Every day thousands of feet walk through Abel Hall, one of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's oldest residence halls. Students hang out in the hallways, eat in the dining hall and trudge their way to class. It’s here where first-year students get to know each other, not knowing that a few of those new relationships can lead to lifelong partnerships.

For two couples who met in the hall during freshman year, their relationships lasted after graduation and blossomed into marriage.

Ryan and Kristin Penney’s relationship is one that supports this trend. They married in July 2013 after dating for over five years. Both Ryan and Kristin went to UNL and lived in Abel Hall during their freshman year in 2007. Ryan lived on the seventh floor and Kristin on the sixth, and they met the weekend before classes even started.

“We hung out a few times as everyone was trying to get to know each other. We did laundry together, and after about two weeks, I asked her out on a date,” Ryan said. “We started dating three weeks into college and have been with each other ever since.”

After their first date to see Billy Bob Thornton’s “Mr. Woodcock” — which they both agreed was a terrible movie — Ryan and Kristin enjoyed each other’s company around campus throughout the year. On their fourth anniversary, Ryan proposed to Kristin on campus.

“I was going to propose in front of the union fountain, but it was busy, so we went to Mueller Tower and I proposed there,” Ryan said. “I remember walking by there for class and hearing [“Hail Varsity”], and it just always was a special place in my heart.”

Pavel and Cady Patino also met in Abel Hall during their freshman year at UNL. The couple currently lives in Omaha and were married in Tulum, Mexico, in June 2018, and have been together for over 11 years.

“Pavel was good friends with my random roommate, so he came to say hi on that first day,” Cady said. “I remember being embarrassed because I had just eaten Oreos and had them all over my teeth when I met him.”

After bonding over “Guitar Hero” and hanging out with mutual friends, they knew they had a special connection.

“I think the moment I realized we were meant to be was when we would spot each other across campus as we were walking to and from classes and a huge smile would spread across both of our faces,” Cady said. “Seeing each other was always the highlight of our days.”

But for Pavel, a trip to New Orleans solidified their future.

“Our first October in college, we did a trip to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “We had a great time together on that trip. If I had to pick a single time, that’d be it.”

While much can be said for Abel Hall, a sure thing is that it has served as the meeting place for  soul mates. Throughout the years, it continues to have a special place in the hearts of couples who found love there. For the Penneys and Patinos, it was during times when they weren’t searching for a relationship that they found the one.

“I would say the best thing you can do is love the college experience. I was starting over, and honestly that is what allowed Kristin and I to meet,” Ryan said. “We were both open to meeting new people. I liked the idea of starting over and I got an amazing wife and lifelong friend because of it. Go into college with an open mind, and meet new people.”


This article was originally published in the February 2019 edition of The DN.