This article can be found in the Alumni Magazine.

August 11, 2023

Story by Reggie Hayes | Photography by Tim Brumbeloe

Eric and Ashley (Scare) Toy ran in different circles as Carroll High School students.

“We kind of knew each other,” Ashley said, “but we didn’t hang out at all.”

“She was out of my league,” Eric said.

Eric remembers handling school announcements at Carroll and repeatedly reading Ashley’s name as an arts award winner. “I was in intro art class; she was the renowned artist in the advanced-advanced class,” Eric said.

When they were freshmen at the University of Saint Francis, Eric started showing up to hang out with Ashley’s roommate. Those casual interactions with each other lit a spark. “I remember ‘Friends’ was on once in the background and Ross or Joey or Chandler—I forget which one—was talking about backups,” Eric said. “They were saying, ‘If we don’t get married by 40, we can be each other’s backups.’ I turned to Ashley and said, ‘We should be each other’s backups.’ Then, the more I entertained the thought, the more I knew I wanted her to be Plan A.”

By the end of their senior year at USF in 2011, love reached full bloom. Eric proposed shortly after they started their first teaching jobs—Eric at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School and Ashley alternating between Bloomingdale and South Wayne elementary schools.

Eric staged an old-school proposal. Literally, he staged it at their old school. He told Ashley he needed a book that was only available locally at USF’s Lee and Jim Vann Library. When they went to pick it up, there was another book waiting: “The DIY Bride.” Eric took the ring his father had placed for him on a nearby bookshelf, dropped to one knee and proposed. Once Ashley said yes, both families came out of hiding to celebrate. The couple married on Nov. 10, 2012, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, their home parish.

Enjoying life today as parents to Sadie, 4, and Everett, 1, the Toys teach at New Tech Academy with their classrooms next door to each other. Eric teaches social studies and computer science, and Ashley teaches art. Because Ashley first taught at the elementary level and then at Towles Intermediate School, she has instructed some of the same students for multiple years.

“I love that there’s a broad spectrum of what I can teach, and I enjoy the creativity involved in seeing students in a different light,” Ashley said.

Ashley also indirectly influenced Eric to enter the teaching field.

“I changed my major five times,” Eric said. “I took an aptitude test with the Office of Career and Professional Development, and it said I should start teaching. Ashley was already in the program, so that convinced me to try it.”

Ashley figured out her path significantly sooner. “As long I as I can remember,” she said, “I wanted to be an art teacher.”

Twelve years into their teaching career, the Toys still value making a difference with students, no matter how challenging. They commute to work together, making it easy to debrief about their days on the way home. During the peak of the COVID-19 precautions, they even taught out of the same room. “It’s so important to provide a safe and positive environment for students to become who they are,” Eric said.

The Toys look back fondly on their time at USF. Eric served as Student Government Association president and founded the Tour de Francis Cycling Club, rescuing about 30 bikes that were sitting idle in a shed on campus. “Being good Franciscans, they didn’t throw them away, so we asked to fix them up and started a bike loan program, where students could rent a bike for a semester,” Eric said. He rode so often he knew exactly when he could stop pedaling and coast across campus. “I was known as the bike guy.”

Ashley served as Art Education Club president and spent countless hours in the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center, often late into the night. Since then, she has taught several summer arts courses at USF.

“We love Saint Francis and come back whenever we have a chance,” Ashley said.

There’s one more touching USF connection: Their daughter Sadie’s middle name is Reagan, named after Reagan Swinford, daughter of alumni Adam (BS ’99) and Jessica (Meyer) Swinford (BA ’98, MBA ’10). Reagan, who was one of Eric’s students at New Tech Academy, passed away from cancer in 2018 shortly before Sadie Reagan Toy was born.

“Reagan really liked elephants and her sister Peyton gave Sadie two little elephants that were Reagan’s,” Eric said. “Sadie recognizes how special they are.”