When West Coast University hosted a virtual hooding ceremony for the graduates of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, guests and participants got to witness a special moment: Robert Boyles’ proposal to fellow graduate Jennifer Norris.
Robby and Jenny met when they began their degrees at West Coast University and their story is a physical therapy fairytale.
Why physical therapy?
Robby: When I was in high school, I was about 40 pounds overweight. I was able to drop it in about five months by just running around the block. On the first day, I ran a block and I was done – it killed me. But I did it again the next day for two blocks and so on. That gave me an interest in physiology and anatomy. I knew I wanted to go into the medical profession, but I didn’t know in which capacity. It wasn’t until my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and I got the see physical therapists that would come in and help her that I knew.
Jenny: I was an athlete from when I could walk. I have played every sport I can think of at least once – and that means I’ve had almost every injury you can think of. I saw a lot of physical therapists and sports physicians. At first, I thought I wanted to be a physician. I applied to medical school, got in, and started shadowing. I realized PTs have a great working relationship with their patients – they spend time with them; they are really invested. Physicians don’t get to work with people as much and they have terrible hours – that sounded awful. I worked in PT for a few years, realized that I liked it and here we are.
How did you meet?
Jenny: I showed up the first day and sat down between an empty seat and a pillar, thinking it was fantastic because I could be completely alone. I put my stuff down, walked away and when I came back there was someone (Robby) sitting in the seat next to mine. I was so disappointed. It’s a small classroom with forty chairs and forty people – so for the whole two years we were in that classroom nobody moved or changed chairs, so that was it.
How did the relationship progress from being desk neighbors to dating?
Jenny: Sometime that second semester, my car broke down. He offered to drive me to school. I felt bad and was all ridiculous about it. I tried biking and taking the train to school for a while and then he just aggressively started offering to pick me up in the morning. He drove me to school every day for five weeks.
How was it managing your relationship and your school workload?
Robby: We both had the same mentality: big things are great, but if you don’t do the consistent small things, you’re not going to get anywhere. We would split responsibilities. Jenny is really good at coming up with structures of how we should study, and I am really good at making sure it gets done. If someone cooked, the other person would clean. On those hard rotations early on, that’s where we really came in with the support. If we’d both had a meltdown on the same day we would have been destroyed. It was like this awesome balance of ups and downs. Jenny had hard days. I would have hard days. And we would just support each other on those days.
What was planning the proposal like?
Robby: I was going back up to Washington for my last rotation and I forgot to grab my grandmother’s ring from my sister. I was going to stop in Bakersfield – my dad has family in Bakersfield – and Jenny was going to come up to spend one more day with us before we headed up. So I was like, “Can you please get this package for my mom from my sister?” My sister wrapped the ring in this little box that was in a bigger box in a bigger box – it was five-layer thing. Jenny carried her own ring up without realizing it.
What made you pick hooding day?
Robby: We started this in school. I knew when we got hooded it was the end of a chapter. We’re opening up a new chapter and I wanted it to be with her and prove it to her. We had said we’d talk about marriage after school because this has been a goal for us for many years. It took me 10 years to get here, so we wanted to make sure we focused on our degrees first.
Jenny: I love it when he tells people, “I just wanted to wait until we hit our PT goal before we got engaged,” because he waited four seconds. That was his interval.
What was the proposal moment like?
Robby: I was freaking out. I planned for this. We were at Jenny’s parents’ house. When the roll call started, I was getting ready to turn my camera on and it just completely froze on me. It was just not working.
Jenny: For me it was even more confusing. I was like “it’s fine I’ll fix it” and Robby is really upset. He is not a formal person. I didn’t even know he cared about graduation.
The moment came, you got down on one knee, and then what happened?
Jenny: He said he was going to kneel down so I could hood him, and I was like, “I am two inches shorter than you. I can reach over your head!” As he knelt down, I was thinking, “Ugh, he thinks I’m short. This is so stupid.” And then he turned around and I think the look on my face says it better than words could.
Robby: I saw her face and realized she was going to say yes – and I lost all train of thought. I forgot what I was going to say. I lost all cognitive function. I had a whole thing I was going to say and completely forgot it.
Jenny: Then the parents started yelling.