Sonja Moreland met Neal Adams 58 years ago through a mutual friend during Sonja’s freshman year at Baylor University. In the summer of 1965, Sonja was asked to stand in the 65th Annual Tyler Rose Festival as the Duchess of Fort Worth and could think of no one more suited to escort her than Tyler, Texas native, Neal Adams. The festival was one week long in the month of October.
“It only took me a week to sweep her off her feet,” Neal said.
Despite the undeniable chemistry, they went on dating other people in the year after the Rose Festival. In the fall of 1966, they realized the chemistry between them was serious so they started dating as juniors in college. The following year, Neal became the Head Yell Leader at Texas A&M.
“She made it to see me almost every game that year,” Neal recalls as a favorite memory from their courtship.
Smitten with one another, they were anxious to tie the knot, but they promised their parents they would wait until after graduation to marry. Sonja shares that a very proud moment was getting to walk down the aisle as husband and wife on June 8, 1968, both as college graduates.
“See, we did it,” Sonja said to a cousin that didn’t believe they would wait.
The two moved to Waco, Texas together for Neal to attend law school at Baylor University. Years later they gave birth to two daughters, Marti ‘93 and Paige, and raised their family in Fort Worth, Texas.
An Aggie by Bloodline and an Aggie by Marriage
“My experience started with A&M when I was 11 months old when I saw my first Aggie football game in Kyle Field,” Neal said.
Growing up, Neal’s father and uncle instilled the core values of Texas A&M in him; he says they were both extremely instrumental in his decision to become an Aggie. Neal had considerable involvement with Texas A&M as a student, most notably, he was the Head Yell Leader for the 1967-1968 school year.
Sonja and Neal have since served Texas A&M in countless ways and have been recognized for their tremendous contributions and involvement with the university.
“If you’re not at the table, then you can’t have a say.” Neal says that he learned this principle from his father.
So Sonja and Neal took a seat at the table…lots of tables. Some of the more notable ways they have served include participating in the team that established the Former Yell Leaders Association 30 years ago; Neal served as president of the association twice. He served as chairman of the 12th Man Foundation and was appointed by fellow former Texas A&M Yell Leader, Governor Rick Perry to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Sonja currently serves on the Development Council for the College of Education at Texas A&M, and both have previously served on the Advisory and Development Board for the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. In 2008, Neal was named a Texas A&M Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor bestowed on a former student of Texas A&M University.
This is merely a glimpse of their extraordinary list of involvement and achievement with Texas A&M and the list continues to grow as they continue to invest their time, knowledge and resources into the lives of students today.
The Gift that Raised the Bar
“In the crowds we run around with, everyone’s always oohing and ahhing over their new jewelry and 99.9% of the time, it came from Julia and David Gardner’s spot,” Neal said.
In the spring of 2018, Neal visited David Gardner’s for the very first time. With Sonja’s classic style in mind, Neal favored a dream cut diamond pendant designed by David Gardner. As much as he loved it, he wanted it to be unique for Sonja, a piece that truly signified a milestone in their marriage. With the help of David and DG Sales Associate Wendie, they decided to cast “50th” in platinum and place it on the back of the pendant. Once the pendant was finished, Neal enlisted his two daughters to devise the perfect plan.
“I wasn’t expecting anything. We told each other ‘no gifts!’,” Sonja said.
Eight friends, two daughters and one David Gardner design raised the bar for anniversaries to come. On June 8, 2018, Neal defied the ‘no gifts’ promise and surprised Sonja with a celebration in the Wine Cellar at Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.
“When this group gets together, someone’s always in charge and this was my night,” Neal said.
Neal asked that each couple, ladies first, tell the group why they have been married as long as they have. The five couples, together, share 250 years of marriage. Sonja and Neal said the evening was full of untold stories and lots of laughter, memories to last their lifetime. As Neal’s turn came around, he said “there’s one more thing here.” He handed Sonja a little box wrapped with a gold bow.
“I was just blown away…I turned it over and the emotions just took over,” Sonja said of seeing ‘50th’ cast in white gold on the back of her radiant diamond pendant. “It’s a constant reminder, right over my heart, that we did it…fifty years so far!”
We are so thankful Sonja & Neal gave us the opportunity to be a part of this beautiful celebration of their love. Through hearing their story and getting to know the couple they are today, we only adore them more!
“We had fun fifty years ago and we’re still having fun now,” Sonja said.
Cheers to Sonja & Neal!