In the not-yet-written book about Annette Daughtry and Benjamin “Ben” Pietrowski’s love story, a  second-floor classroom in Building 3 on the Yavapai College Prescott campus and a twisted tree stump somewhere in the shadow of Thumb Butte would be central elements of the first chapter.

The classroom, No. 215, is where Annette and Ben first laid eyes on each other and felt the twinge of attraction. It was spring 2015 and each was taking Psychology 101 – a requirement for their respective associate of science degrees – Annette’s focusing on health sciences, Ben’s in aviation technology.

The tree stump is where, while camping near Thumb Butte about a year later, Annette dropped a velvet box containing a ring and a note with the question, “will you marry me?” She then led Ben to the spot while the two hiked in the area, got down on one knee and proposed. She’s not entirely sure about the one-knee part, “but I think I did, because I’m corny like that,”  she said, recalling how she proposed and why via a Zoom interview from the couple’s home in Philadelphia.

“I was terrified. I was sure he was going to say no. I was positive he was going to say no,” she said. Despite her fear, Annette carried out her plan, even getting Ben’s sister’s blessing in advance, because she knew Ben was the one. “It was worth a shot.”

Ben didn’t say no. He did give the surprise proposal about 60 seconds of thought, however. “I did a really quick self-assessment. I asked myself would I be happy with this person for the rest of my life? It was something that I hadn’t asked myself previously but when I thought about it, it was an easy answer.”

Not long after Ben said yes, the couple moved in together, Annette pursuing her bachelor’s in microbiology at Northern Arizona University and Ben serving as a flight instructor at YC and attending Grand Canyon University online. The pair exchanged marriage vows in “Philly” in April 2019.

Today the couple are living their happily-ever-afters in Philly with their dog Millie, a Shetland Sheep Dog, and Ash Williams, an Amazon parrot. Annette is working in her dream career – in research and development for a biotech company in Trenton, N.J. Ben is a pilot for American Airlines. In their downtime, the couple enjoy caring for their pets, exploring their surroundings, attending music festivals and creating culinary masterpieces together. 

But there are more details to share about the first chapter of the couple’s love story and the place where it all began -- YC.

Annette and Ben didn’t really interact in their “psych” class. They noticed each other and learned a little  about each other during class discussions – their shared Italian heritage, for example, about Ben’s military experience as a search and rescue swimmer with a Black Hawk squadron in the U.S. Navy, and Annette’s intelligence conveyed by answering questions, as Ben related, “no one else seemed to know the answer to.” Admittedly both were otherwise shy and reserved in class.

An invariably early arriver to class, Annette remembers watching Ben zoom up and park his motorcycle in the back of Building 3. “He had this mysterious air about him and he was cute.”

For his part, Ben thought Annette was “really pretty” and “really smart.” Still, the semester ended with no sign of romance in store.  “I didn’t think I would ever see her again.”

A few short weeks later, fate intervened when Ben found Annette’s profile on a dating site and recognizing her as his former classmate, reached out. “She seemed so well-spoken and beautiful and I just wanted to see if there was anything there,” Ben recalled of his decision to make contact. Annette recalled being excited and surprised by Ben’s action and thinking, “maybe this is our second chance.”

The two “hit it off” on their first date – lunch -- and continued dating, enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and camping in the Prescott area while pursuing their respective college journeys. By the time they both graduated from YC, in the spring of 2016, their relationship was serious.

“I remember thinking this is real. This is something big… I realized he was special and I didn’t want to let him go,” Annette said, describing the feelings that led to her surprise proposal in late May 2016.

Although enamored with Annette, a previously divorced Ben wasn’t focused on the long term. That is, until Annette’s very unexpected proposal illuminated in the moment that he was happy and in love.  

Since moving to the East Coast, Ben and Annette have found their way back to Prescott to visit campus, take selfies outside Room 215 and hike to the twisted tree stump in the forest. Their memories of YC are fond ones, not only because it is the setting for their “storybook” romance, but because it was the catalyst for their career success.

A member of the College Honors Program, Annette said of YC. “It will always hold a special place in my heart because all the faculty and staff really cared about my success. I know it sounds like a slogan and it’s cheesy, but it’s true.”

Ben echoed Annette’s sentiment, asserting that “all the professors and pretty much everyone at YC was great. Everyone genuinely cared about you and wanted to make sure you were successful.”

This should be the end of the first chapter of “Ben and Annette.” But there are a couple more serendipitous twists:

  1. Ben was recruited to YC by Aeronautical Science Director and U.S. Navy Veteran Matt Mintzmyer. “He recruited me in San Diego after I got out of the Navy. It sounded like a really good program,” Ben said, explaining how he landed at YC after the Navy. Although not initially sold on an aviation career path, Ben said, “now I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
  2. Annette tried getting into the psych 101 class in fall 2014, but the class was full.

Asked if they have advice for people who are looking for the kind of love they found at YC, Annette said this: “Don’t wait until the end of the semester to talk to someone. Just take that chance, because we almost missed out.”

Yavapai College operates six campuses and centers throughout Yavapai County and offers over 100 degrees and certificates, two baccalaureate degrees, student and community services, and cultural events and activities.

To learn more about YC, visit