Hundreds on campus watch live, ‘Lectric’ proposal
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Like everyone else, Rachel O’Brien heard the chatter on campus Thursday – that a Grand Canyon University student was going to propose to his girlfriend at 4:35 p.m. on the Promenade in front of the Student Union.
Better yet, the campus was invited to see the knee-drop in real-time, live as it was happening.
— Lana Sweeten-Shults (@LanaSweetenShul) January 26, 2018
She hadn’t seen the sign that invited the campus to the big event – a 7-foot tall white sign in black letters that declared, “LIVE MARRIAGE PROPOSAL, Thursday, January 25th, At 4:35 p.m. You and I, forever. HERE.”
But if she could have read the signs she might have guessed what was going to happen next.
At precisely 4:35 p.m., Lectric Longboards co-creator Levi Conlow, dapper in a blue-and-white checkered shirt and dark tie, dashed to the center of a crowd of several hundred GCU students who started to cheer and clap. They had gathered, like O’Brien — a GCU dance education major and student teacher at Deer Valley High School — to watch the romantic declaration.
That’s when O’Brien’s heart started to race and when Conlow, who had to scrap his plan to use a microphone after he accidentally pulled the mic wire out of the speaker, yelled for O’Brien to join him in the center of the crowd just as Ed Sheeran‘s “Perfect” played in the background.
“There’s no one I love more than you. It’s been four years. Let’s make it forever,” he said as he held her hands and then dropped to his knee and presented her with a ring.
O’Brien, her hands cupping her mouth in disbelief, nodded, then said, “Yes, yes.”
“My friends were, like, ‘Oh, there’s a sign.’ I was really excited to watch a proposal. I had NO idea,” O’Brien said a few minutes after the big moment. “I was shaking.”
Conlow’s friends kept his secret. Only a few were in on his plan, including Gemma Garcia, who managed to keep the secret for a week.
“Every time I saw her, I was super excited,” said Garcia, who has been O’Brien’s roommate for three years.
She had a big job in this life-changing scenario – not only to help make the sign and keep quiet, but to make sure O’Brien got to the promenade on time.
Nathan Cooper, who started the Lectric Longboards skateboard business with fellow Minnesotan Conlow, used some of the entrepreneurial acumen he honed as a GCU marketing major in putting together the proposal logistics.
“He initially told me the idea a couple of months ago,” Cooper said. “About two weeks ago, Levi said, ‘We’ve got to get this done.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We kind of refined the plan. We built the sign in our office and put it up last night (Wednesday night) at 8 o’clock. We were worried it was going to get taken down.”
And, of course, a marriage proposal wouldn’t be complete without a little technology and social media, so Cooper said, in addition to the sign, “We also made a Snapchat filter.” (It said, “Live Proposal” and was paired with a photo of the newly engaged couple.)
Cooper said, with a smile, that his GCU business training helped in all this prewedding planning: “There’s a lot of parts that had to come together. We need this person to get her, and then there’s the sign, and get them in place at this time …”
Even O’Brien’s sister, Abbie, a GCU freshman, didn’t know.
“They’re perfect for each other for so many reasons,” she said. She almost started to cry as she took a moment to think of those reasons. “They just get along.”
Charlie MacCallum added, “They have different personalities, but they kind of blend together well.”
“But they never fight,” Abbie said.
Conlow said he and O’Brien have known each other since first grade but didn’t start dating until their senior year in high school.
He said he has been concocting the proposal for about a year.
“I knew how I wanted to propose. We put up the wall (the sign) last night and went for it,” he said. “I thought it would be really cool if she walked past it and if she thought it might be her.”
Conlow, who is working on his master’s degree, said he wanted to share perhaps the biggest moment in his life with everyone at GCU because, “I love the community here. I thought a lot of my friends would show up. I didn’t think this many would.”
Nursing student Paige Ramsland gathered at the promenade with a group of other nursing students dressed in their purple scrubs. She heard about the proposal through the grapevine and wanted to be there.
“I thought it was cute,” she said of the idea, and she wanted to see it play out.
Conlow’s dad, Brent, who also helped make the sign, said of being among the crowd of GCU students, faculty and staff gathered around his son and his son’s new fiancée, “It was neat to see the school rally around other students.”
Conlow’s mom, Judy, thought her husband brought her to campus to watch their son give a lecture in front of the engineering group – lecturing and giving tours is something he does often as a young entrepreneur with a burgeoning business that got its start on the GCU campus.
Cooper and Conlow started building electric skateboards in the shed of Conlow’s grandfather’s home in Sun City West, and, under the guidance of their Colangelo College of Business professors, the business has continued to grow. (Read the Lectric Longboards story here.)
Judy didn’t catch on that she was on campus not to see Levi give a lecture but for another reason — to see him get engaged — until a few minutes before it happened.
“I finally figured it out,” she said, beaming, and calling her son “one of a kind.” She added, “He knew she (O’Brien) was the one.”
Conlow echoed those same words. When asked how he knew he wanted to spend his life with O’Brien, he just said: “You just know when she’s the one.”
You can reach GCU Today senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.