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This story has been told hundreds of times by my husband and me, and in honor of Valentine’s Day and #BuckeyeLove, I decided to publish it on Small Town Leadership.

In the fall of 1998, this small town girl arrived at Ohio State. On my first day, I met my resident advisor, an engineering major two years older than me. I dismissed him as a dork. I go to him for help with trigonometry homework and eventually for relationship advice. It was on one of those trips to his room that I noticed his CD and book collection. They were nearly identical to the ones I had back in my room a few doors down.

Eventually, I heeded his relationship advice to “just break up with him” and we started hanging out. While we disagree on what our first date is, we both remember an evening walk to Mirror Lake and sitting on a bench on the northwest corner.

We dated for 3 years and in the fall of my senior year, we got engaged at Mirror Lake. During the spring quarter before I graduated, Mirror Lake was undergoing a renovation. I thought “how sad, they are going to get rid of the bench.” Then I said it to myself differently “they are going to get rid of the bench!” I called the giant phone number on the construction trailer and asked if I could have the bench at the northwest corner of the lake. No one returned my call.  

A couple of weeks later, a group of guys were at the construction trailer. I was riding my bike home and quickly pulled over to them. They said “are you the girl who wants the bench?” Yes, I was the girl who wanted the bench! They said it was all mine if I could pick it up by 4pm that day. I convinced one of my friends who had a truck to leave the library and help me haul the bench to my off campus house.

My dad refinished the bench, put new legs on it, and I had a plaque engraved. On the night of our rehearsal dinner, I gave my now-husband a framed picture of Mirror Lake and a picture of the bench. He didn’t understand. I had to tell him a few times “we have the bench, as in, we own the bench where we had one of our first dates and got engaged.”

The original bench photo – circa 2002

The bench stayed in my parent’s basement during our newlywed apartment-dwelling days. We knew we found our first home when we saw the backyard. The house met a criteria that was hard for our real estate agent to understand – it must have a suitable place for the bench. At the back of our lot is a lake with a fountain. Sold! When we had our patio built, we specifically asked for a special place for the bench. Our landscape architect, also a Buckeye, appreciated the story and fulfilled our wish. The bench now sits on our patio facing the lake. We have our own piece of #BuckeyeLove right in our backyard.

A specially designed place for the bench.

A view of my Buckeye Loves from the bench!


Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.


  • Tony Zimmerman says:

    I wondered when this story would make the blog! I remember the day you used this story in your example of giving a great speech. I’m glad to see the bench is doing well these days….. 🙂

    • Natalie says:

      Thanks, Tony! You were among the first group of students to hear the story. It now must be in the hundreds, as my husband tells this story (his version 😉 on the first day of every class he teaches!

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