There was no question in Cullen Hendrix’s mind when deciding how to pop the big question to his girlfriend, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate student.
On Jan. 24, Hendrix surprised his diver girlfriend Sarah Glaser with a marriage proposal as she swam among the sharks and fishes during her last kelp tank dive show as a Birch Aquarium at Scripps volunteer.
“I wanted it to be something that was memorable,” said Hendrix, a UC San Diego graduate student. “The whole time I’ve known her, marine life has been such an important part of her life and so has volunteering here. I thought this would pay tribute to who she is.”
Hendrix asked Glaser to marry him at the end of a question-and-answer period with the audience. Birch Aquarium at Scripps kelp tank divers are equipped with a communications system that allows them to interact with curious visitors watching the show.
Hendrix hid to the side during most of the show, but stepped in full view of a shocked Glaser to ask the final question – “Will you marry me?” She giggled and said “yes,” generating a plume of bubbles that rose to the top of the 70,000-gallon tank. Hendrix kissed the tank while the audience erupted in cheers and applause.
At the top of the kelp tank, the lovebirds shared their first hug —albeit a wet one —and kiss as an engaged couple, and Hendrix slid onto her finger an o-ring, used in diving gear to seal off water. They shopped for the real ring together.
“I was a little bit in disbelief that he proposed to me in an aquarium,” said a dripping wet Glaser after the proposal, “but I’m very happy.”
The couple, both 30, met through a mutual friend in 2002 when Sarah was visiting the Scripps campus as a prospective student. His first question on their first date was about fish, and one of their early dates was a trip to Baja California to swim with the whale sharks. Glaser, who will receive her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography this year, has been an aquarium volunteer diver since 2004. She works in the lab of Scripps researcher David Checkley.
Hendrix had been planning the proposal for about a month and contacted Birch Aquarium at Scripps staff to help make it happen. Local media came to witness the event, too, and the next day, Diane Sawyer highlighted the unusual proposal on “Good Morning America.”
In the fall, the couple leaves for Texas, where Hendrix will become a university professor and Glaser will start her postdoctoral research.
“I think we are going to enjoy a very happy life together,” Hendrix said. “I love her more than anything in the world, and I’m so excited about our future together.”
-- Jessica Z. Crawford