Chris and Angela visited with Santa Paws at the Barkers’ annual Holiday Open House at the President’s Home.

By Beth Jarrard
Media Relations

Angela and Chris Nixon met online before dating websites like match.com and eHarmony.com became household names.

Angela Snyder from Greenwood and Chris Nixon of Dansville, N.Y., were undergrads at Clemson in 1996. The University’s mainframe computer system was designed with a command function that operated much like instant messaging. Key in “hello,” and you could be connected to another person logged on at the same time. Chris tried it one night and found Angela.

“I guess you could say we met online before it became socially accepted,” Angela said.

The two chatted regularly until the end of spring semester and wrote letters over the summer. They actually met face-to-face for the first time in July 1996.

It was the beginning of a relationship that led to marriage, a family of their own and Clemson careers — Angela is public information director for Student Affairs and Advancement in the Media Relations department while Chris is a library technical assistant, providing desktop and laptop support for the faculty and staff of Cooper Library.

Angela always knew she would attend Clemson. Her dad, a member of the Class of ’68, indoctrinated her early into the Clemson Family and Clemson athletics — especially football. She grew up making the trek to Death Valley for Saturdays of tailgating and games. And she learned the ins and outs, X’s and O’s of football.

Chris was looking for a good football team and mild weather when he applied to Clemson. His dad, who was separated from his mom, lived in Blackville, S.C., so coming South would give him more opportunities to stay in touch.

They were both English majors.

“I started out majoring in engineering,” said Chris, who also applied to Georgia Tech. “It didn’t take me long to realize that wasn’t for me.”

While Angela immersed herself in activities, such as Central Spirit, Chris spent much of his “free time” working at local restaurants.

“I was with Niffers from beginning to end,” said Chris, taking no responsibility for the short lifespan of the seemingly popular College Avenue restaurant.

Angela graduated in 1999 and went straight into graduate school. They married in July 2000, just months after Chris graduated. She earned a Master of Professional Communication degree the following year.

Angela’s first day in what was then known as the news services department is one she will never forget.

“It was Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington,” Angela said. “I was supposed to have a departmental orientation to ease into things, but plans were put aside and I did anything that others didn’t have time to do.”

As Angela ticks off the activities she has been involved in during her nine years of employment at Clemson — Staff Senate, Solid Green Committee — Chris counters that her list will make him look bad. Then he throws out his participation in the faculty-staff bowling league. The exchange results in easy laughter.

A similar sense of humor is one common denominator in this relationship (and December birthdays is another). Angela remembers having a book of jokes as a kid, aptly named 1,001 Jokes for Kids. Maybe Chris read the same book.

They are regulars at Littlejohn Coliseum when Tiger Paw Productions brings comedians to town. They also love TV comedy shows, such as The Simpsons, Family Guy and Seinfeld. And they are huge fans of Conan O’Brien, but the arrival of their son, Brandon, in March 2005, put a stop to most late-night viewing.

“We got tickets for a live show a few years ago, and there’s always TiVo,” Angela said.

Comedy might be a shared interest, but their favorite music draws a line. While Angela is a Jimmy Buffett Parrothead, Chris favors Rush, a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 and still performing. He made a quick trip to Atlanta on a Wednesday night this September to see their Time Machine Tour.

For the most part, they are more apt to buy tickets for Dora the Explorer or Bixby’s Rainforest Rescue since Christopher Brandon Nixon Jr. is now the center of this Clemson family. He’s a clever, bright little towhead, who loves to make up songs, play with family dog Piper, and follow Clemson sports teams.

Yes, these season-ticket holders have been bringing Brandon to Clemson football games for years. His dream of “playing football at Clemson and wearing #28” was crushed when C.J. Spiller’s number was retired during the 2010 season, but the boy has rebounded.

He plays T-ball, soccer and basketball in season and loves to visit the Greenville Zoo. He’ll be performing in a Christmas play this holiday, presented by his after-school program. The kindergarteners have nonspeaking roles, but he does get to sing some songs.

Chris has put his restaurant background to good use, doing most of the cooking for this busy family.

During dinner one night recently, Brandon declared his dad, “the best cook in the world.” Not wanting to hurt his mother’s feelings, he quickly added, “And mommy, you’re the best dishwasher in the world.”

After the Nixons’ online courtship evolved into dating and marriage, Chris learned that his own parents met through letter writing while his dad was in the military. This marriage did not last, but that hasn’t stopped the cordial rapport between all facets of the family.

“We are the envy of many of our friends with divorced parents,” said Angela, noting that all the in-laws get along great.

They regularly visit Chris’ dad, Alvin, and stepmother, Edie, who now live in Dublin, Va., and his mom, Renee, still in upstate New York. But when Renee comes to South Carolina for summer vacations and holidays, the Nixons and the Snyders become one happy family.

In fact, Angela, Chris and Brandon sometimes vacation with Joe and Kathy Snyder and Renee Nixon, including trips to Niagara Falls, Disney World and a cruise to Cozumel, Belize and the Bahamas. And before Renee catches her after-Christmas flight out of Charlotte to return home, she’ll join the Nixons at the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Brandon will surely have his eyes on the Tigers, probably scouting out another future jersey number.