Duy Nguyen (C'17) began his college journey at the University of Dubuque in August 2013. He chose UD because of the aviation program, majoring in flight operations. Although classes and flight hours took up a lot of Duy's time, he was also active on campus. He was a tennis team member, active with the flight team, and a resident assistant.
One year later, Haley Pankratz (C'17) joined the University of Dubuque family as a first-year student. Her major was also flight operations, which is where this UD Love Story started. In January 2015, on the first day of the second semester, Haley and Duy sat next to each other in a general education course, Environmental Perspectives of Health. Fate was definitely on their side as the only seat open in the classroom was next to Duy, so Haley had to sit there.
"He liked my baseball cap that had a UH-1 and an AH-1 on it, and we talked about flight and military for a few minutes. After that, we didn't speak again until over a year later," Haley said.
Haley remembers talking to her sister the day she met Duy and shared that she met a nice, polite guy, but she didn't think she would ever see him again.
Although that conversation about military helicopters was the first, it certainly was not the last for Haley and Duy. As the 2015-2016 academic year began, the two met again at resident assistant training. They also ended up competing against each other on the flight team.
"He was a bit more competitive, and I was more by the book," Haley laughed. "I didn't know if he annoyed me or if I liked him."
Haley was involved in several organizations on campus including Alpha Eta Row, Wendt Character Initiative, Chapel Band, Cheer, and Women in Aviation. Additionally, she worked at the airport and was a tutor in the Academic Success Center.
Although Haley and Duy were involved in a lot on campus, it was their jobs as RAs that brought the two of them closer.
"During an RA outing, Duy took a photo of me and sent it to the RA group chat, and I remember thinking, 'He noticed me,'" Haley said.
Soon after, several friends attended the UD Haunted House. At the time, Haley had never been to a haunted house and handled the UD one pretty well. She commented to Duy about wanting to go to the haunted house in downtown Dubuque. Duy took the opportunity and asked Haley if she would like to go. Thinking the haunted house wouldn't bother her, she said yes. It turns out it was a bit scarier than she anticipated.
"I screamed like a little girl," Haley said.
Following the haunted house adventure, the two went back to UD and had a movie night - but Duy sat on one end of the room and Haley on the other. More movie nights would follow, and their relationship began to grow.
In March 2016, Haley and Duy officially started dating, although they dispute who asked who out. Their first official date was ice skating at the Mystique Community Ice Center in Dubuque. They continued to date throughout college. They were not interested in fancy dates; rather, they enjoyed spending time together, much of which was focused on flight.
"We competed on flight team together and accompanied each other on many cross country flights, otherwise you would find us working out in the rec center until it closed," Duy said.
The furthest they traveled on a cross-country trip was Houston, Texas. Duy had family there. The couple only planned to stay a few days but because of bad weather, they were there almost a week. It turns out Duy didn't mention to his family that they were dating, but one of his aunts was suspicious.
"His aunt told me that Duy said that we were not dating. I turned to him and said, 'You told her that,'" Haley said.
"My aunt knew better. There was no hiding it from her," Duy admitted.
Although the two spent a lot of their time flying, the couple traded out their flight gear for formal attire and enjoyed attending Marine Corps Birthday Balls from time to time.
In August 2017, Duy and Haley decided to take their relationship to the next level and moved in together. It is no surprise that their first home together was only six minutes from the airport as the couple continued to work and fly to build their hours.
Duy surprised Haley on October 8, 2017, her birthday, by asking her to marry him - also in their apartment, six minutes away from the airport.
Wedding planning began immediately, and on September 14, 2018, the couple exchanged vows at Faith Lutheran Church in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. Knowing that their wedding day would not be complete without their favorite activity, the newlyweds took flight. After the ceremony, they boarded a Cessna 172 Skyhawk and flew to their reception in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
"It's a small airplane," Duy said. "And her dress was super poofy, which took up the whole plane."
The reception was held at Hilton Garden Inn, which is located right on the airstrip. The air control tower gave them permission and air space to fly by and then congratulated them over the radio. The couple taxied right up to the hotel, parked the plane, and made their grand entrance into their reception. The special day ended with over 100 family and friends who joined them for their first meal as husband and wife and a night full of fun and dancing. A few college friends were part of the wedding party, including Matthew Kozma (C'17), Josh Bulfer (C'17), Ching-Kuan Su (C'12, MBA'19), Taylor Althoff (C'17), Lisa Kloft (C'18), Kaitlyn White (C'18, MBA'20).
After the wedding, Duy went back to Dubuque and worked as a UD flight instructor. Meanwhile, Haley worked as a gymnastics coach for a few months in Oshkosh. In January 2020, Haley moved back to Dubuque and worked remotely as the pandemic began.
On Mother's Day, May 10, 2020, Haley and Duy welcomed their first child, Addiline, into the world. They said having a baby during a pandemic was an interesting experience.
"At one point, we thought we were going to have to do it ourselves because only so many people were getting into hospitals. So we looked into having our baby at home. Luckily we were able to get into the hospital for the delivery," Haley said.
Duy added, "We have not really had the opportunity to celebrate our anniversary. Haley had terrible morning sickness on our first anniversary, and for our second, we were quarantining with an infant. But we did get to enjoy dinner in bed while Haley was feeding Addi."
Currently, Haley keeps busy with an active 10-month old and Duy works for Envoy Air as a first officer and is a part-time CRJ instructor at UD. Duy is also in his 10th year of service. He is a mechanic in the United States Marine Corps based out of Rock Island, Illinois.
During the pandemic, the family has enjoyed making masks to donate to multiple hospitals and clinics in the area. So far, they have made over 2000 masks.
During non-COVID-19 times, they enjoy kayaking, hiking, spending time with family, and, of course, flying. As soon as they can, Haley and Duy hope to take Addi to a children's museum and attend church in-person. The family currently resides in Dubuque.