Syracuse alums engage in an Orange way

Engaged in an Orange way

From Euclid Avenue to the Kissing Bench, Tom Rende and Carlie Thompson fulfill their own SU love story.
Published: February 14, 2019

As it does on most days, the Kissing Bench was waiting patiently for a couple to take a seat one Saturday afternoon last fall.

The 107-year-old grey stone bench, with its cracks and rough-to-the-touch surface, sits next to the Hall of Languages building like an anchor. A silver plaque on the bench tells the iconic legend that any couple who kisses there will eventually marry.

On this day, as Tom Rende and Carlie Thompson walk towards it for the second time in their relationship, they were followed by a team of The NewsHouse foducers with cameras, all there under the pretense of shooting a video about the Class of 2014 couple’s love story.

The ruse

With a few concocted emails and a planning call to their Albany area home earlier in the year, Rende and The NewsHouse team had successfully convinced Thompson that they just wanted to tell a fun story about couples who fall in love on the hill.

Tell us about the time you first met.

How about your first kiss?

When did you know you were really in love?

The line of inquiry was innocent; just a simple interview for The NewsHouse. No tricks. But of course, it was a setup. While Thompson wasn’t looking, one of Rende’s former professors slipped him the engagement ring he had helped keep hidden from Thompson.

Carlie Thompson and Tom Rende share a moment on Sept. 8, 2018 at the Kissing Bench.
Tom Rende and Carlie Thompson first met at a Euclid Avenue house party in fall of their junior years.

Retracing their steps

Hours before, Rende stood on Euclid Avenue, arm outstretched as he pointed to his and Thompson’s neighboring junior-year houses. They met at a party that October on that same street, where Rende charmingly, yet strangely, told her he would make her pancakes one day. Thompson, labeled him as “Pancake Tom” in the contact section of her phone.

Rende, the newspaper and online journalism major, and Thompson, the biology and psychology dual major, became best friends and arranged study sessions in the Life Sciences Complex which was close to where her classes were held. They walked home together almost every day along streets that usually inspire rowdy college parties rather than romance.

But Rende was falling for her, and he needed to make a move. In an act that he called his “Hail Mary,” he confessed his feelings for her in a somewhat disorganized, mostly incoherent letter that he handed her on their walk home one night. They both cringed as they recalled awkwardly standing on the corner in silence.

“It’s funny that so much good came out of that one moment,” Rende said. “And maybe things should have been done differently where it wasn’t that cringe-worthy, but …”

“I don’t think so,” Thompson cut in. “It worked.”

They both grinned and agreed, “Yeah. It worked pretty well.”

Thompson took her time coming around to him after what would become their letter. It wouldn’t be until the Syracuse-Duke basketball game their senior year that they exchanged the coveted three words, “I love you,” for the first time. Eventually, they sealed their fate with a visit to the Kissing Bench. It doesn’t get more Orange than that.

Valentines Day Engagement
Rende surprises Thompson with a marriage proposal, fulfilling the legend of the Kissing Bench that couples who sit there will be together forever.

Returning to the Kissing Bench

There they were four years later, sitting down on the legendary bench for the second time as The NewsHouse’s video crew looked on. Rende pulled the custom-designed ring out of his pocket and got down on one knee. Somewhere in the distance, an excited football fan let out a great whoop of joy. It was an instant and unequivocal yes from Thompson.

As far as Rende and Thompson are concerned, their story doesn’t exist without Syracuse, and without that leap of faith that was the cringe-worthy letter.

“When you think there’s a chance of it being worth it, then there’s no reason for you not to try,” Rende said.

After many congratulations and photo-ops, the couple headed to the Quad and eventually the Carrier Dome to celebrate with beers and a football game in true Syracuse form. Their wedding is planned for July 2020.

SU Proposal Engagement
A newly-engaged Thompson shows off her ring.