was totally calm. She didn’t give me the reaction I thought I was going to get. That’s when I knew ‘okay, this is really uncommon right here.’”

As they grew closer, JJ proposed to Elizabeth on a porch swing at her parents’ home. 

“Elizabeth and I were swinging on the wooden swing and I just proposed right there, just the two of us. She told me to shut up when I proposed. I don’t think she said ‘yes’ but I understood her language,” JJ said.  

JJ and Elizabeth have been married for five-and-a-half years now and have a one-year-old daughter. A graduate of Anderson’s Call Me MISTER program, he is assistant principal at Westside Middle School and she is a media specialist at a nearby elementary school.

And what about her parents’ swing?

“We still have that porch swing,” JJ said. “We’ve moved three times now but the porch swing travels with us. We’ve got a front porch with a lake view right across the street. We look forward to spending a lot of time on that swing for years to come.”


Bryce Goodwyn (2021) and Kamryn Osterbind (2022)

Recent graduate Bryce Goodwyn and senior Kamryn Osterbind have shared a lot as students. Both have been political science majors as well as public policy minors. Both have been student-athletes: Bryce as a soccer player and Kamryn as a runner for the track and cross country teams. 

Their story begins pretty much with day one at Anderson University.

Kamryn recalls, “The first time we actually met, we both came to Anderson to interview for Presidential Fellows, which is their scholarship program. On my 18th birthday we were in the same group interview.”

Remembering that Day, Bryce said, “The very first time we spoke, I knew there was something intriguing about her; I had an interesting feeling but I just wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.”

A turning point in their friendship came during fall of their junior year. 

Bryce recalled, “November 12 was the night we had this conversation. We had been growing closer in our friendship and it came to a point where she bluntly asked me what was going on. We spent about two hours speaking about what our perspectives are for what we want in a husband and a wife and how we feel the Lord calls us to be husbands and wives.”

“I remember that so clearly,” Kamryn said. “We had been friends a long time but were just hanging out, just the two of us, for the first time that fall.” She remembers when Bryce took her out to watch the sunset and they talked for hours about where their relationship was going and sharing their feelings about where the Lord was leading them. 

“I thought ‘wow, he’s being really intentional about this and he’s going to pray about it just as much as I’m going to pray about it, which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before,” Kamryn said.

Studies and sports left Bryce and Kamryn with little extra time, but there were the simple pleasures for enjoying.

“We do a lot of baking together; we make a lot of brownies,” Kamryn said. “We would just sit and have dinner together—that was our time to relax and unwind. I think our friends make fun of us because we’re not out doing a bunch of stuff all the time, but your body is exhausted and your mind is exhausted and you just want to be with each other.”

Bryce graduated in December 2021 and is currently working as a junior paralegal at an insurance defense firm in Atlanta. Kamryn plans to graduate in May. Both are applying to law schools and praying about next steps.

Bryce and Kamryn recently got engaged and are looking forward to marrying July 25 of this year.


Tucker Black and Allie Dozier (2022)

For Tucker Black and Allie Dozier, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight; In fact it was quite the opposite.

Allie recalls, “At first, neither of us really liked each other at all. I thought that he was a flirt and he thought I was a snob. We had a lot of common friends between the two of us and my roommate and I started going to RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) halfway through the first semester, and—surprise—he was there, and I was like ‘I guess I have to get used to him.’”

Tucker continues with his version of the story, “And so the first night there we were hanging out—me, Allie and her roommate in this swing set at the church. We started talking and then I realized she wasn’t as snobby as she thought and she realized I wasn’t as flirty. We started becoming friends, then a couple of weeks after that retreat we started getting lunch together Monday, Wednesday and Friday after our classes and we called it ‘lunch buddies.’”

Then Allie told Tucker she was having a “shift of feelings,” and didn’t want to hang out one-on-one. So they’d hang out together, but with other friends. Tucker, Allie and two friends made plans to travel to Charleston for a Mumford and Sons concert taking place the next semester. They bought tickets, but then the two others dropped out.

Tucker recalls, “So then it just became us two and we spent some good time together. About two weeks later, I asked her out to coffee, then asked her to be my girlfriend. We’ve been dating ever since. We got engaged on Labor Day.”

“Anderson had a lot to do with us meeting, obviously. He proposed to me in Merritt Theater,” Allie said. “He did that in part because RUF used to meet in Merritt, so it meant something to us.” 

Once in Merritt Theater, Allie put Tucker to the test.

“Tucker’s a very good dancer,” Allie said. “We used to joke about him teaching some of us how to dance and I actually was being flirty one time. I was trying to test him on whether he liked me or not; I liked him. I asked him to teach me how to dance in Merritt Theatre, so that was when it was confirmed to me that I liked him.” 

Allie wrote a poem about those moments in Merritt for Ivy Leaves issue 96. Titled “Some Kind of Too Close,” it appears on page 112.

Tucker and Allie plan to marry May 29, two weeks after graduation. They hope to remain in the Anderson area, where he hopes to find a job in human resources and she hopes to teach. 


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