UAA is intertwined in the story of Sally and Weston Bennett. The couple, now raising a family in Cordova, first met at UAA. They got married at UAA. Now, they’re even using this campus newsletter to share some news (friends and family—feel free to skip to the end).
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s an amazing UAA love story. But the Feb. 14 holiday doesn’t mean a whole lot to them; in a sign they were meant for each other, the two can barely remember their own anniversary.
One door slams, another opens
Sally and Weston met the night before their first college classes. Weston had stopped by his buddy’s room in the freshmen dorm and, in typical teenage tomfoolery, they decided to build a putt-putt course in the hallway. They also decided to invite the girls across the hall.
Weston knocked, Sally answered. “She was like ‘No.’ BOOM” Weston recalls of the moment she slammed the door on their first interaction.
So it wasn’t love at first sight. Things warmed, though, as they kept running into each other on campus and in the dorms. They started dating a few months into their first semester.
Both Sally and Weston worked as RAs in college, and the shared experience provided a host of mutual friends, including Josh Brown, B.A. ’06, who remains one of their closest pals. “I loved living in the dorms,” Sally said. “It’s where I met Weston and Josh, [who are] two best friends of mine, so it’s a pretty important place for me.”
The three would often joke about moving into adult dorms when they retired, and Josh even signed Sally up for a waiting list at a Wasilla retirement community. After all, who wouldn’t want to live with their closest friends and eat soft serve ice cream every night (the retirement plan is still in effect, by the way).
After they graduated (and got engaged, and adopted a puppy named Frito) the couple ended up in Spokane, where Weston planned logistics for Target’s entry into Alaska. Meanwhile, they planned their own wedding in Alaska as well.
Since they met at UAA, an on-campus ceremony made sense. Both Sally and Weston are decidedly low-key, and the wedding in Cuddy Hall allowed them to keep it simple. Like, super simple. “We were basically at a table and said, ‘Hey we’re going to get married now. If you want, pay attention. If not, could you just be quiet?,’” Sally joked. A day after the wedding, Weston had to fly back to work.
After a stressful year in Spokane, they decided to find something more their speed back in Anchorage. Sally taught English at Central Middle School while Weston found a job through UAA’s Career Services Center.
“It was a really good job. It worked out really well for everyone,” Weston said of his project management role with ASIG, an aviation supply company. “They were looking for someone just like me, someone with a little bit of experience but still moldable, who was educated enough to understand the problems.” With ASIG, Weston used his management degree to oversee multi-million-dollar contracts and manage the assets that connected the Port of Anchorage to the city’s main airport. The career experience in project management helped the family later relocate to Cordova.
Switching over stitching
But knitting played an even larger role.
Though both Sally and Weston grew up in Anchorage, they talked often about moving their young family to a simpler life in small town Alaska. You can’t live in the dorms forever, but you can still find that sense of community.
Sally—who’s been obsessed with knitting since high school—often travels specifically to attend knitting events. When Cordova announced a conference with nationally known knitting personalities (yes, it’s a thing), she knew she had to go. Weston watched the kids and Sally spent a week immersed in small town living and big name knitting.
“I just loved it,” Sally recalled of that week in Cordova. Her first stop, obviously, was the Net Loft, a local crafts store. “I walked in to the yarn shop and texted Weston, ‘We are now moving here,’” she laughed. Morning walks with a local mother convinced Sally it was a great place to raise their two kids, Sawyer and Lucy. Nightly talks from other locals convinced her even more that Cordova was right for their family.
A few months later, they piled their cars, kids and dogs onto the ferry across Prince William Sound.
After two years, the Bennetts are still smitten with small town living. The grocery, library and gym are within four blocks of their home. The city pool and pre-school are just a bit further. There are no traffic lights to be found. The kids’ car seats go largely unused, as the family walks almost everywhere.
But just like in the dorms, it’s the community that makes Cordova such a gem. “A lot of people have grown up here, left and come back, which I think is really unique for a small town in Alaska,” Sally noted. Weston concurred; “People are proud to be living in this town.”
Sally is now a full-time mother and part-time knitting instructor. Though it’s not a conventional use of her master’s in education, it certainly fits. “I really like seeing people learn,” she said; those moments of clarity are frequent as her beginner’s loop, knot and stitch their very first projects.
Weston is the city’s superintendent of facilities, and he stepped into a very visible role upon arrival. After years of work, Cordova now has a beautiful multi-story community space right on 1st Street that houses the library, museum, an auditorium and City Hall. The Cordova Center’s walls are lined with copper, harking back to the town’s early mining days, and the two-story atrium frames the harbor, today’s economic engine.
Weston stepped onto the 34,000-square-foot project once the building’s exterior was complete, and he ushered it toward an efficient end. As a project manager, he made sure all the plumbers, framers, electricians, etc. stayed on target on several wildly different spaces (for example, an auditorium is a lot more complicated than a meeting room). Coming from a career at the world’s fifth busiest cargo airport, the project presented a unique challenge; in road-less Cordova, supplies arrived by barge only once a week. Weston hit the ground running, and balanced the project’s demands for much of the last two years. The Cordova Center opened in November 2015.
Seawolf Weekly exclusive scoop
UAA, clearly, has played a major role in the Bennetts’ life together. It’s where they met, it’s where they married, and some of their best friends and finest memories came from here. “I always enjoyed my time at UAA,” Weston added.
Now, UAA is yet again the staging point for a big moment in their life. It’s a Seawolf Weekly exclusive; family and friends, you heard it here first. This fall, Sally and Weston will welcome their third child.
Congratulate them as you should. Call them if you must. But remember… there’s a reason they’re telling you all in a weekly newsletter from their university. This is one low-key couple of alumni.
Congratulations, you two.
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement