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A Romantic Manchester Miracle

Feb 12, 2024, 09:00 AM by Chloe Leckrone
Ken Steiner ’68 and Deb Maurer ’70 Steiner first met in a zoology class in 1967. Three years later they were married. Read about their relationship's journey and a miracle of an engagement.

Ken Steiner ’68 and Deb Maurer ’70 Steiner first met in a zoology class in 1967. A music education major, Deb was active in Manchester’s choirs, band and orchestra. Ken studied biology, and was the lab instructor for Deb’s zoology class.

Though the two met then, they did not start dating until the following year. However, in his last year at Manchester, Ken was influenced by the peace studies program to revise his draft status to be a conscientious objector. Joining International Voluntary Services (IVS) – a predecessor to the Peace Corps – meant traveling to Laos for two years after graduating. Their long-distance relationship involved letter-writing and recording and sending each other cassette tapes.  

In the late summer of 1969, Ken secretly wrote a letter to Deb’s parents asking for permission to marry and Deb’s ring size. After receiving a positive response, he spent his vacation time in Thailand searching for the right ring. He brought drawings of rings to jewelers and eventually had the perfect set made.  

The more challenging step in the engagement process was getting the ring home before Christmas. Shipping the ring required a steep duty fee, which meant Ken had to get creative. An airline stewardess who Ken met while she briefly volunteered in Laos offered to wear the ring back to the United States and mail it to Deb’s family. While the plan was risky, Ken trusted the woman to get it to his soon-to-be-fiancée, and she did. 

On Christmas morning, Deb was instructed to open her gifts in a specific order. The second-to-last gift was an empty tape recorder box—the actual recorder was hidden on a bookshelf recording the special moment that was coming momentarily. Finally, she opened the last box to reveal a beautiful diamond ring. Deb was, in her words, “totally speechless.” Her mother responded by saying, "Daddy, go put it on her finger."

In addition to the engagement ring, Ken had sent a cassette tape to Manchester, knowing that Deb would receive it when she returned to school after Christmas. On that tape, Ken talked about the ring and plans to get married when he returned home the following summer. However, for some unknown reason, it was forwarded on to Deb’s family home in Ohio and arrived the day after Christmas. They still marvel that if the timing had been different by one day, and the tape had come before Christmas, the whole surprise of Christmas morning would have been spoiled. 

Ken was granted an early exit from IVS in the spring and arrived home a week before Deb’s graduation. Her home was about 90 minutes from his family’s farm, and she spent long weekends learning how to drive a tractor and getting to know his family while the two of them got reacquainted and planned their wedding. They were married three months later on August 22, 1970, at Oakland Church of the Brethren. 

The Steiners now live in Mint Hill, North Carolina.  

“Manchester University has been a vital part of our development as people,” the couple said. “The well-rounded education we each received there, as well as life-long friends made there, cannot be overstated. We simply loved our time at Manchester and have many wonderful memories of professors, classes and countless experiences. We visit occasionally for class reunions, the last time being the summer of 2023. And we faithfully support the University financially each year. We have also included Manchester as part of our estate plan.”