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A Marylhurst romance

by Jenna Preston

My husband Zack and I can only be described as “music nerds.” Or at least that’s what we jokingly call ourselves. We met in music theory class at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon. Although we barely shared two words for the first six months of our acquaintance, we soon became inseparable once we decided to start conversing. Unfortunately, COCC did not have a program that allowed us to complete our degrees in performance and composition there, and we both already had plans to transfer to different schools. Zack was headed to Marylhurst University, and, thankfully, our schools were close enough that we were able to continue our relationship by seeing each other at every opportunity.

Even though I was able to see Zack regularly, I soon realized that I was miserable at my school. It wasn’t just because the guy I loved was somewhere else (though I admit that certainly didn’t help). I also couldn’t help but notice that when I came to visit Zack and his school, I felt so much happier. Marylhurst’s peaceful campus was such a change from the fast-paced atmosphere of where I attended. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it would be a wise decision for me to transfer to Marylhurst.

I was right. Not only did Marylhurst turn out to be a school where I could excell academically, but it was a place where Zack and I could grow in our relationship. There is a serenity at Marylhurst that most colleges lack. That was something I needed after the previous year, which had put a strain on my interactions with Zack and my family because I was so tense and stressed all the time. Because of Marylhurst’s calming environment, I was able to find a balance between the demands of my academic life and my personal relationships.

The faculty at Marylhurst were fantastic in so many ways. One of my favorite qualities was the tremendous amount of respect they had for the individuality of students. While we were consistently expected to meet the requirements of our curriculum, the instructors in the music department gave us an enormous amount of individual attention and allowed us to contribute our unique perspectives into many of our assignments.

Zack was a music composition major, and one of our biggest undertakings was his senior composition project. The professors allowed him to take on the rare challenge of writing a short musical play. It was completely inspired by his style and interests as a composer, and it ended up being a team effort on both our parts to put the whole show together. Zack came up with the storyline, wrote all of the music, conducted and directed the show, while I took on the role of co-director, prop and costume manager, general organizer and vocal director, in addition to a leading role in the show itself. The project was a huge undertaking for two full-time college seniors to pull off in their spare time, but it gave us first-hand experience of what it takes to work together as a team. We had a few stressful and tense moments, but ultimately we managed to put together an incredibly successful show and a fantastic senior project.

Marylhurst was also instrumental in helping me through the worst time of my life. On August 25, 2010, a month before my last year at Marylhurst began and three days before my 21st birthday, my dad was killed in a car accident. It was, and is, the worst experience in my life. Zack was a rock for me during that time. He was there to hold me and grieve with me and just let me cry. When we went back to school, I was again struck by the peaceful atmosphere of the school. It was another time when I needed the serenity and beauty that the campus offered. The professors were understanding and sympathetic and didn’t seem at all surprised when I would occasionally burst into tears in the middle of a class or a lesson.

Marylhurst gave me so many opportunities that year, and I found it healing to immerse myself in school in a variety of ways. Serving as the department representative in quarterly meetings with the administration, getting directing experience with the school choir and putting together my senior voice recital were just a few of the ways I kept busy. I even took a drawing class as an elective, which gave me the opportunity to do a portrait of my dad for an assignment. I kept it, of course, and I know it will be a keepsake for me to pull out and remember him always.

I loved my time at Marylhurst and, while I was more than ready to graduate by the time that came around, I often get nostalgic for the time I spent there. Zack and I have fond memories of the school, and we are grateful for the experiences we gained. It’s for those reasons that when we got engaged, we were so excited to be able to plan to have our wedding on campus.

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We had our wedding at Marylhurst on July 21, 2013. Although the day seemed to go by in a blur, we each have some very special memories of that incredible time. And of course there are the pictures! I may be a little biased, but due to our amazing photographer and the incomparable setting, I think that we have some of the most beautiful wedding pictures ever.

No school is perfect in every way, but some schools are perfect for some people. That’s what Marylhurst was for Zack and I, and I’m sure for many others as well. We will always cherish our memories of it and the role it played in our journey together.

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Jenna Preston is a graduate of Marylhurst University with a Bachelors of Music in Performance. She teaches voice and piano and performs locally in the Portland area.