More than 14,000 terra cotta tiles pave the Alumni Center courtyard. Many are engraved with the names of alumni and friends, and visitors can often be seen pacing the courtyard, searching for a tile that has meaning to them.
For two Life Members, those tiles are more than just a clever memento. They document a deeply personal moment: a marriage proposal.
The year was 1990. New grad Timothy Go, BS ’89, was flipping through his Alcalde when an advertisement caught his eye. For $100, alumni could buy a 8-by-4-inch tile and engrave it with two lines of text. The idea came to him suddenly: propose to his girlfriend of five years, Janice Shen, BBA ’88. Not long after they first locked eyes at a campus Bible study, Go knew she was the one for him.
Go mailed in an order form for two tiles. One would say “Janeo Shen, Marry Me?” and its neighbor, “Love, Tim Go. 1991.”
Go says he didn’t spend much time thinking about his plan. “The proposal was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” he laughs. “I thought, ‘if I chicken out, I just won’t tell anyone and she’ll never see the tile.’”
He didn’t chicken out. On New Year’s Day, 1991, Go picked Shen up in Galveston, where she was studying for a graduate degree in physical therapy. The Longhorns were playing in the Cotton Bowl, so Go suggested they watch the game at a bar.
They did just that, then headed to dinner. Many restaurants were closed for New Year’s Day. Go wanted to eat at the Pecan Street Cafe, but Shen sighed in disappointment at the “CLOSED” sign over the door. “Let’s go look anyway,” Go said. To Shen’s surprise, they were whisked in for a private candlelight dinner. Go had asked a chef friend to open the restaurant just for them. Another friend serenaded them on violin while they ate.
“It was a beautiful day,” Shen remembers. “And after dinner, I thought that was it. I didn’t suspect a thing.”
There was a full moon and they had a little time to kill before their flight back to Houston, so Go drove to the Alumni Center, where the couple strolled the grounds. “Check out these tiles,” Go said.
“Yeah, they probably cost an outrageous amount,” Shen replied. “I wonder what kind of person would buy one.”
There was just one problem: Go couldn’t find his tile. For 15 minutes, he searched frantically, trying to play it cool. “I almost gave up,” he admits. At last, he saw it and called Shen over to read it. “When I looked up from reading the tile, he was on his knee with a ring,” she remembers. “I said yes, of course.”
They were married on Dec. 28, 1991.
Twenty years later, their union is still going strong. After stints in Singapore and Canada, the Gos now live in Kansas. Their oldest child, 17-year-old Jonathan (his middle name is Austin—guess why), will apply to UT this fall.
“We’re burnt orange to the bone,” Go says.
From top: Janice right after Tim’s proposal in 1991; the couple in 2005; and with their children in 2005. Photos courtesy Janice and Tim Go.
Cary Michael Cox:
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