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Love Story: Van Inwegens met at GU orientation

Patrick and Victoria Van Inwegen have been married for 15 years. They met on their first day of college at Gonzaga University. (Dan Pelle)
Patrick and Victoria Van Inwegen have been married for 15 years. They met on their first day of college at Gonzaga University. (Dan Pelle)

Patrick Van Inwegen will never forget his first day of school at Gonzaga University in 1992. He enjoyed the excitement of exploring the campus, meeting his professors and making new friends – one friend in particular: Victoria Nicacio.

After the orientation barbecue, Patrick and Victoria talked late into the night with a small group of students. Patrick was smitten by the dark-haired girl. “She had a beautiful smile and a lot of sparkle,” he recalled.

For her part, Victoria was charmed by Patrick’s easygoing company. “He had a great sense of humor and he made me laugh!” She grinned. “He still does.”

But Victoria had a high school sweetheart back home in Tri-Cities. Patrick shrugged. “I was the ‘good friend,’ ” he said. “I heard all about the boyfriend woes.”

He offered a sympathetic ear when Victoria would break up with her boyfriend, only to find a few weeks later, they were back together. “I thought she was way out of my league, so I was content if all I could have was her friendship.”

But he longed for more, and eventually his patience was rewarded when Victoria ended her long-distance relationship for good. Patrick seized his chance, inviting her to the spring formal. He said, “I had known for a long time that she was the one for me.”

The date went well and Victoria looked at Patrick with new eyes. “I loved him as a friend,” she said. In fact, she considered him one of her best friends. But after that date, it didn’t take long for her to fall head-over-heels in love.

Both were avid scholars and university life consumed them. Though they often talked about their future together, when their senior year rolled around, Victoria still didn’t have an engagement ring.

When Patrick was asked “When did you propose?” Victoria interrupted. “Way too late!”

Then they laughed.

It seems Victoria had grown tired of waiting for his proposal, and one night shortly before their senior spring formal, she gave him a call – and a piece of her mind.

“Do you THINK about marrying me, or do you PLAN on marrying me?” she asked. “Because I am not going to be your ‘girlfriend’ for another second!”

What she didn’t know was that Patrick had planned an elaborate surprise proposal for the spring formal – the anniversary of their first date.

Neither remembers exactly how he responded to her furious phone call, but whatever he said, it was enough to placate her and keep the surprise intact.

“He asked me to marry him on the shore of Lake Arthur on the GU campus,” Victoria recalled. “He already had the ring.”

On Aug. 31, 1996, the couple wed at St. Aloysius Church. After a Hawaiian honeymoon they settled in Seattle, where Victoria had taken a job as a business consultant, and Patrick worked for the Boy Scouts of America.

Victoria loved her job, but the constant travel began to wear on her. “I’d been traveling for two years, 100 percent of the time,” she said. “If someone looked at my life at the time they would think that my job was the most important thing – and it wasn’t.”

Meanwhile, Patrick had decided what he really loved was political science. In fact, he wanted to go to graduate school so he could teach it. He enrolled at Loyola University in Chicago, and Victoria’s company was able to transfer her.

Eventually, she joined the staff of an Internet start-up company, and was able to leave her suitcases in the closet.

In March 2003, she gave birth to their son, Alex. When he was 3 months old, she went back to work half-time and Patrick became a stay-home dad. He was in the final year of his Ph.D. program, so his schedule was baby-compatible.

After graduation, they visited family in Idaho and Washington while Patrick sent out his résumé to universities across the nation. When the only offers he received were for adjunct positions, they decided he could do that kind of work in the Northwest and be near family.

“We put our Chicago condo on the market and never looked back,” Victoria said.

Patrick taught at the University of Puget Sound for a year and Victoria became the stay-home parent. That decision was something they’d discussed at length. “She could earn two times what I was making,” said Patrick. “But the hours would be really intense.”

They decided that hectic lifestyle wasn’t worth the income, and that they’d rather have less money and more time as a family.

It’s a decision that held true when Patrick was offered a temporary position at Whitworth University, six years ago. They moved to Spokane and bought a house in the Corbin Park area, and soon another baby was on the way.

Gabriella was born in February 2006, and Patrick’s temporary teaching position turned into a tenure-track job.

In August, the family will be moving to Costa Rica for a year. “Whitworth opened a campus there, and Pat has a sabbatical semester coming up,” Victoria explained. He is spending his sabbatical there, then will teach three courses.

The couple laughed often while talking about their 15-year union, and stressed flexibility and good communication has strengthened their bond.

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