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A simple moment in time leads to unexpected romance for former NSU athlete, executive
ORLANDO, Florida — There isn't much that Michael Laderman remembers of Alyson [Dion] Innes, from when they first met one another in the mid-to-late 1990s.
"Oh, no, definitely not," he recalled, thinking back to the times when both he and Alyson found themselves at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- she as a student-athlete [starring as a member of the women's cross-country team] and he as an administrator in the Department of Athletics [working as Assistant Athletic Director/Sports Information]. "There were so many students that I knew and got to know. At that time, Alyson was just one of many."
Being charged with overseeing the media relations, statistics, marketing and game-management/operations of all NSU intercollegiate athletic events brought Michael in touch with more than 200 student-athletes annually -- many of whom he already knew from his previous career as a local sports writer, columnist and editor. As a leader in NSU’s Department of Athletics -- one who, then, was just entering his late 20s -- he became a confidante to many student-athletes, looking for an adult – who was not their coach -- to speak to.
"I was someone that the student-athletes, both male and female, trusted," he said. "Not a day would go by where at least a few student-athletes didn't stop by my office, to either say hello, ask me questions about life, vent, or, yes, even try flirting with me."
Such was the life of a young(ish) male administrator in a university setting.
Alyson, an 18-year-old college freshman at NSU in 1996, was one of those students who found her way into Michael's office on a consistent basis.
"It definitely wasn't to flirt, though," she said with a laugh. "As a young college student, I was probably more nervous around Mike than anything else. But I didn't look at him as someone I was overly attracted to, even though I had a crush on him. No, I just remember him back then being a very nice person, who happened to be an administrator in the Athletics Department. So I would always stop by his office, just to say hi and to chat, from the time I was a freshman through my senior year."
Those conversations would last anywhere from five to 15 minutes, tops. Certainly nothing majorly meaningful that would ever stand out – or, at least, stand the test of time, if it ever came to remembering somebody or something. Over the course of Michael's four years in NSU's Athletics Department, Alyson, in a sense, was just one of hundreds of student-athletes he knew.
But then fate came into play, as it usually does.
“I never forgot what happened next,” Michael said.
What happened next, even Alyson never knew why it happened. It just did.
In December of 1999, Michael was promoted within NSU, given the new role of Associate Director of Public Affairs, Marketing and Advertising, being charged with overseeing university-wide media relations. His new office was on the other side of campus, in the Horvitz Administration Building.
Just four months later, one week before NSU’s April 2000 commencement ceremonies, in which Alyson was to graduate, Michael’s administrative assistant popped into his office. “There’s an Alyson here to see you,” she said. “Alyson, who?” Michael asked. “I’m not sure. I think it’s a student,” his assistant replied. Michael couldn’t fathom what “Alyson” it would be. “All right, send her in,” he said.
Moments later, Alyson Dion from the NSU cross-country team was standing in his office doorway.
“I remember looking up, surprised she was there, saying to her, ‘oh, hey, what are you doing here?’” Michael said.
“And I really didn’t know,” recalled Alyson. “I had no idea why I was there. I had no clue what made me go to see Mike right before I graduated. Just something told me that I had to see him before I left Nova. I never, ever would go to the Administration Building. But somehow I ended up there that day. And somehow I ended up in his office, to say goodbye to him.”
Alyson came into Michael’s office, leaning up against his desk, while he stood in front of her. She told him that she just wanted to say goodbye to him, and he thanked her for doing so. They hugged goodbye, and she left.
Except that one moment in time – that one gesture, of Alyson coming to Michael’s office, just to say goodbye to him – never left him.
“I remember saying to myself after she left my office, ‘that was really unexpected, and really, really sweet,’”
It was a gesture that he would never forget.
It was a gesture that put her in his head in 2006, enough so to drop her a simple message on MySpace that said, “Hi, Alyson – Hoping you have been well since we last saw one another. Wishing you all the best!”
It was a gesture that put her back in his head in 2011, when they connected on Linkedin.
And it was a gesture that put her back in his head once more, in February 2014, which led him to messaging her on Linkedin, just writing to say hi.
“I was scrolling through my Linkedin contacts, and lo and behold, your name popped up amongst the masses,” his message to her read. “To which I said, ‘my god, there’s someone I haven’t reached out to in years.’ And, actually, besides when we wrote one another a few years ago, probably the last time we truly/actually spoke to one another was when I was either still at Nova, or when I got to Barry [University]. Nonetheless, I do hope you are doing well, and that life has been treating you the way it should be treating you.”
Alyson, who then was going through transitions – both professionally and personally – in her life, wrote back two months later. She filled Mike in, albeit briefly, as to what was going on with her on the professional side, asking for job advice, before touching upon a statement that would prove prophetic.
“In other news,” she wrote, “my son is 8, and it has been wonderful watching him grow and develop. It has certainly been a year of change, and I am looking forward to when everything falls into place. I can feel it coming, but it hasn’t happened quite yet.”
That was April 18, 2014. Just six days later, on the 24th -- almost 14 years to the day when they last saw one another, and almost 18 years after they first met – they spoke on the phone … Alyson from her home in Florida, Michael from his home in South Carolina.
They’ve been inseparable ever since.
“It’s funny how life works, how one moment in time leads to others. In 2000, I needed to see him, to say goodbye that day,” Alyson said of Michael, the former Department of Athletics executive who will marry her on April 24, 2016, in a service in Savannah, Georgia. “There was something about him that I was always drawn to, but just couldn’t place. I didn’t know it at the time, when I was a lot younger, but there was just a natural connection between us. It was there when I would visit him in his Athletics office, it was there when it led me to say goodbye to him in his new office, and it was there when we reconnected two years ago.”
“It sounds corny, but it is so very true: If she never would have come by my office that day, I would have never remembered her as much as I did,” Michael added. “I never forgot that. I never forgot her standing in my office doorway, wanting to say goodbye to me. I never forgot the person behind that gesture, that moment in time. That memory meant – and means – so very much to me. It is a memory that led me to my best friend, which led me to my lover, and led me to my soon-to-be wife.”