When Keisuke Kawata’s parents flew in to Philadelphia from Japan and met his girlfriend Brittany Tucker for the first time, he realized he wanted to marry her.
Kawata, a doctoral student in Temple’s department of kinesiology, and Tucker, a 2015 alumna of recreation therapy, had casually talked about marriage before, but never made an official plan.
At the Temple homecoming game against Tulane, Kawata arranged a surprise proposal to Tucker on the football field. Shocked, overjoyed and in front of the entire stadium, Tucker immediately said yes.
The couple met through a mutual friend Dana Sheeley, who was also at the game and helped arrange the surprise.
Kawata’s parents came to visit him around last Christmastime and he was nervous when taking Tucker to meet them, due to Kawata’s parents speaking minimal English and cultural differences.
“Brittany was very natural—I was just so impressed by her behavior and attitude towards my parents,” Kawata said. “My parents loved her so much. When I stepped out to go to the bathroom, I came back with some sort of anxiety because I didn’t want to leave them alone. But when I came back, I saw them laughing out loud together.”
“She was so impressive about the cultural understanding and very respectful towards my parents,” he added. “It was reassuring to me and I decided—OK, this is my future wife.”
Kawata is currently a third-year doctoral student conducting research in the neuroscience lab within the School of Medicine. Over the summer, he collaborated with the coaches and sports medicine team during a project on concussion studies for his dissertation research.
Assistant athletic trainer and Kawata’s sports medicine teammate, Masahiro Hagi, put him in contact with Temple Athletics to help arrange the proposal.
“Without him I could never do this study and if I couldn’t do this study, I could never do this proposal—he was a key person for everything,” Kawata said.
Tucker was told she and Sheeley were randomly selected for a seat upgrade onto the field. The girls stood on the field in a specific position while projected on the big screen and were directed to wave to the crowd.
Tucker said she thought it was a little weird how overly happy Sheeley was to be on the field, but she never expected for Kawata to sneak behind her and be down on one knee as she turned around.
“A million things were going through my mind at that time and when I turned around, I got a mental block and didn’t even really realize what was going on,” Tucker said. “I thought I was dreaming.”
“I wish I could just replay it over and over again,” she added.
Tucker was especially overwhelmed and grateful after she found out Kawata also arranged for her parents to be there. Being a “Temple person,” she said, it meant a lot for the proposal to happen where it did.
“I love Temple so much and have so much Temple pride, and for him to do it on the field where students, my teachers, my parents and so many people were there—it was huge,” Tucker said. “I’m so grateful and super excited to think I’m going to spend the rest of my life with my best friend.”
Alexa Zizzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.