Suzette Doepke is a longtime National Advisory Council leader for the College of Education, and with her husband Greg is also a faithful financial supporter of the College, where they are members of the Dean’s Circle and the College’s 1915 Society. Like many Auburn fans, the Doepkes attended the January 2 Auburn-Oklahoma Sugar Bowl game. The trip had a special meaning for the couple, who also attended Auburn’s Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma the last time the two teams tangled – on New Year’s Day, 1972.
“Greg graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant in 1971, and his infantry affiliation took him to Ft. Benning, which is just 30 minutes from Auburn,” Suzette recalled. “There he did his Airborne Division training. One of my sorority sisters at Auburn knew one of his friends from West Point and several of us got together. I initially had a date with someone else, but eventually met Greg. We went out a couple of times but then he had to go away to Ranger school.”
The Army Ranger training had three parts, including one at Ft. Benning. There was also a mountain phase, as well as the infamous “Florida swamp” training. Although they did not see much of each other in this period, Greg and Suzette continued to exchange letters.
“In one of his letters, Greg asked me if I’d like to go to the Sugar Bowl with him because obviously he knew I was a huge Auburn fan and of course I said yes. So he came through Delaware and met my family and we headed south to New Orleans! One of our first stops was in Jackson Square, where we had our first-ever photograph taken together.”
After watching Auburn suffer a bruising loss to the famous Sooner Wishbone ground attack, Greg completed Ranger school and was sent by the Army to Colorado, but the two continued to stay in touch. When Suzette visited the young officer in Colorado, the two became engaged.
“Greg came to see me in Auburn maybe a half-dozen times over the next year, until I graduated on March 15, 1972. Two days later, on March 17, we were married in Auburn at St. Michael’s and then moved to Texas where Greg was stationed. So you could say in some ways that it was a whirlwind romance, but we were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes things happen that were just meant to be!”
Forty-five years and one day later, Greg and Suzette returned to the Sugar Bowl, endured another Auburn defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, but made time once again to visit Jackson Square, that magical place where a complete stranger had snapped their first-ever photo together.
The College of Education congratulates Suzette and Greg on their happiness, and thanks them for their enduring support over the decades. As Suzette said, “Some things were just meant to be!”