A Moody Love Story

Alums Phuong Lien Palafox ‘01 and Jeremy Palafox ‘02 reflect on how Moody brought them together.
couple at football game

Why were you individually drawn to study communication?

Phuong: My closest friend growing up stuttered. I had the privilege of witnessing his daily communication needs. I wanted to be a part of the sacred work that 1) honors all forms of communication and 2) empowers humanity to share their most meaningful stories.

Jeremy:  When it was time for me to pick a major, I wasn't sure what I wanted to study.  knew I wanted to go to UT, I liked to write and I liked people.  A family member introduced me to the field of public relations and how it intersected with these passions. The PR program at UT was highly rated, and at the time in the late 90s, it was an interdisciplinary degree, where students took classes throughout the college (in CSD, Comm Studies, Journalism, PR and Advertising) as part of the program.  I loved it!

Where and how did you meet?

Phuong: I lost brain cells from lack of oxygen as Jeremy embraced me in an unexpected* embrace on the stairs leading up to the second floor of the CMA. I was VP of the Communication Council, and I was greeting the next potential candidate prior to his interview. As his long arms digested all 5'1" of me, my brain was pummeled with thoughts of "let's reel this back in, sophomore." Then, squeals of unabashed glee splattered my ear drums with effusive dialogue.

Jeremy:  I had heard a lot about Phuong from friends before I actually met her. People told me that I would really like her because we had similar personalities (both very excitable people). The day finally came when I met her: she was standing at the top of the stairs in the original CMA building, outside the Comm Council office, and I had just finished my Comm Council interview. I saw her and knew it was her and gave her a big hug and told her "HELLO!"  She quickly backed up and gave me the heaviest side eye of anyone in my life.  She wasn't sure about me. I'm glad my big introduction didn't ruin things in the long run.  Now, many years later, I've mellowed some, but she's still the firecracker who can muster a mean side eye.

How did your passions for the field contribute to your courtship and growing in love?

Phuong: As graduates of Moody College, communication has been a natural extension of our professional endeavors. This resource, the gift of intentional communication, has been a balm for our days. Initially, it began with conversions at Communication Council events. After two years of friendship, I communicated through anxious non-verbals my "like-LIKE" feelings to Jeremy in front of the PCL at 1am in the morning. Fast forward six years, and Jeremy lovingly asked, "Will you marry me?" at the same bookish location. Now, our communication passions and skills are put to an hourly test by our three children, "Can I pleeeeease go to Dragon's Lair? How are babies made? Why does your face look so old?" Luckily, our passion for all-things-communication has fueled our days in meaningful ways.

Jeremy: We've always had a lot in common to talk about. For example, in the PR program, I took a CSD course, and I learned a lot about speech language pathology, which was Phuong's major. Currently, I work in marketing, and Phuong is an entrepreneur with her own business (which means she is also a marketer at heart), and so we talk about marketing all the time. The field of communication has been a consistent thread through our lives ever since we met.

How do you keep your relationship fruitful?

We feel the growth of our relationship is fueled by deliberate, meaningful connection. With the day-to-day of two working adults, one business, three children's schedules, two rescue bunnies, a senior cat and one labradoodle puppy, nothing happens without intentionality. Purposeful relationship work, then, looks like: letting the other person be authentically-them, acknowledging feelings and experiences, telling lots and lots of stories and, ultimately, finding some joy at the end of the day. Of course, this has changed through the seasons of our relationship. It used to be making plans to meet up to walk to Communication Council meetings together. Then, it was going to weekend yoga sessions or catching up on our work days at dinner. The advent of parenthood morphed our moments into brief, understanding smiles across the room as a kid screams in an Austin establishment. Now, it's taking Judy Blume, our dog, on morning or evening walks. The actions have surely changed through the decades but the flame of connection has always shown lovingly and brightly.

Any special memories, first date stories or engagement details you’d like to share?

There are many memories made. Here are the highlights outside of our meet-cute:

Our first date was a performance by Longhorn Singers. Afterwards, we made plans to go see Charlie's Angels in the theaters. As we were walking out of Jester to head to the show, we ran into a friend. Jeremy, in all of his kindness-glory, invited her to come. So, our inaugural date was a party of three.

After four years of long-distance dating, Phuong was back in Austin for graduate school. On their first anniversary in the same city, Phuong surprised Jeremy with an etching on a stone block that was buried next to the turtle pond. The words on the stone read: “To Jeremy Who Loved the 40 Acres,” and ``To Phuong Who Will Always Walk Beside Him.” Years later, we would bring our three kids to the turtle pond and tell them about the gift. It stayed next to the pond until recently.

When I asked Phuong to marry me, I worked with a few UT colleagues and friends to trick her into thinking she was coming to campus to meet the founders of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders to discuss some of the details about the school.  Phuong was very excited about this meeting because she was a big fan of Ann Richards and is a huge advocate for public education.  A friend dropped her off near the PCL, and Phuong was heading to Gregory Gym because that is where she thought the meeting was going to be.  Instead, I intercepted her at the steps of the PCL. She knew right away that I was going to ask her to marry me, and she started to cry.  She told me later she was very happy about the engagement but also sad about not having the opportunity to meet with the Ann Richards school.