When outgoing treasurer Justin A. Barkley ’02 walked into his last Undergraduate Council meeting Sunday night, he had more on his mind than his farewell speech. The ring that Barkley was planning to present to his girlfriend of three years, Tufts junior Melissa G. Ausman, had been burning a hole in his pocket all evening. Though it not the most romantic setting, Barkley had decided that his last Council meeting would be the perfect time to ask her to be his blushing bride. His reasoning was simple. “I wanted to share that with my friends, and you can’t sort of go around telling people, ‘This is what I want to do and can you be there,’” Barkley explained.
The consummate Southern gentleman, Barkley followed the traditional rules of courtship and talked to Ausman’s father before proposing to her. With that hurdle out of the way, all that remained between Barkley and happily ever after were those four little words. In front of the newly elected representatives, council veterans and his closest friends, Barkley delivered an emotional speech and then stepped down from the podium, as though he were finished. But of course, he wasn’t. “And there’s one more thing,” Barkley added as he approached Ausman, pulled her up to the stage, and, after reading her the lyrics to the Lonestar’s “Amazed,” asked her to marry him. Ausman was shocked. She hadn’t expected anything when Barkley invited her to the meeting. “He always likes me to see his speeches so I told him I’d go,” she said. “I was surprised,” Ausman added in wonder. She wasn’t the only one. “What do you say after something like that?” President Paul A. Gusmorino ’02 asked. “It was definitely the most exciting thing to happen at a UC meeting. Maybe even the most wonderful thing.”
The couple’s relationship began when they were both students in Birmingham, Ala. They met when Barkley, then a senior, stopped by one of his favorite teacher’s rooms to say hi. Ausman had stayed after class to ask the teacher a question and they were introduced. One thing led to another, and they’ve been together ever since. Separated by only a few stops on the T, Barkley and Ausman feel that the distance has helped their relationship. “It works out well because she has her friends there and I have my friends here,” said Barkley. “If we both went to Harvard we’d eat every meal together.”
It’s the stuff of fairy tales and Disney movies. Meet a boy, go on a date, fall in love, live happily ever after. And while most dream of their prince proposing at midnight on a windswept beach or at the climax of a candlelit dinner, the way Barkley elected to pop the question seemed to suit the happy couple just fine. After accepting the abundance of congratulations and good wishes that were showered upon them, Barkley and Ausman excused themselves. With their departure, the sparkle of romance dissipated and the meeting resumed its agenda. As they basked in their post-proposal glow, Barkley and Ausman once again eschewed the ostentatious and opted for something familiar. The menu that night? “Noch’s and IBC root beer,” Ausman said happily.
In the volatile world of college dating where, more often than not, princes are toads and and relationships are dysfunctional at best, it’s nice to know that sometimes, just sometimes, things work out. The legend of that guy who proposed to his girlfriend at the UC meeting will live on. Gusmorino pointed out, “Four years from now, when [a freshmen who was there] is president and is giving their opening remarks, they’ll be saying ‘my first UC meeting’ and retelling the story.”
Barkley and Ausman aren’t quite at happily ever after yet. The details of the couple’s future still remain undecided. Barkley is currently applying to law schools and Ausman plans to leap into the work force after she finishes school this June (through Advanced Standing). “It’s all up in the air right now,” Barkley admitted. “The only thing we know for sure is that we’ll be together.” However, most would say that is quite enough.