This past fall was full of excitement for the Montague family of North Carolina. Zoe Montague ’20 was on Homecoming Court, and her dad, Kelvin Montague ’88, recently celebrated a birthday.
The family knew they’d be back on campus where Kelvin and wife, Jennifer ’89, met around 30 years ago to celebrate. The couple met in their Calculus II class when Jennifer was a freshman and Kelvin was a sophomore. They didn’t start dating until the next year when they were in chemistry class together.
“I was thrilled that he decided to sit next to me, toward the front of the classroom, instead of next to his athlete friends, who generally sat in the back of the classroom,” Jennifer remembers. “We were partners in chemistry lab.”
The couple married in 1992 and lived in several places, including Nevada and California (areas where their children were born), before settling in North Carolina. Jennifer went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from UNC-Chapel Hill and is currently director of Scientific Business Development for Carolina BioOncology Institute in Huntersville, N.C.
Kelvin earned an environmental engineering master’s degree from Clemson University and is a self-employed engineer working in the nuclear field.
Fast forward to this October, where Jennifer had one predicament: finding Kelvin the perfect birthday gift.
“At this point in our lives, we pretty much have everything we need, so finding that ‘perfect’ gift can be difficult,” Jennifer says.
That changed when she saw the “Met and Married” wall on the PC campus. She knew she wanted to get a plaque and later decided her husband’s birthday would be great timing. When she called to order it, she learned the orders are collected for several months, and then new plaques are added at one time.
Jennifer was able to get an order, but the plaques weren’t going to be installed until several weeks after his birthday.
“Luckily, our oldest daughter, Zoe, who is a senior at PC, called about the same time and said that she was going to be in the Homecoming Court!” Jennifer said. “The timing was perfect because they were planning on installing the plaques in time for Homecoming Weekend.”
Insert the surprise. Dad Kelvin was Zoe’s Homecoming escort, so Jennifer didn’t have to come up with a reason to randomly visit. Their other children would also be there to support Zoe, so the whole family would be there for the special weekend.
One of Zoe’s jobs was to get a balloon to draw attention to the plaque. The next step was figuring out a reason to walk through Neville Hall.
“When we got to PC that Saturday morning, we met Zoe at her apartment and then ‘decided’ to walk around campus for a bit (even though it was cold and rainy),” Jennifer said. “As we walked past Richardson and up toward the fountain, Zoe said, ‘Let’s go in Neville for a minute.’ Kelvin asked why, and she said there was an event she wanted to go to.”
“Kelvin wasn’t happy about the possibility of some Homecoming event occurring that he had to go to that he didn’t know about ahead of time, but he kept walking there with us,” she continued. “Once we went in the back door of Neville, we said, ‘Let’s look at the Met and Married wall to see if any new names are there.’
“Zoe had placed the balloon right at the height of our plaque, so we looked at that one first thing and yelled, ‘Surprise!’”
According to Jennifer, it took a minute for it to register with Kelvin that she had ordered the plaque. He was “very thankful for the great surprise,” she said, although he did say he knew one day she’d get one—he just didn’t expect it to be a birthday surprise.
But the surprises didn’t end there. After Zoe partnered with her mom in planning the unveiling, she was named Homecoming Queen.
“Despite the cold and the rain, we could not have asked for a better time at PC this past Homecoming Weekend,” Jennifer said.
The Montagues chose to give back to their alma mater because, according to the PC alumna, “PC did a great job of preparing me and Kelvin for our future careers.”
She admitted she was first intimidated by her grad school classmates from larger universities. But it didn’t last long: She discovered soon enough that she was just as ready for her courses at UNC.
“I know first-hand that anyone who graduates from PC can hold their own at any graduate school they choose to attend,” she said. “Anything we can do to help others get that advantage in their life is important, and helping PC continue to grow and reach out to students is a way for us to help.”
Give back to PC
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