Heartwarming Surprise At Graduation Ceremony

Jonathan Cox's cap reading "Taylor Marry Me?"

By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications

Elaborate decorations on the tops of graduation caps continue to be a popular trend, but one in particular caught the attention of thousands gathered at Texas A&M University’s summer commencement ceremony this morning.

When Tyler, Texas native Jonathan Cox followed his fellow Aggies to their seats on the floor of Reed Arena, a video camera that feeds the massive screens hanging from the ceiling captured his message, and when the audience read the words “Taylor Marry Me?” they erupted in cheers and applause.

Cox, 22, who received a bachelor’s degree in English, decided to take the opportunity to publicly announce his engagement to his girlfriend Taylor Hepburn, who graduated from Texas A&M in May with a bachelor’s in Child Professional Services.

Hepburn, 22, a native of Melissa, Texas, had already said “yes” earlier when Cox proposed at sunrise on Lake Bryan. Both avid kayakers, Cox lured her to the lake under the guise of an early morning adventure. She later said the proposal was “a total shock.”

So although she knew going in to graduation that they were engaged, she said the cap also was a complete surprise. “When they showed him on the big screen, the crowd started buzzing and trying to figure out who he was asking, and it was me!”

Hepburn was sitting in the stands with Cox’s family and her own. She said, “They knew it was going to happen so they were eager to see my reaction.”

Aggies Jonathan Cox and Taylor Hepburn after summer commencement. Hepburn is showing her engagement ring and Cox is posing with his now famous cap.

Aggies Jonathan Cox and Taylor Hepburn after summer commencement

Cox said he wanted to surprise her again at graduation because his now fiancée is such a special person.

“She is nice, generous and funny — beautiful inside and out,” he said.

The pair, who began dating a year ago, met in 2016 when both were counselors at T-camp, Texas A&M’s orientation camp for transfer students.

“At camp we became really great friends,” said Cox. “Then once we started dating, I immediately knew she was ‘the one.’”

Cox said he secured a summer job at a local carpet company to be able to afford the ring.

The two plan to marry next September and because of their shared love of kayaking, they have already decided to customize one wedding tradition.

“We want to get married by a lake somewhere in Tyler,” explained Hepburn. “But instead of riding off in a car with a ‘Just Married’ sign, we want to paddle away on a ‘Just Married’ kayak.”

And, added Cox, “There will be a lot of maroon. It will definitely be an Aggie wedding.”

Jonathan sitting among his fellow Aggie graduates

Cox sitting among his fellow Aggie graduates

Next week, the two start internships at Sky Ranch, a Christian summer camp.

They said their shared interest in caring for children is rooted in a lifelong desire to serve, which also is what drew them to Texas A&M where selfless service is a core value.

Even though Cox had no family ties to Texas A&M, he said, “I was an Aggie ‘out of the womb.’ I’ve always wanted to go to this university … I guess it was the good Lord blessing me with maroon blood.”

Hepburn said the graduation surprise completely aligns with Cox’s personality.

“He is outgoing and outspoken, he makes people laugh and smile all the time. He is kindhearted and very loyal to his family and friends. He is the definition of a good person.”

Texas A&M awarded 2,288 degrees and commissioned 32 members of the Corps of Cadets into the Armed Forces at summer commencement.

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Media contact: Lesley Henton, lshenton@tamu.edu, 979-845-5591


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