University News

Thumbs up from Valerie means "Yes, I'll marry you!"
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Nathan and Valerie celebrate their engagement with a scuba hug.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Valerie and Nathan hold the board she read underwater. The diamond ring is in front.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

WIU Scuba Diver Makes Unusual Marriage Proposal

February 13, 2008

Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL - - What could be more romantic?

Nathan Houser (Aurora, IL) wanted everything to be perfect for the proposal: the question, "Will you marry me?"; the ring; the kiss; and the bubbles.

He was prepared, mentally too, just in case his girlfriend, Valerie Hoffman (Orion, IL), in her excitement, took water into her mouthpiece instead of air. Because Houser's perfect proposal was underwater, and Valerie had yet to learn the sport of scuba.

Nathan is a Western Illinois University senior law enforcement and justice administration (LEJA) major, an avid scuba diver and member of Western's scuba club. He had been planning this proposal scenario since late fall, when Valerie graduated from Western with a Bachelor of Business degree in finance and a Bachelor of Business degree in accounting.

First, without her knowledge, Nathan asked Valerie's father for his daughter's hand in marriage, a traditional custom both Valerie and Nathan wanted to uphold. He met with his future father-in-law Scott Hoffman, a WIU Board of Trustees Bachelor of Arts graduate (2002) at the same hotel Valerie's mother, Beth Scranton Hoffman, an accounting graduate of Western (1992), was working at when Valerie's parents first met.

Then Nathan convinced Valerie to meet him at Western's Brophy Hall pool Jan. 27; scuba instructor Dan Walter would give Valerie her first diving lesson that day, Nathan said. And that's what happened for about 30 minutes.

Nathan took over underwater, helping Valerie get used to the scuba gear and breathing apparatus and playing underwater Frisbee while slowly moving to the diving well where there are underground viewing windows. He led her to the window where she could see his proposal, "Valerie, Will you marry me? Nate," written on a dry erase board and the engagement ring in a lighted box.

Valerie's exhaled air "bubbled" a little faster; she gave Nathan a "thumbs up;" then hugged him, as best she could outfitted in more than 30 pounds of equipment, for her affirmative response.

When asked about her first scuba experience, Valerie beamed, "It was a good one! I really was surprised. I had no idea this was going to happen. I didn't even know Nate had talked to my dad yet. I thought he was afraid to talk to my dad!"

Nathan just kept smiling. He finally was engaged to the woman who stole his heart three years ago. Valerie was the first person to move on to the Higgins residence hall floor on which Nathan, then a sophomore, served as a resident assistant (RA).

"I knew she was special then, but I always kept it professional because I was the RA," said Nathan, who came to Western from Marmion Military Academy (Aurora, IL). "We became friends, but I didn't ask her out until a year and a half later."

"It made sense after the fact why Nate had a little trouble getting all of his gear together when we were setting up," Valerie said. "He obviously had a lot running through his head. I would have never imagined that my RA at the time would be the man that I would end up marrying, but I couldn't be happier!"

Valerie was hired as a fulltime accountant at Sivyer Steel Company, Bettendorf, IA, in summer 2007. Her final Fall 2007semester at Western included nine credit hours in addition to her fulltime job. Nathan is interning with the Illinois State Police District 2 in Elgin this semester to complete his LEJA requirements for graduation May 10.

The bride-to-be is in the process of buying a house in Orion, near the Quad Cities, where Nathan hopes to work in law enforcement after he graduates this May. They will marry on Sept. 6 in Orion; but Valerie already gave Nathan the perfect wedding present when she said she would like to honeymoon where they can scuba dive.

"I couldn't think of a better way to propose to Valerie than to incorporate a hobby I really enjoy with someone that I love," Nathan said. "She always told me that I have to come up with something creative if I was to propose, and I think I met her expectations!"

Posted By: University Communications (
Office of University Communications & Marketing