It’s rare that you hear a story about coworkers being set up by other coworkers that doesn’t end in farce or tragedy. But in the case of University of Utah President David W. Pershing and Dr. Sandi Pershing, it ends in family, fulfillment and matrimony.
In December 2007, Sandi was approached by a colleague who asked about her relationship status. They told her there was someone who was interested in asking her out on a date. At the same time, another colleague told David Pershing, then the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, that they knew of someone who wanted to be asked out by him.
“Neither one of us had actually had those conversations,” Sandi said, but so goes the nature of a set-up. The two began talking and getting to know each other over the phone. Eventually, Dave took it a step further and asked Sandi out to dinner.
“He sent me an email with three possible dates,” Sandi said. “He was so busy that we couldn’t go to lunch for a few weeks.”
The two eventually found free time on Feb 14, and they went on their first date to MacCool’s Public House, an Irish-style pub. Sandi made a good impression early on by ordering a meatloaf instead of a lighter meal.
“[Dave] couldn’t believe I ordered meatloaf instead of a salad with dressing on the side,” said Sandi. “We’ve been together ever since.”
It didn’t take long for Dave to ask Sandi out again. Just weeks after their first date, he asked Sandi to attend a faculty event at The Canyons Ski Resort that included sleigh riding, dinner and a performance by students from the U’s School of Music.
Dave wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any administrators at the event. “We had just started dating,” he said. A friend and colleague assured him that it would be only faculty and no big-time figures.
They were surprised, when then-President Michael K. Young walked in and greeted them. Without say or consent, their relationship was in the public spotlight.
“‘Well, I guess it’s official,’” Sandi remembers thinking.
Still, they both remember the experience as exquisite, enjoyable and grand.
“It was wonderful,” Dave said. “It was snowy. It was beautiful.”
The next step was to straighten up family affairs. Dave and Sandi both had daughters from previous marriages, and Sandi wanted to “be sure [they] made sense together” before getting even more seriously involved.
“It’s kind of a big deal to start dating someone who has young kids,” she said.
Luckily, Dave made an immediate impression on Sandi’s two daughters.
“The girls still talk about the first time he came over,” Sandi said. It was Easter and Dave brought a stuffed animal for Sandi and chocolate rabbits for the girls. “They thought it was really cool he did that,” Sandi said.
After two years of dating, Dave wanted to take the relationship to the next level. While on vacation in London, he asked Sandi to marry him in the gardens of Westminster Abbey.
“It just made sense to do it there,” Dave said.
She said yes, and the Pershings were married in the fall that year. “It was really sweet,” Sandi said of the proposal.
When asked what advice they would give to students, the President and Vice President of Engagement both brought up a number of things. One word of advice they had was to date nice people.
“I think that’s a very important characteristic,” Dave said. “You want to date a really good person. Someone who will care not only about you but about other people.”
Take advice from your friends, they said, and let them arrange dates for you. “[Your friends] know you,” Sandi said.
Find someone who you can spend your free time with, Dave said. “It really helps to have the same interests.”
Sandi agreed, and added that you need to “make sure you make time for each other.”
Even with their busy careers, the Pershings find time for vacations and weekend plans with one another. “You have to work at it,” Dave said.
Don’t settle when it comes to finding a partner, they both agreed. “Be picky,” Dave said. “Be picky.”
“I think that wonderful people are out there,” Sandi said. “Sometimes you have to wait awhile to find them. But they are worth waiting for.”