Engineering a love story

Published: Feb 10, 2016 7:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Megan Burmester,, 334.844.2220

Katy and Brad Howell        Kelly and Jamie Roberts       Paula and Sal Marino        Nancy and Allan Bissinger          Julia and Seth Green 

julia and seth
Julia and Seth Green got married on May 14, 2011
and are expecting a baby boy on April 29.

Career fair ignites more than work sparks

He dropped off his resume, and she picked up his number.

Julia and Seth Green met through a chance encounter at an Auburn Engineering career fair, where Julia was the representative from her company and Seth was a student looking for career prospects. Although they never worked together, the career fair did create a match made in heaven.

Julia, originally from Mobile, Alabama, graduated in 2005 with a civil engineering degree and followed it up with a master’s degree in environmental engineering in 2007. She knew she wanted to be an engineer from an early age after taking an active interest in Legos and anything math and science related.

“I enjoyed problem solving and building structures,” Julia said. “Yes, I was a nerd.”

Several of her family members and friends attended Auburn and when Julia would visit them, she loved the atmosphere and campus. Since the school had a top-rated engineering program, Julia knew it was an easy decision to attend Auburn.

Seth, a 2008 civil engineering graduate, was born and raised in Birmingham, and knew he had an interest in engineering and wanted to attend a program that ranked highly not only in the Southeast, but among the best in the nation. According to Seth, Auburn Engineering fit the bill perfectly.

Julia and Seth both attended Auburn at the same time and while they would see each other in different labs and had mutual friends, they never dated in college. It wasn’t until a chance meeting a few years later at an Auburn Engineering career fair that Seth and Julia reconnected, this time on a more personal level.

Julia had been talking to prospective students about employment opportunities when Seth came up and dropped off his resume (with his phone number on it) to her, and soon after they had their first fishy date.

“Seth took me fishing at Lake Purdy in Birmingham. Growing up on the river in Mobile, I always enjoyed fishing, and Seth grew up fishing on Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro, Alabama, so it was something we shared,” Julia said.

They dated for a few years, and after Julia had accepted a position at a new company, she decided to take some time off in between leaving her old job and beginning her new one. Seth decided to take her on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Las Vegas during her time off, and unbeknownst to Julia, propose to her. The proposal, however, almost didn’t happen because of extenuating circumstances.

Seth had originally intended to propose on their first night in Las Vegas during dinner at the Top of the World restaurant, which gives diners a 360-degree view of the city, but thanks to their flight being delayed, they completely missed their reservation. Seth wasn’t able to book another reservation at Top of the World until the last night of their vacation.

“The ring had been burning a hole in his pocket the entire trip until the very last night when he got down on one knee and proposed,” Julia said.

Julia and Seth enjoy traveling together and
have hiked at Yellowstone National Park.

They got married on May 14, 2011, in Julia’s parents’ backyard in Mobile and the two are gearing up to become first-time parents. Their baby boy is due on April 29.

Julia and Seth both work for Southern Company in Birmingham, where Julia is an environmental strategy engineer and develops the company’s capital environmental compliance strategy. Seth is a dam safety engineer and is responsible for ensuring federal compliance and safety at Southern Company’s fleet of hydroelectric dams.

In addition to living and working together, Julia and Seth also enjoy sharing another passion: traveling. Each year, they plan a trip close to their anniversary and so far have been scuba diving in Roatan, Honduras, explored Rocky Mountain National Park, driven the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and hiked Yellowstone National Park.

Julia said Auburn Engineering (and a certain career fair) is what brought her and Seth together.

“Both of us being Auburn engineers is what we initially had in common,” Julia said. “And since we had that interest, we were able grow our relationship into what it is today.”

First date that almost never happened leads to 22-year marriage

sal and paula
Paula and Sal live in Birmingham
with their three daughters.

A first date that started off rocky with the challenge of who would pay, led to a solid marriage going on 22 years for Sal and Paula Marino.

Sal, ’91 electrical engineering and Paula, ’92, ’95 electrical engineering, each had a special knack for math and science from an early age, and a special affinity for Auburn. Sal grew up a big Auburn fan, with his dad and brother graduating from Auburn Engineering. As an added incentive, Sal’s dad told him he could go to college anywhere in the country he wanted, but if he went to Auburn, he’d pay for it. Paula did a resistor exercise in her high school physics class that led her to pursue a career in electrical engineering at Auburn.

Even though Sal and Paula were in the same major while at Auburn, they didn’t meet until their mutual friend, Mike Lee, accidentally set them up during their last quarter at school.

“I had missed an ethics class and Mike mentioned to me that I should get class notes from this guy, Sal Marino,” Paula said. “I walked into a ‘green room’ and saw Sal studying with some friends, and Mike introduced us. The ironic thing is Sal never studied in that room. He just happened to be there that day.”

After spending time with Sal, Paula decided to invite him to her sorority’s Sadie Hawkins hay ride. Since they did not know each other well enough for an exclusive hay ride date, they decided to go to the movies first. Unfortunately, Sal committed a first-date fail: not having enough money to pay for the date. But his excuse for his lack of funds was even more surprising, and confusing, to Paula.

“Sal said he didn’t have money for the movie because he had not been to the Alabama Power Company office that day,” Paula said. “I thought that’s weird because I usually pay Alabama Power, not the other way around. He must not want to go.”

Sal tried to remedy the situation by asking his roommate to spot him the money, but it was unsuccessful. In a last ditch effort, Paula offered to pay and Sal quickly accepted, and paid her back the following day. Paula later found out that Sal’s dad, who worked for Alabama Power, had opened Sal’s checking account with the Alabama Power Company credit union and the only way for Sal to retrieve money was going to the local office. Paula likes to joke in hindsight that was a genius plan to make it difficult to get money and they will consider this tactic with their three children.

sal and paula
Paula and Sal stand in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Once they made it through the shaky movie date and much more stable hay ride, they continued dating and eventually got engaged in 1993. Sal was working for Alabama Power in Birmingham, and Paula was earning her Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Auburn so they were seeing each on weekends. On Valentine’s Day weekend, Sal bought a stuffed bear that was holding a heart that could be lifted up, and using those ingenious engineering skills, tied the engagement right to the ribbon under the bear’s heart. After dinner, Sal presented Paula with the bear, and asked her to lift up its heart, where she found the ring. In addition, he gave Paula a big cookie from the American Cookie Company that read “Will you marry me?” Of course, Paula said yes, and ever since that Valentine’s Day, it is their tradition for Sal to get a big cookie and surprise Paula, and now their three girls, with a message on it.

They got married on April 22, 1994, and currently live in Birmingham with Olivia, 13, Salena, 11, and Isabella, 8. Sal is a manager in the transmission control center of Alabama Power, and Paula is an executive vice president of engineering and construction services at Southern Company.

While their first date almost never happened, Sal and Paula admit that it did lead to a funny miscommunication issue that will never die between them.

“After the movie on our first date, we drove back to Sal’s apartment and upon arriving, Sal asked ‘Do you want to get down?’” Paula said. “I said, ‘absolutely not!’ Sal realized the misunderstanding and explained that all his life his family had used that phrase to mean do you want to get out of the car and come in.” After quickly explaining himself, Paula laughed and the two still joke about the look on her face. However, just to be safe, and protect himself, Sal has never used that phrase again. 

Newspaper ritual delivers special kind of love

Nancy and Allan on their wedding day in 1976.

Before making news as engineers, Nancy and Allan Bissinger delivered it.

Their love story started by loading The Auburn Plainsman newspapers in their friend’s truck and delivering them together every Thursday morning after waking up at 4:30 a.m. The papers they were reading and writing for Auburn Engineering weren’t the only ones in their college life.

“I drove the truck and Allan jumped out with the stack of papers to deliver,” Nancy said. “After our job, we ate breakfast at the Omelette Shop and spent almost all of our wages.”

Allan, a New Orleans native and ’75 electrical engineering graduate, traded Cajun gumbo for Toomer’s lemonade when he decided to attend Auburn because of its electrical engineering reputation that rivaled others in the south.

Auburn wasn’t new to Nancy since her father finished his veterinary medicine degree during her first through fifth grade years of school in Auburn. Then, he landed a new job, taking the family from a small town to the sunshine state of Florida. Auburn always on her mind, Nancy only applied to the Loveliest Village on the Plains for her college education.

As an industrial engineering graduate student, Nancy distinctly remembers watching Allan walk between the shop buildings and Dunstan Hall on the way to class.

One of Allan’s friends gave him the green light to ask Nancy out, and the rest was history as the two spent their first date at an Auburn versus LSU football game. Love was in the air, and as Nancy recalls, they had a great time.

On the topic of football, Allan actually walked on to the football program and played his freshman year, creating a balancing act of making sure he was on top of his studies and attending practice every day. Eventually, labs and practices conflicted and down, set, hike, quickly became read, study and repeat.

Nancy taught Fortran and COBOL while in graduate school, and one of her best memories as an Auburn Engineering couple was attending parties … after she finished her schoolwork, of course … with Allan at his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“One of the students I taught was a pledge in the fraternity, and he could not believe that I, his professor, was at a fraternity party,” Nancy said.

Nancy graduated in 2015 with her Ph.D.
in industrial and systems engineering.

Nancy’s academic career was a bit different, proving good things take time. Completing her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in ’73 she went on to pursue her master’s degree, but before finishing her thesis, life intervened. She left Auburn for a job marketing power equipment with Westinghouse.

“I promised myself I would not alter my personal plans for a boy unless there was a commitment,” Nancy said.

After completing her three-week orientation in Pittsburgh she returned to visit Allan in Auburn, one of the many places in the south she called home. They traveled to New Orleans to see Allan’s family, a trip ending with a ring on her finger.

 “I spent the rest of 1975 working with Westinghouse to get me a job in New Orleans,” Nancy said.

Continuing their love story, the couple married in March 1976 in Pensacola, Florida.

Fast-forward 35 years, and the university was back in Nancy’s life once again. Determined, she returned to the Plains and completed her now-finished master’s in 2010 and Ph.D. in 2015.

Today Nancy and Allan reside in New Orleans, where they have three “wonderful, successful” children — Brandon, Brett and Brook. Brandon, a 2007 graduate of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, works with Allan at Electrical Sales Corporation, the family telecommunications business, which Allan’s father started in 1949. 

-Written by Emily Esleck, editorial assistant for the College of Engineering

Shared love for chemical engineering creates chemistry

katy and brad
Katie and Brad married in May 2003.

Brad and Katy Howell go together like two puzzle pieces — their love for Auburn and chemical engineering make for the perfect fit. After dating on The Plains their senior year, the two tied the knot in quite a literal way.

It was a rainy day in Greenville, South Carolina, when Brad bent down on one knee and pulled out a ring box. But instead of a gleaming diamond, he presented a twist tie formed into a ring.

“I had always said I didn’t need a fancy ring to get married,” Katy said.

She said yes, and Brad brandished another ring box, only to unveil yet another twist tie ring. By this time the joke was wearing thin, leaving Katy wondering if she would ever get a diamond. And, of course she did — after all, the third time is always the charm.

Originally from Mobile, Alabama, Brad’s three siblings attended Auburn, making it a family tradition. Two and a half hours northeast, Katy grew up in an Air Force family where her grandfather was an engineer, inspiring her to major in chemical engineering. After a memorable campus visit with a friend, Katy was convinced among all the engineering programs on the East Coast, Auburn Engineering was the right place for her.

Katy and Brad didn’t meet until their junior year when they were lab partners. The 20-30 hours spent working each week made up for time they lost years before. Luckily, they didn’t get sick of each other, and as fate would have it, they were assigned to the same senior design team.

“Either the universe, or our professors, really wanted us to get together,” Katy said.

One member of their lab team always brought a bag of Twizzlers to eat while working on reports, so now every time Brad and Katy see the iconic red licorice sticks it takes them back to their Auburn days.

Katy recalls an “only in engineering” story the two shared, which ended with her clothes soaked in Coca-Cola, and Brad off to the rescue. A damsel in distress, Katy accidentally crashed her Matlab program in the computer lab the night before it was due. She stayed up to pull her only all-nighter… and recreated her program. Saving the day, Brad arrived with a pair of his athletic pants for her to wear so they could deliver the project to their professor the next morning. After that, Brad became Katy’s knight and shining armor. 

katy and brad kids
Katy and Brad have two boys aged 4 and 6.

Two peas in a pod, they made many other memories together at Auburn, such as eating $2 slices of pizza at Mellow Mushroom for lunch, hanging out at the infamous War Eagle Supper Club and enjoying sunny days at Chewacla State Park.

The Howells married in May 2003 and moved to Washington, D.C. where they spent 12 years before moving to The Woodlands, Texas, in 2015. Brad and Katy have two “wonderful” boys aged 4 and 6, who now help with the family tradition of hanging a new Auburn flag every season.

The couple still complements each other not only in their love life, but also in their work. When either one of them is working on a tough problem at work, they can rely on the other to provide input. 

“Brad is really my sounding board," Katy said. "Since we got together as teammates on a project, he knows how I work and always gives great advice."

"And when Brad started at Nalco Chemical, and was in their intensive training program, he was one of the only people in the program whose wife could double-check his mass balances," Katy said.

-Written by Emily Esleck, editorial assistant for the College of Engineering

Concrete foundation leads to solid love and marriage

kelly and jamie
Kelly and Jamie got married in Piedmont Park in 2010.

Kelly and Jamie Roberts’ love was concrete from the start…literally, since they actually first met in front of a concrete mixer in a structures lab at Auburn.

Kelly, a Tampa native, earned both her undergraduate and master’s degree in civil engineering in 2005 and 2007, respectively. She had come from a long line of builders, including her father, a structural engineer, and her grandfather, an architect in Cuba. It was inevitable the building bug would bite her as well, and she fell in love with Auburn, and its engineering program, after her first visit. Jamie graduated in 2003 with his undergraduate in civil engineering and then his master’s, also in civil in 2005. He is from Macon, Georgia and wanted to attend a school in the Southeast with an excellent engineering program, and Auburn was the perfect fit.

They first met while Jamie was a graduate researcher and Kelly was an undergraduate research assistant for Robert Barnes, an associate professor in civil engineering. After cementing their friendship and foundation in front of the structures lab concrete mixer, they went on their first date to the (former) Olde Auburn Ale House, and dated from 2004 through 2009.

“We took it as a good sign that we were meant to be together since after first meeting in 2004, that fall Auburn went undefeated in football,” Kelly said.

Speaking of football, their best memories as an Auburn couple included their first tailgate together during the 2004 undefeated season, and their trip to the national championship in 2011.

In Christmas 2009, Jamie surprised Kelly by showing up in Tampa at her parents’ home and proposing to her. They got married in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in August 2010, which was convenient since the couple lived and worked just a couple of miles from their wedding site. Everything was perfect for the day, well almost everything. According to Kelly, they committed a major faux paux that would embarrass any civil engineering.

“Ironically, our wedding cake was structurally unsound,” Kelly said. “We had half the structural engineers in Atlanta analyzing whether it would topple over during the reception.”

While the cake may have been a little shaky, their relationship has been built from a solid foundation, even with both working for competing companies in the same industry.

“Jamie and I work for large commercial structural engineering firms in Atlanta doing architecturally-driven building design,” Kelly said. “I work for Walter P. Moore and Jamie works for Uzun + Case, and they are both direct competitors. It keeps life interesting, but we try not to bring too much work home.”

Even with their different company loyalties, Kelly and Jamie still maintain a common denominator.

Kelly and Jamie had their first child,
a son named Tristan, in November.

Even though they may have a house divided, professionally, personally, they just keep growing with their first child, a son named Tristan, who was born in November 2015. “It’s a wonderful thing to have a partner who shares your passions and also really understand what your daily struggles are like,” Kelly said.