The forwarded email from the UF president came with a request.
“Beth, I have an urgent matter I need you to help me with,’” Beth Boone recalled. As executive assistant for Kent Fuchs, she was used to fielding his requests.
But this time was different.
The original email had come from Joseph Cacioppo, a UF student who had hoped to ask his girlfriend of a year and seven months to marry him. But rain had ruined his plans to pop the question at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park at sunset.
So he emailed Fuchs, hoping for some help. Boone, at the request of her boss, got at work getting in touch with Cacioppo, a UF computer science senior. She gathered reinforcements from the other women in the office. They searched for the perfect campus proposal setting in just a few hours.
The story surfaced Wednesday when Fuchs tweeted out part of Cacioppo’s email, along with a posed photo of the now-engaged couple and a selfie he took with them.
“CONGRATULATIONS Joseph & Caitlyn!” he wrote.
Cacioppo had originally planned to proposed to Caitlyn Simpson at a sunset photoshoot at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, but the thunderstorms forced him to find an alternative.
One of Cacioppo’s friends jokingly suggested during lunch Friday at Chipotle to contact Fuchs for help. Cacioppo said he didn’t expect anything to come out of his email to Fuchs, but within half an hour, he heard back from Boone.
“He got the email in between meetings,” Boone said. So she took charge.
She contacted Robin Schrieber, assistant to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and got a key to the Keene Faculty Center in Dauer Hall as a last-minute plan.
At about 7 p.m. Saturday, Cacioppo brought Simpson to the room. Its large windows allowed for the sunset to reflect off the dark brown wood floors and antique furniture.
Cacioppo’s friend Michael Chan-Pong pretended he needed the couple to pose for his photography portfolio, which explained why they needed to be clothed in a suit and a knee-length floral white dress.
Simpson, a UF applied physiology and kinesiology senior, said she had mentioned engagement earlier this year to Cacioppo, but did not expect it until after their graduation in May.
“I thought we were just going to do this photoshoot for our friend, so I was completely caught off guard when he started proposing,” Simpson said. “It was a good surprise.”
On Wednesday, the couple stopped by Tigert Hall to deliver cookies to Boone as thanks for helping arrange the proposal. As they left the building, Simpson said she spotted Fuchs getting out of his car. So Cacioppo introduced themselves.
“Hey President Fuchs, we’re that couple who you helped get engaged,” Cacioppo said.
Cacioppo said he hasn’t thought about inviting the president to their wedding, but he may plan to now.
Boone’s advice: “Send an invite because you never know. He is very passionate about the students.”