Photo courtesy of Angie Eckelkamp.

— By Angie Eckelkamp

Angie Eckelkamp was working for Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Dallas as a consultant when her mom called one afternoon. 

“You should watch Oprah — it’s really good,” her mom said. 

“I’m at work,” Angie replied. “Well, her reruns come on at night so you can watch it then.” 

That night, Angie happened to turn on Oprah

She had been preparing to attend graduate school to pursue a master of architecture at The University of Colorado at Denver. Though her undergraduate degree was in finance from SMU, Angie always loved architecture and had applied to schools with career-change programs which included Denver and UT Arlington. 

She was ready to live in a cooler climate among the mountains.

The U-Haul was reserved, and plane tickets were bought. She and her mom could scope out apartments and a new laptop for school had just arrived. 

However, watching Oprah that night sparked a life-changing decision. Oprah’s guests featured financial author David Bach and guests who were in financial distress — including those in significant school debt. Watching the show, Angie realized that attending architecture school in Denver would put her in substantial debt, thanks to expensive out-of-state tuition and the inability to work; architecture school is notorious for time-consuming studio projects. Her parents had always emphasized that financial management was of paramount importance, and Angie recognized she had been in denial about the total cost of school and its impact on her future. 

That night after the show, she called her parents; she would forgo her Denver dream and attend UT Arlington instead. She even asked to move back home to minimize potential debt. At 8 a.m. day one of architecture school, Angie sat in class — Construction Materials and Methods, dolefully knowing she had made the right decision. Right as class began, a cute guy hastily took his seat in the row ahead. His name was Dan Eckelkamp, and he was the teaching assistant for the class. Dan was in his final year as a graduate student and also in the architecture career-change program, having left a career in telecommunications.

At the end of the semester, Dan asked Angie out on a date. That was in 2004, and they’ve been married for 15 years. If it wasn’t for the phone call from Angie’s mom about watching Oprah, their paths may not have crossed. 

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