Katie Wagner's professor proclaimed she would marry Martin Kasten, even before their first date.
She bumped into that professor at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., over the summer of 1996 when she was a senior with one semester of school to go. She had just met Martin while working on a political campaign and asked the professor if he knew him.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “It was surreal. I can still picture to my head exactly where he was standing and what he was wearing. He was standing at the copy machine and he had on a white shirt and dress pants — his jacket was at his desk.”
He says: “It was her smile that first caught my attention. She just seemed very happy and outgoing.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “My cheeks hurt at the end of the day from smiling so much.”
He says: “We were getting pictures done at Old Main and I remember seeing her in her wedding dress for the very first time.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “My first boss told me — and I took it to heart — that marriage is a commitment and love is an emotion. There are times where you don’t like each other very much, but there is a peace in knowing that you will both stay and work it out.”
He says: “Patience and listening. I think those are things that are hard to do but they are worth the time.”
"He looked at me and he goes, 'You two are gonna get married.' And I said, 'Ummm, yeah, I just met him,'" she says. "He had had Martin in class, too, and he goes, 'No, I know both of you, and you're perfect together.'"
Katie and Martin had been part of the same small political science department in college and were honored at an awards ceremony at the end of the semester. Each was introduced to the crowd, with mention of interning for the campaign.
"I kind of had looked over at him and wanted to meet him, you know, because we'd both be working on the campaign, but we both had family there and it was graduation weekend and so it just didn't happen," Katie says. "So I met him the first day on the campaign. It was sort of one of those surreal moments where it's just sort of locked in my head -- I can just see him standing there making copies."
Katie dated another guy all through college and they broke up over a weekend just after she started working for the campaign.
"I went to work that Monday, and he tried to call me at the office," she says. "Martin answered the phone, and when he went to transfer it to me he said, 'Your boyfriend's on line two.' And I said, 'Well, you can hang up because I don't have a boyfriend.' He hung up and two days later, he asked me out."
Katie and Martin started out with drinks at a Mexican restaurant after work. They had their first official date about three weeks after they met and they went out for five or six weeks before Martin left for law school at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
They visited each other once each during that semester apart, and they talked on the phone when they could.
"I grew up in northern Illinois and he grew up in southern Illinois, but his sister lived in northern Illinois, so he came home for Thanksgiving," she says. "We were all up near my family, and we had decided that when I graduated, I would move to Arkansas and follow him."
Katie and Martin had only been together for six months, most of that time with Martin away, and she struggled with how to convince her family that her moving to Fayetteville was a good idea.
"I had a whole speech to tell my dad about how I was an adult and this was going to be good for me. I had been interviewing in Illinois, so I actually had two job offers I was turning down to move to Arkansas with no job," she says. "I sat my dad down before Martin got there for Thanksgiving dinner, and I said, 'Dad, I have thought a lot about this, and I've decided I'm going to move to Arkansas.' And he goes, 'I think that's great. You're young, you should travel now. Have fun.'"
Martin lived in the dorm and Katie lived in an apartment just off Dickson Street. She worked at Walmart Corporate and took graduate classes in the evenings and with Martin's law school studies it was sometimes tough to spend time together.
They made a point of going out for dinner on Friday nights, and following one of those dinners and a movie, Martin stopped at "their tree."
"If we both started walking -- me from my apartment and him from his dorm -- that tree turned out to be right about in the middle of where we would meet," she says. "That's how we ended up with that being our tree. It was directly in the middle of both of us walking to each other at night."
Martin proposed under their tree, in front of Old Main, that night.
Katie and Martin exchanged their vows on Aug. 15, 1998, in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville.
They moved to Little Rock after he finished law school. Martin is a lawyer with Friday, Eldredge and Clark. Katie is the strategic partnerships coordinator for Pet Partners, a nonprofit that promotes animal-assisted therapy.
They have two children -- Kennedy, 18, and Christian, 15.
The professor who predicted their marriage sends them a Christmas card each year.
As Katie and Martin moved her belongings to her new apartment in Fayetteville 22 years ago, they noticed that they had two copies of the same textbooks -- they had had classes together at ISU without even noticing each other.
"We had been in close proximity to each other and we knew all the same people in this really small political science department for two years before we ever met," she says, "but the universe was just patiently waiting for it to be right, at the right time."
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Katie Wagner and Martin Kasten will celebrate 21 years of marriage Aug. 15. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember life without being married,” Martin says. “But at the same time, it has gone quickly, especially with our first child having graduated high school and off to college shortly.”
High Profile on 06/23/2019
Print Headline: Before 1st date, professor predicted they'd marry