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University of Missouri

Naval Affairs

Mizzou alumni find more than fleeting love in Naval ROTC.

Kline wedding ceremony

The Klines married Feb. 18, 1978, at the Newman Center. Courtesy the Klines.

When Donna Skaggs sat down across from Jeffrey Kline at the 1975 University of Missouri Naval ROTC orientation, it was love at first sight.

When I saw her, I thought, ‘Wow, if this is the ROTC, this is going to be OK,’ ” recalls Kline, BS IE ’79.

The two got to know each other during naval science courses and drill-team competitions. After a year of friendship, Jeffrey lured Donna on a date with the promise of ice cream, which they shared at the base of the Columns.

During their junior year, Donna opened her bedroom window to find Jeffrey serenading her with a guitar. When she went down to let him in, he proposed. “He’s a romantic,” says Donna Skaggs Kline, BA ’79.

The Klines married Feb. 18, 1978, at the Newman Center. At the reception, Jeffrey’s Kappa Sigma brothers and about 200 midshipmen presented them with a gift: a bowling ball soldered to a chain, which they locked around Jeffrey’s ankle. The key was at their honeymoon hotel in St. Louis.

The Klines lived in married-student housing their senior year. “With the exception of being married to Donna, it wasn’t a great life experience,” says Jeffrey, though he admits their GPAs improved. Donna remembers hiking to campus in thigh-deep snow only to discover classes had been canceled. “Jeff was laughing the whole way. I was cursing and crying,” she says.

After graduating, Donna served as a U.S. Navy officer and diver before leading Project Quick Find, a program that trains sea lions to recover objects from the ocean floor. Jeffrey served as a Navy commanding officer for 26 years and worked as a naval analyst. Today, Donna is a research scientist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and The Nature Conservancy, and Jeffrey is a professor of practice in the operations research department at the Naval Postgraduate School, both in Monterey, California.