MISSOULA – Purchasing an engraved brick on the Centennial Circle surrounding the Grizzly Bear statue at the University of Montana cements one's relationship with UM, both literally and figuratively.
And in the 27 years that UM has offered the brick inscriptions, we've seen a lot of requests – some poetic, others not so much. But when a recent brick order caught our eye, we knew there had to be a story behind it. It read:
"Morgan and Sam
Found Love in
A UM Elevator"
It turns out Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to tell that story.
To get the skinny, we reached out to Cassie Eliasson VanAlstyne, a proud UM alumna and purchaser of said brick.
Cassie, who now lives in Colorado but hails from Roundup, said UM has played a major role in her family’s life. She fondly remembers a weekend visit her older sister made to campus some 25 years ago while Cassie was studying journalism and living in Craig Hall.
“She is five years older than me, so we didn't really connect as kids, you know?” Cassie wrote in an email. “But that visit really brought us together as friends.”
Several months later that same sister was pregnant.
“I learned that the baby was a girl in the lobby of Craig Hall after asking for my mail and getting a note card from my sister that simply said ‘it's a girl’ with a picture of a stork printed dot-matrix style on it,” Cassie said. “It was so exciting! My sister named her Morgan Cassandra, after her aunt Cassandra (that's me).”
That little girl would go on to follow in her aunt’s steps, enrolling at UM in 2016 to study elementary education. Morgan calls herself a bit of a “rebel” for the decision to become a Griz.
“There are members of my family who went to Montana State,” she said. “I had to pick a side.”
It was as a first-year student in Jesse Hall that Morgan would meet Sam Brown, an Auburn, Washington, resident drawn to UM for its outdoor lifestyle and major in resource conservation.
The way Morgan tells it, she was living on the ninth floor of the residence hall at the time. He was on the third floor where, it happens, some of her friends also lived.
“I got along with everyone down there, and on the second day I popped into Sam’s room and invited him to a party,” Morgan recalls. “What drew me in was he had a lemon tree and his room was super organized. Not like other freshman college guys.”
“Yup, that’s about it,” said Sam, a man of fewer words, of that initial encounter.
The two became friends right away, hiking the M often and just hanging out. And then winter doldrums led to a bad case of cabin fever.
Here’s where the elevator comes in.
“We needed to do something different,” Morgan recalls. “We hauled two chairs in the elevator, set up some music, Sam brought a half gallon of milk, and we greeted people riding to their floors.
“Some people were really friendly,” she adds, “Some, I’m sure, thought who are these weirdos?”
Morgan and Sam rode that first day for two hours and put in several more elevator stints on following weekends. Soon they had a reputation.
“The second time, this guy got on and said ‘oh, you are the one’s riding the elevator, I heard about you,’” Morgan said.
The couple continued to date through college, and when it came time to pop the question in October 2020, Sam opted not for the elevator as a backdrop, but a rustic cabin in Condon. The couple were married June 26, 2021, at Dunrovin Ranch and today live in Missoula. Morgan works as a seventh and eighth grade teacher for Woodman School in Lolo. Sam works in GIS for onX.
They learned about the brick gift on their wedding day when Aunt Cassie presented them with a letter from UM acknowledging the purchase and the inscription.
“It was such a cool and heartfelt present,” Morgan said.
Cassie admits an engraved brick isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for a wedding gift, but their families had heard the elevator story many times. The gift, she said, also reflects UM’s special place in their hearts.
Plus, anything tamer wouldn’t reflect Morgan’s and Sam’s outsized personalities.
“Maybe it’s not super appropriate for some, but those of us who grew up with ’90s rock get it,” Cassie said referring to the Grammy-nominated Aerosmith anthem. “It’s definitely not your average wedding blender or set of sheets.”
UM still sells those bricks. If you have a love story to etch in stone, learn more at https://www.umt.edu/marketing/bricks.
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM strategic communications director, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.