The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Karen and Richard Loftin

UTC Couple Graduates Together
by Rebekah Bonney, University Relations Intern

When Karen Ensley and Richard Loftin met at a youth group function in 1992, they probably did not imagine that they would be graduating together from UTC twelve years later with their Master’s degrees. This spring, the two of them marched in the May, 2004 graduation ceremony at UTC.

Spring 2004 commencement was not the first important ceremony the Loftins shared. On May 10, 1998, Karen and Richard both received their bachelor’s degrees from UTC. Karen earned an accounting and finance degree and Richard received a business management degree. What made this graduation extra special, though, was that the day before graduation, May 9, 1998, Karen and Richard got married.

After they met, Karen and Richard quickly became close friends and soon began dating. Their relationship blossomed over time into something permanent and after six years of dating, they got married. Now, after six years of marriage, their love is as young and strong as ever.

“We still date,” Karen said. “We take little weekend trips to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Even during school we worked in little trips between classes.”

Considering their busy schedules, it is surprising the couple found time to date. Both Karen, 28, and Richard, 29, work full time; Karen in the UTC Finance Office and Richard at Shaw Industries in Dalton. The couple also managed to renovate the porch on their East Brainerd home while taking six hours of classes and working full time. With their fathers’ help, the two poured concrete, extended the roof, and finished off the porch in six months.

Richard and Karen pose on their new porch.

So, why did they decide to go back to school? “I took classes because it was free, it was a challenge, and I got to see Richard.” Karen said. They also saw considerable value in earning their master’s degrees. “Having your master’s just gives you some options.” Karen said. Karen is looking forward to a raise since graduation and Richard is hoping for a promotion to a management position within Shaw Industries.

Besides the obvious career gains in earning a master’s degree, the couple found that it was a great opportunity to meet new people. “You really meet some good people and get to know them really well.” Karen said.

The couple took only one class their first semester back, but after some thought decided it was worth taking two classes at a time to finish in two and a half years instead of five. They enrolled in the same classes at the same time, sharing a book and studying together.

When asked if they might go back to school and earn their doctorate degrees together, Karen emphatically shook her head. “No, I’m done.” She said. “Maybe if in 20 years I need a challenge or something, but for now, we’re finished with school.”