A bride and groom hold hands in front of a large VCU sign.
After several years of friendship grew into something more, Kathleen and Will Hale got married on VCU’s campus in 2020. (courtesy photo)

Ram romances: A required freshman course at VCU was just the start for Kathleen and Will Hale

Friendship took root in 2012 class, and after a wedding with campus connections, it continues to grow on their Powhatan farm.

Share this story

Kathleen and Will Hale’s classic Hollywood-style meet-cute happened in a classroom in 2012.  

As part of their first-year experience, new Virginia Commonwealth University students are required to take classes in the Department of Focused Inquiry that get them thinking and talking about learning and communication. For Kathleen and Will, it was an ideal introductory course to VCU – and to each other.

“Our class was very communicative,” said Kathleen, a 2016 mass communications graduate from the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Professor Michael Abelson’s style of teaching was to involve us as much as possible.”

The interactive style prompted her and Will to have lengthy conversations. She was fascinated by his deep voice and calming presence. “He was very laid back, very observant, very easy-going,” she said.

For his part, Will said he appreciated Kathleen’s “sweetness.”

“She was very genuine. She has a warmth,” said Will, also a 2016 mass comm graduate who later earned a master’s degree from VCU’s School of Social Work. “We kind of clicked. It was very easy for us to communicate.”

A bride and groom hold hands and laugh while standing in front of an officiant, who is also laughing.
The pair asked their Focused Inquiry professor, Michael Abelson, to officiate their wedding in Triangle Park. (courtesy photo)

The two became fast friends – “we understood each other very quickly,” Kathleen said – and would often meet throughout college at Triangle Park, the grass-filled space between the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts and the James W. Black Music Center.

But they never really considered dating each other, and even if they had, the timing would have been off. Either Will was dating someone else or Kathleen was.

“It never lined up,” Will said.

After graduation, Kathleen worked in Washington, D.C., but returned to Richmond to join Hunton Andrews Kurth, the law firm where she is now a full-time legal experience management analyst. Will worked as a bike mechanic at VCU’s RamBikes after college for a while and later in positions in the mental health field. He now works as a mental health outpatient therapist in Powhatan County.

Everything was status quo in their friendship until they each had “‘aha” moments when they realized they wanted more. Kathleen’s came in Triangle Park.

“A girl was riding a bike and fell off, hit the ground pretty hard. Will casually walked over and started helping her,” Kathleen recalled. “The way he was so kind, I started thinking he always had my back. He made me feel like if I had something to talk about and work through, it would be OK. I thought, I want to marry him. I wanted a partner in life. He’s shown that he has my back and is my shoulder to cry on.”

Will’s realization came in a different way. He was working at the bike shop. His roommate and all the members of his social circle had moved out of Richmond. Originally from Roanoke, Will started questioning why he was still in Richmond.

“I realized it was definitely because of Kathleen,” he said.

The two married in 2020 in Triangle Park, after rearranging their wedding because of COVID.

“It was the scene of our entire relationship, the touchpoint of our relationship,” Kathleen said, adding that Professor Abelson officiated the wedding. “I always had this idea. He was so nice and gracious.”

Her life now is better than she ever imagined, she said. “I think we have done a good job. Will is the driver of ideas because I get overwhelmed about future plans.”

They live on a farm in Powhatan and raise white Pekin ducks – “that was our first leap into being farmers,” Kathleen said – and Will, the gardener in the family, cultivates native plants and hopes to expand the farm, possibly adding sheep and goats in the future.

More notably, “this is a great place for our 10-month-old daughter, Margaret, to grow up,” he said.

One day they will share with her how fortunate they feel to have met in that Focused Inquiry class.

“My husband is my best friend and always will be my best friend,” Kathleen said. “He’s the first person I go to, the first person I want to tell things to. That hasn’t changed since 2012. I’m very grateful for that class and our professor.”

A couple smile at the camera, along with an infant child.
Today the Hales live on a farm in Powhatan with their daughter, Margaret. (courtesy photo)