Alumni reunite after 49 years, win free wedding
Two USC alumni will celebrate their long-awaited dream wedding for free in November with the help of 80 students from the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Diane Finklea, a 1971 graduate of the College of Nursing from Latta, SC, and Bob Lee a 1974 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences from Newberry, SC, were pronounced the winners of the USC HRTM Love Story wedding giveaway at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon before the steps of the
McClutchen house. Students from Annette Hoover’s HRTM 362 wedding planning and management class will be working closely with the couple for the next two months to plan and implement every detail of their wedding, from the rehearsal dinner to the rings to the honeymoon, all of which are secured through donations.
A total of 43 couples submitted applications for this year’s wedding giveaway, but Finklea’s and Lee’s story won over the hearts of the students, who reviewed each application as a class. Finklea’s expression was one of joy and shock as former USC Love Story bride Rebecca Posten-Creel read aloud the winning essay, Finklea’s account of her and Lee’s engagement, 49 years in the making.
Their story began in 1962 at Latta High School, where Lee was a ninth grader and Finklea was in the eighth grade. The two shared a brief romance, but after a year Finklea decided they would just be casual friends. After graduation, they went their separate ways: Finklea to nursing school at USC and Lee to Vietnam in service with the Army, (he later returned to South Carolina to complete a degree in sociology.) For 44 years, they lived completely separate lives — both got jobs, got married, had children, then grandchildren. The chances that they would see each other again seemed slim to none until one day, in 2010, the two reconnected over Facebook, both unmarried. Bob had been single for 14 years, Finklea for 18.
“It was totally out of the blue,” Finklea said. “We had both resigned ourselves to the single life at that point.”
The two went on their first date in 44 years to the 2010 Carolina vs. Clemson game in November. Less than a year later, on Aug. 5, they were finally engaged.
Another month later, Lee forwarded an article to his fiancé calling USC-affiliated couples to apply for the wedding giveaway, unaware that she would submit their story for review just a few days later.
“We are so delighted — I don’t think I’ve ever won anything at all, but the experience itself was worth it,” Finklea said after learning of the win. “It’s a way to remember that wonderful things happen when you least expect it, even though you may have to wait a while.”
This will be the 10th wedding that Hoover has planned with her HRTM class. This year’s team has already secured the date for the ceremony for Nov. 20, the reception location at the T. Ashton Phillips Center at the South Carolina Farmers’ Market, a $3000 dress, and catering.
Fifth-year visual communications student Annie Thomas is a member of the media team for the USC Love Story wedding. After hearing about a friend’s experience in the class last year, she is eager to be a part of the next step of Lee’s and Finklea’s “fairy tale” relationship.
“We get to be involved in planning whole wedding, someone’s dream,” Thompson said. “That itself is amazing.”