At first, there were no sparks.
Brian W. Schoeneman, CCAS ’01, GSPM ’04, and KayAnn Panagi, ESIA ’99, first met at GW’s Academic Center, each of them interested more in the debate team than in each other. It would take almost ten years for them to realize how fortuitous that meeting was, but in the beginning, they were content to enjoy each other as casual friends—and occasional sparring partners.
“We were friends throughout undergrad, but we never dated. I remember thinking she was very smart and a great debater,” says Brian. “We used to spend a lot of time together, and since her sister came to attend GW as well, we would often hang out, the three of us. But it was always as friends, never anything romantic. That didn’t come until later.”
After graduation, KayAnn and Brian went their separate ways: she to a career in public relations, and he to work in the maritime industry, both of them located in D.C. Over the years, their offices were at times only blocks from each other, but they had completely lost touch; they had no idea they were in such close proximity.
Then one day, KayAnn was doing some research for a maritime client, and she saw Brian’s name. She immediately fired off an email, checking to see if he was the same Brian she used to hang out with at GW.
Turns out, he was.
They met for a drink and quickly picked up where their friendship from undergrad had left off—trying out restaurants and catching the occasional movie—but they still didn’t know what fate had in store for them
When a blind date canceled on Brian the night before a black-tie gala, he recruited KayAnn to come along. He still recalls how beautiful she looked that night.
Brian drove KayAnn home after the gala, and when she got out of the car, he yelled out the window: “Hey, don’t I get a goodnight kiss?”
KayAnn shot back, “Well, do you want one?”
“We fell into a relationship as if our friendship never had a near-decade long break,” Brian says now, reflecting back. “It was as if we just needed to be apart for a while to realize we were meant for each other.”
Within months of that first kiss, Brian proposed. On June 6, 2006, they were married at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square. They honeymooned in Paris and London, topping off their whirlwind trip with a transatlantic cruise from Southampton to New York. “Being a maritime guy, a cruise felt like the best way to capstone the start of our life together,” says Brian.
At long last, these two had found their way to the same ship.
The couple now lives in Centreville, VA with their five-year-old son, Nicholas. KayAnn is Senior Vice President of Research for Ketchum, Inc., and Brian is the Political and Legislative Director for the Seafarers International Union. According to KayAnn’s sister, Ellen Panagi, the couple’s relationship works because “they’re practically the same person—they have the same interests, the same sense of humor.”
On this, Brian and KayAnn definitely agree.