Our Story

 Please click on the headings below to expand each chapter:


The Meeting

            Harvard Square

Harvard Square

Alison:  “During the second or third day of my orientation to the EDLD program, I was introduced to Jay in Harvard Square.  We did not exchange many words but there was a deep, earnest look in Jay’s eyes as he waved goodbye to me.  The look made me shyly look away in the moment, but it also made me wonder what he was about and why he looked at me so intently.”

Jay:  “I first met Alison by chance in Harvard Square on my way to campus one day in the fall of 2011. We exchanged just a few words at the time, but I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she was, and at the same time there was a sense of familiarity about her to me. None of the usual Harvard airs that you often get from new people. My early impression was that she seemed cool and real, which can be rare there, and even rarer for a woman as beautiful as she is. So, I guess I couldn’t help but give her a little extra look, one that she was apparently struck by :-)”

The First “Date”

First Date

Darwin’s Cafe

Jay:  “After a few months of casual hi’s and byes and brief hallway convos, Alison and I finally went out for coffee in November. I kind of knew she was still working through the transition from school principal to doc student at that time, and I genuinely wanted to see if I could help her figure her way around some more. HOWEVER, of course by then I also I knew she was cute, nice, and a Christian, so spending time with her seemed like a win-win to me! 😉 We went to a place called Darwin’s one evening and talked for a while. It was our first real conversation and I enjoyed it a lot. Besides being very impressed with all she had done in her career, Alison also turned out to be sweet. We hugged at the end, I remember that, and I definitely wanted to make more time to connect.”

Alison:  “For a while I was pretty overwhelmed by the demands of my new program, and I’m pretty sure people could tell by looking at me lol. One day after class while I worked in the Library, Jay stopped and asked how I was doing and asked if I wanted to go for coffee so we could talk about surviving at Harvard, and we did meet for coffee later that week at Darwin’s. We shared about our families and about our past work and life before Harvard, and from this conversation I learned of Jay’s dedication to his family, his integrity to his faith, and his kindness towards people. We said goodbye and said we would stay in touch, and I left impressed by his character and I felt the start of a true friendship with a great guy.”

The Friendship

The Friendship

Jay’s Birthday Dinner

Jay:  “After we first hung out in November, Alison and I really didn’t hang out again for a couple of months because sadly, her Grandmother had passed away at the end of the semester and she had to leave for Belize and then winter break. At the end of February we started hanging out more though, going out for coffee and out to eat, walking across campus, I cooked her a nice salmon lunch one time, and we went to see the Celtics too. But in all those times we still were just growing in our friendship. I mean, I was definitely checking Alison out, lol, but nothing official yet. I liked spending time with her a lot, and I was learning more about who she was as a woman and in her faith. We always had a good time together.   At the end of March I remember her sending me scriptures the day I was to have my oral defenses, which was very encouraging. Later that week she took me to celebrate my successful defense, and without her knowing the day we agreed on was my birthday!  I told her a day or so before that it also would be my birthday that day, and so that night she showed up with a beautiful card, and she took me to a great Cambridge restaurant, the East Coast Grill, which honestly, was a nice enough spot that I knew that I might have a chance lol. Besides those kind gestures, there was also just something about looking into her eyes that night got me. To that point we had had a great time together, but that was the first night that really felt like a date to me. From that point I was more than curious, I wanted to be more than friends with Alison.

Alison:  Jay and I started hanging out more in the second semester. First we went for coffee again, then we met at the i-lab to do some work together, we went to a basketball game together, and best of all, Jay cooked a salmon lunch for me that was so delish! Over the next few weeks his kindness and his intellect were most attractive to me. Then over spring break, I had delayed leaving so that I could finish a paper I had been writing. I remember one evening I was home alone, stressed and upset that I could not be with my family and was worrying about them. At that time Jay and I still weren’t in the habit of talking everyday, but Jay did happen to text me that night to check in on me. I texted him back and asked for advice on balancing work productivity with being there for family members when they are in need. Surprisingly he called me right away. Knowing that he had experience balancing family with academics, I asked him what he did when he was in this situation. “I prayed,” he said. I was moved by his response because he reminded me of my own values at a time when I was too overwhelmed to draw upon the very thing that has brought me through difficult times. Jay then offered to pray for me on the phone and he did. Once he prayed, not only did I feel a lot better about my situation, but I also knew that the voice on the other side of the phone was someone pretty special 🙂

The Road Trip!

Road Trip

On the Road to NYC

Jay:  Easter was the weekend after my Birthday, and we ended up going on this kind of crazy road trip to NYC for a Good Friday service at Alison’s home church. It was crazy because I guess she invited a bunch of friends, but only I could go. And when I heard no one else confirmed I was like “YES!” lol (although technically, Michele Shannon was going but drove herself! Thanks Michele!). But what was really kind of surreal was that on that trip we ended up meeting members of each others’ family, even though we were just friends. Still, of course I thought I was getting the official inspection, although Alison denies it 🙂 It was nice meeting her family, nonetheless. Then on the way home I was going to Providence for Easter rather than Cambridge, so Alison dropped me off and in the process she met my mom and sister Cortney. They liked her, and I did too. So the brief and somewhat unexpected family meetings had gone really well, and the road trip had been fun!  Those things felt like confirmation to me, and my prayers about us were feeling really good too.  So, that’s when I started planning how I would ask her to date officially and with intentionality of seeing if God has a vision for the two of us in the future. Yep, I meant business! 🙂

Alison:  Once I returned from spring break, I had a great plan: I would invite all of my close Cambridge friends to church with me for the Good Friday service at my NYC church, Christian Cultural Center, in Brooklyn. I asked Jay first since he was the first person I had spoken to, and he enthusiastically said yes! I soon realized that although I was excited to hang out with Jay on this trip, asking him first might have been hasty, because if none of my girlfriends could come it could mean that Jay and I would be alone on this road trip! And I definitely did not want him to get it twisted to think that I was trying to take him to New York alone. This was not a set up to get close to him! Lol. And as faith would have it, none of my girlfriends were able to make it. I called all of my family and told them not to get excited. I told them that we were not in a relationship. I told them that we REALLY were just friends so please act normal. So Jay came to CCC with me and met my mom, my dad, and some of my friends. On the drives, Jay and I talked about everything (music, family, school, church, movies) and I loved our car conversations. On the drives, Jay and I talked about everything: music, family, school, church, and movies. From these early days, I loved our conversations! In addition to being thoughtful and insightful, he was a lot of fun. I learned that he loved to sing but that he sings just as bad as I do 🙂 He was also pretty funny and he enjoyed silly things.


The Ask-Out

The ask out

Whole Foods Near Fresh Pond, Cambridge

Alison:  “After the road trip, Jay and I hung out again the following Saturday, when he was supposed to help me with a paper. First we had fun picking out my new glasses, and we ate dinner at his place, and then when it came time for me to show him my paper, I was so nervous as he pulled up a chair right next to mine in front of the computer. I wanted to crawl under the desk. But Jay remained so kind and gracious and sensitive in his feedback. He was very reassuring that what I had written in my first draft was quite good, and once I could pick my head up and get over my insecurities, I realized that his editing skills were also quite impressive! lol. He drove me home after that, but even after he drove away he remained on my mind.

The following day I walked into Whole Foods and as I loaded my basket with mangos, I wondered if Jay would like some too. And although I had just seen him yesterday, I was still hoping to talk to him that day or to see him. Then as I shopped in Whole Foods I noticed I missed a call from him. I quickly called him back and without saying much more he asked where I was and then asked if he could come and meet me in Whole Foods. We had dinner at my house that evening and that’s when he asked me to officially date him. He prefaced his question with the fact that he had spoken to some of his family, mentors and friends that had met me, and they all agreed that asking to date me was a good idea. I was touched at the thoughtfulness and the intentionality with which Jay was pursuing me. But he wasn’t the only thorough one, because I had a few more questions for him- What does dating look like to you? What does it mean to date as Christians? What about me made you want to pursue me in this way? Yes, we were both pretty comprehensive, lol. But of course, we are Harvard scholars!”

Jay:  “To be honest, I thought really hard about asking Alison out that Saturday night I first helped her with her paper. I could tell we were really into each other and it would have been nice. Also, that day during the day I had been able to check in about my intentions with Pastors Rocklyn and Eva Clarke, who actually were Alison’s pastors but some of my close mentors. They thought it sounded good! I had already talked to my Dad too and he was on board.  But I still hadn’t told my intention to my Pastor, Carl Jefferson, or my mom, and those conversations were important to me too, more than the magic moment was lol.  So even though the moment seemed like it was there that Saturday, I held off! I have to say though, I second guessed it all night that night and all day the next day.  I didn’t want Alison to think I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to send her mixed signals.  So I made up my mind that after those conversations the next day, I would ask her out AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  I didn’t care where! I didn’t want her to have to wait any longer to know how I felt! Seriously, that’s where I was in my head.  So that Sunday afternoon we talked and she said she was at Whole Foods. I asked her if I could meet her there, and somehow she said yes! But before I could tell her right there in the parking lot about my feelings and intentions, she invited me over for dinner. I didn’t expect that, but it immediately seemed like a better idea than my asking her out in the Whole Foods parking lot idea. lol.

So I agreed and we went to her place, but still I could not wait until she was totally finished cooking to tell her. So a little while after we got there, I asked her to sit down and just told her that I thought she was wonderful, and that I’ve prayed about us and have talked to people I trust, and I think that there may be something here that can lead to a wonderful relationship between us into the future. I asked her if she would start spending time with me with an eye toward whether God has a future for us together in marriage. She was taken aback some I think, and she made me wait 20 minutes for a response as she asked me a bunch of questions herself, but in the end she did agree to be my Boo 🙂  And so the adventure began. Officially.”

The Proposal

Muir Beach, Post-Proposal

Alison and Jay: Things went well for us for the next year. There were movies and mangos, and beaches and bible studies,
fireworks and food (lots of food), and The Apollo. There were cookouts and conferences, and Patriots games, playlists, and prayers, and Downton Abbey. We were having a good time growing in friendship, partnership, and love. We basically became inseparable, the best of friends. And we were continually amazed by the increasingly clear vision for our relationship that God was revealing!  Still, these months were not without challenges either. First of all, we were both going on the job market as early as September. So we only had a few months to decide whether we were committed to being in the same city.  We were in love though, and felt confirmed in our spirits, so we went for it!  And so began the journey of juggling our job searches, academic commitments, dissertation writing, and relationship cultivation.  Things were definitely very stressful at times as deadlines loomed, as doors closed, and of course as we learned that maybe we actually don’t like every single thing about each other after all 😉 Nevertheless, in all these processes we loved and supported each other totally, and one of our goals was to make sure that all times at least one of us stayed sane enough to take care of the other!  And you know what? When the clouds of dissertations, and finals, and job searches finally cleared, God had done beyond what we could have imagined. Jay graduated with his doctorate, Alison completed her final year of coursework, and the two of us got job offers across the street from each other in the same city, with great people around us, and doing the work we love

And in that midst, snuggled somewhere in between our job offers and Jay’s graduation, there was a beautiful April morning on our favorite sunny California Beach (Thanks Sarah!). On that day Jay proposed to Alison, his dream girl, the love of his life. A teary and deeply moved Alison said yes. And the rest is…the future.


The Future


Currently we reside in Pittsburgh, PA, which is a beautiful and very cozy city.  We  are very happy here.  Alison is a resident in Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Jay is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems.  We are very excited to be getting married on December 31, 2013!  The reception will be at Giando on the Water in Brooklyn New York.  After a few days off, we plan to get back to work, building the foundation for our marriage and or future family, in Christ and in Love.

For logistics on the wedding festivities, click here.

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