Rec Center proposal unites Kent State couple


Kent State alum Mark Gupko proposes to senior psychology major Rebecca Kozak inside the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

Erin Zaranec

Increased heart rate, rushing adrenaline and weakness in the knees are all common signs you’re at the Kent State Recreation and Wellness Center.

For most students, these symptoms accompany a workout. For senior psychology major Rebecca Kozak, they were caused by a surprise marriage proposal.

During a routine trip to the Rec Center, Kozak approached the climbing wall, only to be surrounded by friends and family. The unexpected visitors weren’t her only surprise, though, as her boyfriend Mark Gupko got down on one knee.

“I decided to propose there because it’s where we met three years prior,” said Gupko, a 2015 Kent State graduate. “If it wasn’t for us attending Kent State we would have never known each other.”

For the couple, the Rec Center signified the start of their relationship and would serve as the perfect location to start their lives as an engaged couple.

“(Mark) came to me the night before and said he had a weird request for me,” said Nicholas Barber, a graduate appointee in Kent State Recreational Services. “I’ve honestly heard it all, but when he said he wanted to do a proposal here, that was a new one for me.”

In the Rec’s history on campus, no students have gotten engaged inside of the facility. 

Within 24 hours, Barber made Gupko’s dream a reality. He coordinated with the staff to arrange facility access for family, friends and for Gupko himself. As a graduate, Gupko did not have free FlashCard entry to the Rec.

In need of an excuse to be back on Kent State grounds, Gupko used the alibi of a fake dodgeball tournament that he signed up for with some friends. With an excuse in place and the staff on board, all plans were set in stone.

“I had no idea until I got (to the Rec) and Mark’s friends made up a cheesy excuse about the game being delayed and that Mark was now thinking of going rock climbing,” Kozak said. “As soon as that happened I knew something was up.”

While Gupko only recruited the Wellness Center staff’s assistance with basic logistics, Barber wanted to ensure that the proposal would go off without a hitch. 

A photographer from the Wellness Center was on the scene, providing the couple with photo and video memories of the milestone.

“As a staff, we really came together to make sure it was special,” Barber said. “He really just wanted to be able to get in and do the proposal, but we got more out of it than he even anticipated.”

The couple plans to tie the knot in October 2018. 

Erin Zaranec is a features correspondent for the Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]