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Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Love Stories from UMO Alumni


Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Love Stories from UMO Alumni

Cupid has nothing on the University of Mount Olive when it comes to finding a perfect match. The UMO Office of Alumni Relations reports that about 500 couples have met, fell in love, and gotten married as a result of attending the University.  Included in that list are Director of Alumni Relations Hope McPherson Fields ’09 and her husband, Ryan ’08, who is a history teacher and coach at Spring Creek High School.


“I think with UMO being such a small community, the ground is just fertile for our students to really get to know each other,” Hope said.  “The atmosphere of the campus also encourages interaction with everyone, so finding love is sometimes unavoidable.  Speaking from experience, that isn’t a bad thing.”

Hope and Ryan met over lunch in the cafeteria and began to hang out together with other friends.  Love didn’t really spark for the pair until they traveled with the Honors group to Italy.  They began dating in March of 2008, got engaged in 2010, and were married in front of Rodgers Chapel on April 23, 2011. The couple is expecting their first child.

UMO Assistant Director of Buildings and Grounds Phil Carden ’96 and his wife, Jill Watkins ’93, also fell in love at UMO.  The pair met in the old modular unit near Henderson at a Free Will Baptist fellowship meeting. After hanging out and going places with friends, Jill hinted to Phil that she’d like to go on a date with him. They went to McDonalds.  The rest, as they say, is history.  The couple’s daughter, Rebecca, is currently enrolled at UMO studying agriculture education and their son, Noah, plans to attend as well. 

 “The experiences and relationships that I developed as a student continue to influence and help me,” Phil said. “I consider it an honor to work at UMO on a daily basis. Meeting Jill and having our family is the greatest opportunity ever afforded me, and it all started at UMO 26 years ago. The memories are far too great to mention, but I thank God for all my opportunities past and present.”

Kermit Nixon ’83 of Edenton and Kristi Van Loon ’84 of Goldsboro met in September 1982 outside the old cafeteria.  The University was a perfect choice for the couple.  They both enjoyed the small class sizes and close relationships with other students and professors.  Kermit and Kristi celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on December 21, 2016. 

Kermit is an investigator with the NC Dept of Insurance and Kristi recently retired from the NC Food Protection Program after 30 years of service. The couple have two children Kasey and Kanon.  Kasey ’08 and her husband, Josh ’08 Harward also attended and met at the University.  They have a son, Austin, born in May 2016.  UMO green runs in the family!


The love story of Deborah Woodrum’ 09 of  Lincolnton and Michael Quintas ’10 of Jacksonville began in 2006.  “I was Michael's mentor in his freshmen class,” Deborah admits.  “We started dating after the class ended and we have been together ever since!  We were and still are inseparable. Everyone knew that if they saw one of us, the other one was not far behind.”  The pair has been married for eight years.  They reside in West Point, Virginia with their two children Marcus and Candence.  Michael works for Huntington Ingalls Shipyard where he helps to build ships and submarines for the military.  Deborah works at a timeshare resort in Williamsburg called The Colonies at Williamsburg.

Back in 2005 Brandi Holloman ’07 of Mount Olive, NC and Nick Bartley ’08 of Jacksonville were two people who shared a love of music and dance.  After meeting each other in the lobby of Grantham Residence Hall, while working on work-study project.  The two became inseparable.  A friendship became the strong foundation of what was next to come.  The couple were married on June 26, 2010.  They welcomed their first baby girl, Leah, on July 30, 2012 and their second baby girl, Hayden, on September 17, 2015.

“It is crazy to think after ten years, UMO is where it all started,” Brandi stated.

Brandi works at United States Cold Storage as the Regional Accounting Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Region.  Nick works as a Technical Advisor, specifically for MARSOC (Marine Corps Special Operations Command), for Horizon Performance.

It’s no wonder that love blooms at UMO.  The University attracts very smart, very committed and on the whole, very nice people. And when smart, committed, nice people get together with other smart, committed and nice people, and walk the same tree-lined walkways, take the same rigorous courses, undertake the same activities, they are drawn to each other. It all makes for a happy ending!

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

Hope and Ryan Fields

Phil and Jill Carden with their children Rebecca and Noah and granddaughter Ansley

Kermit and Kristi Nixon with their son Kanon and daugther and son-in-law Kasey and Josh Harward, and grandson Austin.

Deborah and Michael Quintas with children Marcus and Candence.

Nick and Brandi Bartley with daughters Lean and Hayden