In 1988, Rachel (BSPR ‘91) moved to Gainesville as a transfer student and was introduced to Don VanDemark Jr. (BSBA ‘91, MBA ‘99). Rachel’s roommate was pledging Tau Beta Sigma at the time and often had her pledge brothers and their friends at their apartment.
One in particular—who seemed especially excited about Rachel’s kitten—happened to catch her eye.
“Who doesn’t love a man who loves kittens?” Rachel said.
The love that began with an adoration of Rachel’s new kitten quickly became a love shared between two friends who enjoyed spending much of their time together. In April 1989 they began steadily dating.
The following fall semester, Rachel joined the Gator Band and was able to play alongside Don. They continued to enjoy their time going on band trips and attending practices and games together.
In October 1990, the Florida Gators played the University of Tennessee. The couple traveled with the Gator Band to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and decided to have a night out on the town.
That evening at dinner, Don proposed. By January 1992, the two were married.
Thirty years later, the couple still enjoys traveling together but now they have three children to tag along. Over the years they have shared the fulfillment of watching their children embrace the love of music through their schools’ programs.
Their second child is currently pursuing a music education degree at UF, and is a member of the basketball, volleyball, and symphonic bands.
Although neither Rachel or Don majored in the College of the Arts, the School of Music and Gator Band have offered a place for the VanDemarks to call home.
Outside of their passion for each other and music, Rachel works as a part-time marketing and social media manager for a small family company as well as teaches Hebrew and art photography.
Don is the CO of a family company and CIO of an educational software company. He also creates podcasts. Together they find pleasure in supporting the Gators, Orlando Magic, and Orlando City Major League Soccer.
Although their relationship blossomed from passion they shared for cats and music, Rachel suggests that the key to a successful relationship is not to be afraid to have your own interests and friends.
“We love to do a lot of things together,” she said, “but we know that our relationship is stronger because we can satisfy those interests that the other does not enjoy."