As alumni make their way back to campus for the Homecoming festivities this week, many will spend their time reminiscing about their friends, experiences, classes and adventures at NC State. Sonya Windham-Wilder ’90 and Kirk Wilder ’90 will be caught up in more recent memories as they celebrate at the place where they re-connected and fell in love two years ago.
Windham, from Charlotte, N.C., and Wilder, a Virginia native, came to NC State as undergraduates in the fall of 1986. Windham-Wilder spent her time at State studying chemistry and decided to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority her sophomore year. Wilder, a law and political philosophy major, pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity his freshman year. The two met each other through their involvement in Greek life.
“We would always see each other around campus and would be at the same parties, social functions and other events,” Wilder says. “Because of our close connection in Greek life I saw Sonya all the time.”
The two began casually dating in the spring of their sophomore year.
“We went on a few dates during our sophomore year but it was very casual,” Windham-Wilder says. “But I always had a little bit of a college crush on Kirk.”
Both earned undergraduate degrees in 1988 and went separate ways after graduation. Windham chose to pursue a career in dentistry and received her dental medicine degree from Medical University of South Carolina in 1996. She completed her residency in Columbia, South Carolina, and took an advanced training program in pediatric dentistry in 2001. Then she moved to Atlanta and opened her first practice.
Wilder, meanwhile, returned to Virginia to attend law school. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Howard University in Washington D.C., in May 1993 and relocated to his hometown to practice family law.
Throughout the time that the duo was apart, both spent their time with other people and went almost twenty years without keeping in touch.
That all changed when they both returned to Raleigh in 2010 for the NC State homecoming football game.
Wilder was a season ticket holder and was planning on coming back to Raleigh for homecoming but Windham-Wilder was not even sure if she was going to make it to Raleigh for the game.
“I returned to NC State in 2009 for a homecoming game and wasn’t planning on coming back in 2010,” Windham-Wilder says. “At the last minute one of my sorority sisters convinced me to go and I am glad she did.”
The evening before the game, both attended a karaoke night hosted by the Black Alumni Society. They saw each other and began to talk, catching up on their lives for the past twenty years. As Windham-Widler began to walk away she turned back and decided to tell Wilder that he had always been her “college crush.”
Both of them, as well as their friends, realized that night that their relationship was going to grow.
“All of our friends recognized that there was a spark,” Windham-Wilder says. “They knew as they saw us talking that something was going to happen between us.”
As luck would have it, their seats for the football game were next to each other despite having ordered their tickets at different times.
The couple spent about a year and a half in a long-distance relationship, seeing each other once or twice a month. In May, Wilder decided to move his law practice to Atlanta and the two were engaged to be married in September 2011. They got married on August 11 in Jonesboro, Georgia, surrounded by family and friends that they made during their time at NC State.
NC State will always have a special place in their hearts.
“NC State helped me become a mature, independent woman and allowed me to establish some lifelong friendships,” Windham-Wilder says. “It helped lay a great educational foundation for the both of us to continue on into graduate school in our respective fields and it’s where we met.”
“NC State means absolutely everything to me,” Wilder says. “I met my best friends and fell in love with my wife at NC State. I love NC State will all of my heart and I can’t help but smile when I think how much this school has given me.”