From pizza to proposal

Alumni couple returns to New Kensington campus for surprise engagement
Greg Zyhowski and Ashley Myerski

Greg Zyhowski '11 and Ashley Myerski '11 stand next to the Lion Shrine at the New Kensington campus during a snowy day on Feb. 17.  Zyhowski proposed to Myerski moments before.  Both Penn Staters started their Penn State careers at the New Kensington campus and finished at the University Park campus.

Credit: Corinne Coulson

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.— Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated Feb. 14, but for one Penn State couple, another day during the month holds a special place in their hearts. 

“It just really comes full circle,” said Ashley Myerski ’11, whose fiancé proposed to her on Feb. 17 at Penn State New Kensington.  “We met here. It all started here. We’ve been together for 10 years. To know it happened here, it makes so much sense.” 

Myerski and her now fiancé, Greg Zyhowski ’11, started their Penn State stories and relationship in 2007 at the New Kensington campus and finished their degree programs at the University Park campus through the 2+2 plan. While at New Kensington, both lived in the off-campus, privately-owned Nittany Highlands apartments next to campus.

“I wanted to bring her back here to remind her of that and that we’ve been together that long, and it’s come full circle to where we started,” said Zyhowski.

When asked how the couple met, Myerski states that it’s a story Zyhowski tells all the time. Fate happened on move-in day freshman year.

“I was just moving in and didn’t know anybody,” remembered Zyhowski. 

His father encouraged him to attend a welcome event at the apartments to meet other students. 

Zyhowski continued, “So I went to the pizza party, and I saw two blonde girls, Ashley and her roommate. I figured I would talk to them.  Needless to say the one who picked me is the one who’s sitting here next to me today.”

“We met on move-in day, and then we connected right away and were good friends right away and started dating shortly after we met,” added Myerski.

As they spent more time together, they found they shared many things in common.  For instance, both lived outside of Pittsburgh and attended high schools not far from each other. (She attended North Hills High School, and he attended Shaler Area High School.) They even worked at stores within the same grocery store chain and were both active in high school sports.

Myerski, a biology major during her time at Penn State, returned to the New Kensington campus with her then-boyfriend the afternoon of Feb. 17 under the guise that her brother would be making a speech about working in the mining engineering field. He spoke at the University Park campus recently, so when her brother played along to help Zyhowski, Myerski didn’t think the story seemed unusual.

“We knew we were coming up here, and we came early because we knew we wanted to walk around and be nostalgic,” said Myerski.  “We went to the apartments first, and we then came over to campus and were walking through the hallways, and then he started talking about the real reason we were here.”

Although some of the moment was a blur and she wasn’t expecting it, Myerski definitely said, “Yes!”

“It just really comes full circle,” said Myerski. “We met here. It all started here. We’ve been together for 10 years. To know it happened here, it makes so much sense.” 

Although both were excited to share such a momentous occasion, they also couldn’t help but talk about how much the New Kensington campus meant to them and their relationship. In fact, both said the campus library was a spot they frequented often to study. Zyhowski credits this as a reason he started to do well in college.

He said, “If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have done that well in school.”

Zyhowski also praises the campus communications faculty at New Kensington: Allen Larson, Jennifer Wood and Abhinav Aima.  However, Larson left a lasting, motivational impression on him his first semester.

“My freshman year, I had turned in a paper that was in my COMM 100 class, and I had done it poorly,” remembered Zyhowski. “I turned it in and got a ‘D’ on it. Dr. Larson came up to me and said, ‘You cannot turn in things like this; you’re not going to be able to make it.’ I took a deep breath, and I thought about ways to make things better and part of that was through Ash, going to the library, and from that point on, my grades just climbed steadily.”

They also fondly remember the many activities at Penn State, but one sticks out the most during their time at the New Kensington campus. 

“We went to the inauguration of President Barack Obama through the campus,” said Zyhowski.  “We took a picture right at that staircase. It was through the campus multicultural club, and we boarded a bus and went to D.C. for a day trip. It was really well done and really cool.”

The happy couple are also very proud Penn Staters and say their time at the New Kensington and University Park campuses shaped who they are today.

“I grew up my whole life watching Penn State, and I remember there was a time period when I was at this campus, and I think about growth, being that frightened kid that came here and then going to University Park. I feel like now, I can do anything in life.” 

Myerski added, “Being a Penn Stater is tradition. I’m third generation from my mom’s side. My grandfather passed before he knew I was going to Penn State, but I know he would have been proud.”

Before leaving campus to meet with family to celebrate their engagement, Myerski and Zyhowski took time to offer advice for current Penn State students.

“Enjoy the moment even when it’s hard, and don’t be afraid to get involved” suggested Myerski.

“Do everything one day at a time,” stressed Zyhowski.  “If you just stand by and let everything go past you, you miss out. You’re going to do things and meet people you are going to remember for the rest of your life.”

Zyhowski also took a moment to encourage students to consider starting at a smaller campus like New Kensington.

“I just remember being shaped into something better for when I went to University Park, and I think if anybody is going to do this, they need to come here first,” recommended Zyhowski. “There’s just a lot of good and a lot of genuinely great people, so that’s just what made things so much better.”