Dressed in a tuxedo, LSA sophomore Joel Skaistis stood on the sidewalk in front of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s house early yesterday morning.
His mission: matrimony.
His target: Coleman.
Four months ago, Skaistis’ buddies had challenged him to create a Facebook.com group that would attract a lot of members. He decided to promise that he would do something embarrassing if enough people joined the group. When his friend suggested that he pledge to propose marriage to someone on Valentine’s Day, Skaistis agreed and chose Coleman.
“We chose her because she’s a local celebrity, she lives right on campus and she’s already married,” Skaistis said.
The group, titled “I’ll propose to Mary Sue Coleman
on Valentine’s Day If 250 People Join This Group,” had 285 members as of yesterday.
With the requirement met, Skaistis had a choice: either fulfill his promise or disappoint the group’s members.
“As Valentine’s Day got closer, I was kind of nervous about going through with it, but this morning, I was completely gung-ho,” Skaistis said. “I had months to prepare, and I knew exactly what I was going to say.”
And so Skaistis found himself in front Coleman’s home at 815 South University Ave. at 7 a.m. yesterday, the sky still shrouded in darkness. Two friends came with him to witness the proposal, one carrying a video camera to record it.
Skaistis was carrying a poem he intended to read to Coleman.
The poem, called “Deep as the Rose is Red,” is by a 46-year-old amateur poet named Mel Sharrar.
“So take my heart and treat it well and forever in this life, come walk with me your hand in mine, the one I call my wife,” the poem read.
He would never get a chance to read it.
At about 7:45 a.m., Coleman’s garage door opened and a sport utility vehicle emerged.
Skaistis and his friends grew excited, hoping it was Coleman. It was her husband Kenneth.
He shot the group a puzzled look and continued on his way.
By 8 a.m., Coleman still had not left for work.
Skaistis’ friends were cold and frustrated. They decided to leave.
Skaistis, though, remained determined. He stared through the windows and commented on every sign of movement within the house.
At about 8 a.m., Skaistis’s attempt was foiled by a call to the Department of Public Safety.
According to DPS officer David Dupuis, a caller told DPS there were strangers loitering and videotaping outside Coleman’s home. It was not clear who called the police.
Dupuis assured Skaistis that he was not breaking the law, then asked why he was standing there.
Skaistis, after pausing uneasily, said he had a “special Valentine’s Day present for Mary Sue.”
“I don’t think you’re her type,” Dupuis replied.
Last night, Skaistis wrote an announcement to members of his group, informing them of his failure.
“Coleman was too terrified to leave her house, so I didn’t really get a chance to ask her to marry me,” he wrote.
Still, he has not given up hope.
“On the bright side, she never said ‘no,’ ” he wrote. “So there’s still a chance!”
Student access to president’s house
Most University presidents have discouraged students from entering or assembling near the historic president’s house, but some have allowed it on select occasions.
University President Mary Sue Coleman invites all students, staff and faculty into her home for an open house on the Friday before classes start in the fall every year.
Former University President Lee Bollinger famously invited a mob of celebrating students into his house after a football victory over Penn State in 1997.
Hundreds of students crammed themselves into his home.
“You can stay here as long as you want and come inside,” Bollinger said.
For many students, it was the defining moment of his presidency.
“I puked with the president,” then-LSA sophomore Andrew Schreiber told The Michigan Daily that evening. “I puked on the house. I feel so much better with the president now that I puked.”