Russ Morgan wasn’t shocked when two of his former students told him they were getting married. The shock came when they asked him to officiate.
As senior associate dean for Fuqua’s full time programs, Russ had been to plenty of alumni weddings. But he’d never been asked to conduct the ceremony.
“I told them I’d love to do it, but I don’t even know what that entails,” Russ said. “How does one officiate a wedding?”
Then it was the turn of the couple who popped the question to Russ — Carrie Bloch and Jonathan Crimins, both 2013 graduates of Fuqua’s Daytime MBA program — to be surprised.
“We couldn’t believe he’d never done it before,” Jonathan said. “We just figured he was a seasoned veteran, and this would be no big deal for him.”
Carrie and Jonathan each forged their own friendships with Morgan while they were at Fuqua. Carrie grew up in Chicago, studied at Wake Forest University and came to Durham after working in advertising in New York. Jonathan was raised north of Boston, went to Bucknell University for undergrad and was drawn to Fuqua by his interest in the energy industry.
Not yet a couple, both took Morgan’s market intelligence class in spring 2012.
Russ remembers noticing Jonathan’s Boston ball cap, bearing the number nine of legendary Red Sox hitter Ted Williams.
“I couldn’t believe this 29-year-old knew who Ted Williams was,” Russ said.
That led to coffee, and the two bonded over cycling and Boy Scouts, both hobbies of Jonathan’s and interests of Russ’s son Max.
Jonathan later gave Russ a book called Teammates, a story of the lifelong friendship of four Red Sox players.
“When someone gives you a book, it signals something about themselves,” Russ said, “and that provided a connection for us.”
Meanwhile, Russ also became friends with Carrie, an outstanding student and avid runner with whom he worked in student government.
“She was always on the lookout for how she could help Fuqua,” Russ said.
Carrie was also always on the lookout for how she could get Russ to go running.
“He always had an injury here or there,” she said. She finally talked him into a trail run right before leaving Fuqua.
Carrie and Jonathan, part of a close group of friends, grew closer toward the end of their time at Fuqua. After graduation, she returned to New York while he headed to the west coast to work for Nest, a startup making internet-connected products for the home. They agreed to keep their relationship going long-distance at first, then a year later Carrie joined Jonathan in California and went to work for Google.
“They popped the question to me live on video"
All the while they had maintained friendships with Russ. They said asking him to officiate their wedding made perfect sense.
“We really wanted that person to be about both us, rather than one of us,” Carrie said. “It was such an easy decision for us, but people thought it was the coolest thing.”
To surprise Russ with the request, Jonathan arranged a video chat to discuss a business case he was supposedly preparing. Carrie wandered into the room to join the chat, as if by coincidence, and the next slide said, “Will You Marry Us?”
“They popped the question to me live on video,” Russ said.
Both were taken aback when he said he’d never done it before.
“Russ is very close to the student population,” Jonathan said. “He’s kind of a non-traditional dean in that regard, in the greatest way possible.”
But he said yes, and got himself legally registered as an officiant.
“I only agreed to it because I got to know them so well,” Russ said. “They’re the type of people you want to be around because they make everybody better. They have character, they have purpose, and they’re very thoughtful in everything that they do.”
Over the next year, the trio talked frequently, so Russ could get to to know them better as a couple. They shared their plans with him and sought his input.
“They said they wanted it to be like a really big dinner party with their best friends and family, and they wanted every part of it to feel personal,” Russ said. “From the start, they nailed it.”
“We wanted it to be very non-traditional, and to feel like us,” Carrie said.
“And then this rainbow appeared..."
The wedding was held in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina in November 2017. The venue overlooked a granite mountainside just as the leaves were changing.
“It was such a naturally beautiful setting,” Morgan said. “There couldn’t be a better time or place for an outdoor wedding.”
Morgan was a little nervous, not helped by the weather. A foggy morning had given way to sunshine, but then dark clouds appeared overhead. There were uncertain discussions about whether to move the ceremony inside.
Then, as everyone took their seats, a light rain began to fall.
“And then this rainbow appeared against this fabulous mountain backdrop,” Morgan said. “You couldn’t help but feel it was a signal that everything was good.”
And it was. As Carrie emerged from behind a fir tree with her father, one of her heels got stuck in the earth and she lost a shoe. But she just took the other one off, cracked a joke and kept walking.
“Everybody took it in stride,” Russ said. “It wasn’t about the conditions. It was about those two.”
The bride and groom read letters to one another. Jonathan, who was in an a capella group in college, sang a song from White Christmas, Carrie’s favorite movie.
“Jonathan and Carrie are so unpretentious, so down to earth,” Russ said. “Every detail was beautiful.”
For his part, Russ told the story of his friendships with each of them, and how they asked him to be involved.
“I wanted to reflect my relationship with them, and how excited I was that they had found each other,” he said. “What I saw in each of them, and why I was willing to do this.”
Both bride and groom said having Russ involved took away some of the stress of the day.
“I felt so comfortable,” Carrie said. “It didn’t feel like a stiff, strict occasion.”
Jonathan said Russ had a soothing and familial presence.
“He’s approachable,” Jonathan said, “and he had a calming influence.”
High praise, but despite a successful debut, Russ doesn’t see himself becoming a senior-associate-dean-wedding-officiant for hire.
“I may be one-and-done,” he said. “It mattered to me that I knew both of them really well. This was really special.”