A true Love story: How UNK brought Hunter and Jeslynn together


Hunter and Jeslynn Love have a combined four degrees from UNK, where they met as freshmen. (Courtesy photo)   Hunter and Jeslynn Love have a combined four degrees from UNK, where they met as freshmen. (Courtesy photo)

KEARNEY – His last name is Love.

Her maiden name is Kearney.

Put them together during an English 101 class and they make the perfect Loper couple.

Hunter and Jeslynn Love were freshmen at the University of Nebraska at Kearney when they first met inside Thomas Hall.

She was the cute girl with a great personality. He was the handsome and fun guy sitting behind her.

They were both members of the Thompson Scholars Learning Community (TSLC), which played a big part in their budding relationship.

As recipients of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship, Hunter and Jeslynn received the same financial, academic and social support during the transition to college. They lived in Mantor Hall, took some of the same classes and attended many of the same campus events.

“I don’t know if I would have stayed in college and got my degree if I didn’t have that community,” said Jeslynn, a first-generation college graduate from Scottsbluff. “I feel like it created this sense of family. Some of my best friends now were Thompson Scholars.”

Hunter still remembers the day his mother told him he received the scholarship. As the oldest of six siblings, it was a big deal for the Norfolk native and his family.

“My parents weren’t going to be able to help me pay for college, so if I didn’t get the scholarship, I probably wouldn’t have ended up at UNK,” he said.

And he never would have met the love of his life.

COLLEGE SWEETHEARTS

After connecting during that English class, Hunter and Jeslynn started hanging out together with other TSLC members. They went to that year’s homecoming festivities as a group, and that’s when she started to get serious.

“I took his phone from him and I put my number in it,” Jeslynn recalled with a smile.

Then he upped the ante – and almost busted.

“I was annoyed because he actually took me home to meet his family the weekend before he asked me to be his girlfriend,” she said. “So, he introduced me as, ‘This is Jeslynn.’ He didn’t really say anything else.”

“I just wanted you to meet them,” Hunter quickly responded in his defense. “That’s it.”

She didn’t have to wait long before he made it official.

They were on a TSLC trip to Denver during fall break when the group stopped for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Everyone else got off the bus, but Hunter wouldn’t let Jeslynn leave.

Then it happened. John Gibbs, a TSLC peer mentor at the time and the current director of UNK Academic Advising and Career Development, held up a sign as his buddy Hunter asked that important question.

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

Of course, she said yes.

Their first date was a walk around campus, where they talked about faith, family and a potential future together. They hung out with mutual friends and went on group outings, too.

“We had a good group of friends throughout all four years,” Jeslynn noted.

They also had their own individual interests.

Jeslynn joined the Alpha Xi Delta sorority as a sophomore and served as a TSLC mentor and student worker. Hunter was active in intramurals and the Sports Administration Majors Club, and he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity as a senior.

“Best decision, besides meeting Jes, that I made in college,” he said of his Greek Life involvement. “I met all my best friends there.”

They both graduated from UNK in spring 2016. Hunter earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management with a coaching minor and Jeslynn received a bachelor’s degree in family studies with a minor in early childhood education.

The next big step came in August 2017, when the couple was visiting Disney World in Florida.

Once again, the plan was “nearly” perfect.

They were in the Magic Kingdom – Jeslynn’s favorite part of the resort – but Hunter kept wandering off.

“I was annoyed then, too,” she admits, especially when he kept asking to stop and take a picture.

“And then I stood next to him and I could feel his heart beating really fast,” she continued. “I was like, ‘Uh oh, what’s happening?’”

Turns out, Hunter was so distracted because he was lining up a photographer to capture his proposal in front of Cinderella Castle.

“I think I blacked out a little bit because I don’t really remember the rest,” Jeslynn said. “I know I was crying.”

The couple got married at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Kearney in October 2018, five months after he earned a master’s degree in higher education student affairs and two months before she completed a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, both from UNK.

HOME SWEET HOME

Hunter started working at their alma mater the same month they got married. He was an undergraduate admissions counselor for just over two years, then transitioned to an online program coordinator position for speech-language pathology.

Currently, he’s the assistant director of student development for the Thompson Scholars Learning Community.

“I’ve been on the recruitment side and I’ve also been on the retention side. Every job that I’ve had, the main focus is the students,” he said. “I love to see students succeed and help them through that transition to college. Being a student here and being part of the Thompson Scholars Learning Community, I have a really good understanding of the students we work with because I was once in their shoes.”

Jeslynn joined UNK three years ago as a mental health practitioner in Student Health and Counseling. However, she recently accepted a position with Midwest Encouragement and Counseling Center in Kearney, so her last day on campus is Friday.

“It’s been really hard for me saying goodbye to the students, because I really do enjoy working with them,” she said. “I loved my job, so it was difficult for me to decide to leave.”

The change will allow her to spend more time with the couple’s two children, Daxton, 3, and Ada, 10 months.

Outside work, the Loves enjoy outdoor activities, time at the lake and trips to visit friends and family. He’s a big sports fan – she prefers the tailgating, food and people-watching – and they both watch baking shows on TV after he “learned to enjoy” them.

Hunter is the organized one, the planner who’s “a little OCD.” Jeslynn prefers “organized chaos.”

“I feel like we do a good job of balancing each other out,” she said.

“We definitely gel together well, because we’re not the same person, that’s for sure,” he added.

Jeslynn describes her husband as kind and caring, someone who will always make you feel welcome and included.

“For example, if someone comes over to our house to fix something, by the time they leave, they’re like best friends with Hunter,” she said with a laugh.

She also compares him to a Sour Patch Kid.

“Very sweet, and then he does something ornery. Which I feel like our kids have inherited, as well.”

Hunter is still attracted to his wife’s caring, positive personality.

“She’s just very authentic and genuine,” he said.

More than a decade after that fateful first encounter, the girl from the Panhandle and the boy from northeast Nebraska continue to share a love for UNK and the Kearney community.

“It feels like home, and that’s why we stay,” Jeslynn said. “We’ve created a community of people that we know and that we love and trust.”

“You just feel like you belong here,” Hunter added. “I’ve always felt that. Even when I was a student here, I felt like my instructors, my advisers and the staff who I interacted with truly cared about me. That’s a big reason why I’ve stayed, because you feel like you’re important here.”