Spartan Sweethearts

When you consider our students are known for experimenting in chemistry, studying the heart, negotiating complex mergers and synchronizing intricate dances, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Case Western Reserve University also excels in a specialty not mentioned on its list of concentrations—matchmaking.

A black and white outdoor photo of Jane and Fred Shew as young adults
Jane and Fred Shew

The tradition of pairing campus couples can be traced back to our institution’s earliest days and across every generation, but few can stake a claim to a longer partnership than Fred Shew (ADL ‘49) and Jane (Adams) Shew (FSM ‘48). The couple, now in their 73rd year of marriage, met as many of our alumni couples have—through mutual friends. But it didn’t hurt that they both lived on Bellflower Road and saw each other every day, with Jane in Bellflower House and Fred at his adjacent fraternity house.

While the two would often find time to sneak away together for a Coke or meet up at fraternity parties, Jane still made a point to catch a glimpse of her beau each day from a classroom in Haydn Hall as he walked across the quad to classes at Adelbert College. “I also watched Fred play basketball or tennis outside,” she added. 

Jane and Fred Shew, now 96 and 95 years old respectively, traversed the country since their college days with career stops in New York City; Chicago; Milwaukee; Evansville, Indiana; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Tennessee before retiring in Orlando, Florida. When asked for the secret to maintaining a still-exciting, seven-plus decade marriage, Fred Shew answered simply: “Life goes on.”

Much like the Shews, for many of our Spartan Sweetheart couples, proximity played a major role in the process.

Right from the start

Rachel and Aquene Payne walk outside holding hands, wearing their wedding dresses, veils and carrying bouquets
Aquene and Rachel Payne

Students arriving on a college campus for the first time aren’t usually thinking about life after graduation, and they definitely aren’t expecting to find their soulmate as they’re finding their way around campus. And for Aquene (Kimmel) Payne (CWR ‘18) and her wife Rachel Payne (CWR ‘18, MGT ‘18), the connection happened only hours into their college careers.

“Rachel and I saw each other for the first time on the first night of orientation, across a crowd of other freshmen all preparing for a scavenger hunt,” said Aquene. “We joined a team together for the scavenger hunt and were officially dating about a month later. We had completely different majors but we joined Greek Life and multiple University Media Board orgs together, and we went to so many campus events through the years.” Almost 10 years later, the two are newlyweds with two dogs and a cat.

Like the Paynes, Susan (CWR ‘95; SAS ‘98; GRS ‘00, bioethics) and Yuri (CWR ‘95, MED ‘99) Fesko also met on the first night of orientation, in 1991—with an assist from a roommate. 

“Our dorm, Sherman, had a special student night where we had to answer trivia questions,” recalled Susan. “My roommate, who was from Albany, was sitting next to my (would be) husband and she turned to me and begged, ”please switch places with me, I didn’t come all the way from Albany to meet another person from New York.” I reluctantly agreed! Best decision I ever made!” The Feskos married in 1999, and in 2020, dropped their son off for his CWRU first-year orientation. 

Morgan Sutton (CWR ‘19) and Michael Folz (CWR ‘19) also met at orientation—destined to be together through Michael’s persistence.  

“We sat next to each other during our class photo spelling out CWRU,” said Morgan. “Michael jokingly—so I thought—asked me for my phone number and said that we should hang out sometime. I figured I wouldn't really see him again, but said OK.”

Orientation would be the first of many encounters. A week later, the two crossed paths again in the common area of her dorm, where he was visiting friends. After that, Michael dropped by often with snacks or for conversation—and after a year, they took the next step.

“At the beginning of our sophomore year Michael asked me on our first date to the Cleveland Orchestra,” Morgan said. “And we've been together ever since.”

Irina Yakubenko and Scho Wolers lean across their desks in Clark Hall to kiss
Irina Yakubenko and Scho Wolers

Not all first-year students hit it off at orientation. Some have to wait for classes to begin.

Irina Yakubenko (CWR ‘14) and Scho Wolers (CWR ‘15) met in Clark Hall on the first day of the fall semester in 2010. “I was immediately blown away by his confidence, charm and intelligence and his unique international background and education,” Irina remembers fondly. “We became fast friends, making a habit of dining in Leutner [Commons] together for post-class breakfast.” 

Still friends, the two wouldn’t begin dating until junior year as they finished their degrees in political science. Several years later, and after a move to New York, the couple returned to Cleveland to attend a wedding. While in town, they took an afternoon to visit campus and share memories. It was there, back at Clark Hall, with a large vase of flowers in the doorway, that Scho dropped to one knee and proposed.

The power of milkshakes

After meeting over milkshakes with friends in Chagrin Falls during winter recess in 1956, Daniel Textoris (ADL ‘58) and Linda Keep Textoris (NUR ‘60) began dating, leading to her being pinned with his Lambda Chi pin the next fall. The two were married in 1959 and, in 1965, relocated to North Carolina, where they both served on University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s faculty before retiring. After 63 years together, the two have three grown children, five grandchildren and still enjoy chocolate milkshakes.

Two black and white photo booth pictures of Chip Kennedy and Tara Tran
Chip Kennedy and Tara Tran

Chip Kennedy (CWR ‘16) and Tara Tran (CWR ‘16; GRS ‘16, bioethics) also met at their first-year orientation when Chip’s first friend on campus insisted he meet his friend Tara. The three of them hung out over milkshakes at the Jolly Scholar. “Tara was full of energy, was selflessly ambitious, and had this unique unending kindness for everyone around her,” Chip said. “I was falling for her before I finished my milkshake.”

After building up the courage to ask Tara out, he called off his plans when he learned she had a boyfriend. For the next four years, the two spent time together in Undergraduate Student Government on various student leadership councils and graduated as friends. Tara went off to Teach for America in North Carolina, and Chip headed to Alaska.

Two years later, she surprised him with a phone call. “How’s Alaska?” she asked. He told her he had since changed gears and was working on his technology career in New York. After a few more calls and letters, the courage returned.

“I fell for her just like it was freshman orientation and realized this was my second chance,” Chip said. The two reconnected and eventually moved in together. They live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and will be married next year.  

Stars aligning

Many of our Spartan Sweethearts met within days of arriving at CWRU. Others met later, often with interesting twists and turns—both on and away from campus.

Ralph and Lynne Locher stand side-by-side while hiking outside
Ralph and Lynne Locher

The Lochers were grad students—Ralph (CIT ‘66) in the Case School of Engineering and Lynn (NUR ‘65) in the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing—when they attended a social event hosted by the Newman Club, a campus Catholic ministry.

Lynn noted the irony of the connection: “We dated for several months before we both realized that neither of us were Roman Catholic. We have now been married 57 years and have had a good life together with two children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. We often joke that we married, and then Case and Western Reserve ‘married.’”

Mimi (SAS ‘69) and Herb (SAS ‘68) Freeman met while working at the Cuyahoga County welfare department—Mimi in personnel and Herb as a summer intern. 

“We played in a bridge group at work and she was very competitive, which did not impress me,” Herb said. “(In) my second year, Mimi’s first, I was in the lounge at the School of Applied Social Sciences and Mimi came in wearing a white, three-quarter-length jacket from her internship through Flora Stone Mather. I was starstruck, and we started to date and were married after she graduated. We eventually played bridge as a couple and it was fun.”

Celebrating romance

Parties and campus socials played a significant role in drawing students into lifetime relationships. Richard (CIT ‘68) Hansen remembers the night he met Nancy, who would eventually become his wife. “I was a student at Case and was headed back to my fraternity house—Phi Kappa Theta,” he said.

“It was Wednesday night and I decided to stop at Thwing Hall for the weekly Thwing Fling. Four girls walked by my table and I tapped one on the shoulder and asked her to dance. Turned out she was a nursing student at Mt. Sinai. I walked her back to her dorm via Wade Park and came across a pack of dogs on the path—which I yelled at and chased off. Guess I impressed her with my bravery! It was the start of a long relationship—we celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary last September.”

Celia (GRS ‘79, communication sciences) Hooper had just ended a relationship when she met Craig Smith (GRS ‘80; ‘82, psychology), the man who would eventually become her husband. Bartending at a graduate school party hosted by Dean Irv Weiner, Celia took the first move, but was cautious.

“I handed him a beer and said something stupid like, ‘What's it like to be so cute?’” Celia said. “Well, he asked me out for coffee after the party. Afterward, he asked me out for the next night and I said no, that I was recently separated and needed to wait a year, telling him he was too nice to be a transitional relationship. He thought it was a great kiss-off line! I told him I would call him in a year and I did…well, 10 months later! I have no patience.”

Pam and Stuart Katz as young adults pose for a photo
Pam and Stuart Katz

Stuart (DEN ‘69) and Pam Katz met at a ballroom dance at the Tudor Arms Hotel. “I entered the ballroom and spotted a cute redhead,” Stuart remembered fondly. “She was dancing with—of all people—my organic chemistry graduate assistant. Feeling emboldened, I cut in. After all, I was a much better dancer than he was. I made my best moves and danced the rest of the evening with her.” 

Three years later, the two were married. “I like to tell everyone that we actually had to get married,” he said. “I had no money, was in my fourth year of school, and was working three jobs, but she was working as an ER nurse and had income! It was a marriage made in heaven, or rather at CWRU. I have loved the 50-plus years practicing dentistry and teaching, but my real true love is Pam, and she can still dance like that night at the Tudor Arms.”

It was a Christmas party on Fairchild in December 2016 that brought Utah (CWR ‘17; GRS ‘18, aerospace engineering) and Julia (NUR ‘18) Moffett together. With Utah too shy to ask for her number, Jillian asked him out through social media later that night. “Our first date was at Mitchell's the next day,” said Utah. “It was such a memorable first date, we took our families to the Mitchell's factory when we graduated in May 2018—and we had ice cream for dessert at our wedding in May 2022.”

Julia and Utah Moffett walk down the aisle at the end of their wedding ceremony
Julia and Utah Moffett

Picture perfect

The Film Society’s 1996 Sci-Fi Marathon was more than a film festival; it was the launching pad for at least two relationships—including Patty Marvel (CWR ‘09) and her future husband, George Sulea.

While not an alum, Sulea, a former CWRU security dispatcher, met his future wife at a Halloween party several months earlier. The two crossed paths again in the lobby of Strosacker Hall ahead of the screening of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. After reconnecting and exchanging a hug, the two entered the theater and found their seats. “He asked if I would like a snack or anything,” Patty said. “I told him I could really use a hot dog and a soda, so he left and came back with a Coke and a hot dog with mustard—his treat! I remember being impressed and thinking, ‘What a gentleman.’ My dad would have approved of him.”

The two went on their first date a few weeks later, were engaged the following spring and married in 1999. “Asking George to marry me remains the single most intelligent decision of my life!” Patty said. “I did it by handing him a Cracker Jack box and telling him to ‘look for the toy surprise inside.’ The ring was in the box inside a little, clear plastic baggie.”

Marie Vibbert (CWR ‘98) and Brian Crick (CWR ‘99) met through a mutual friend while sitting in Leutner Commons and had their first date at the same Sci-Fi Marathon in 1996. “I proposed to Brian the week after he graduated in 1999,” she said. “And we were married at his mother's house in Vietnam in 2001. We're still going to the Sci-Fi Marathon every year!”

Friend of a friend 

Many of our Spartan Sweethearts would not have met had friends or roommates not brought them together. Beverly Roseman-Shapiro (WRC ‘75) and Stewart Shapiro (WRC ‘73) met in the fall of 1971 through a mutual friend, Julius Barbanel. The two were married in 1975 and have three children and three grandchildren. 

Sharon Renee Merklin (WRC ‘82, LYS ‘83) met her future husband, Marc Merklin (WRC ‘81, LAW ‘84) at homecoming their first year on campus. At the time, Sharon was dating Marc’s roommate. “After my date introduced us, my (future) husband walked away toward his buddies and proudly told them that he had just met the girl he was going to marry,” she said. “It was love at first sight for him!” Despite having a first date, the two didn’t date again until her senior year, and six months later they were engaged. “I married my best friend,” Sharon said. “We will celebrate 40 years together this coming summer!“

After sharing the same friend circle for over a year, Katherine Koot (CWR ‘09) and Joseph Meyers (CWR ‘09; GRS ‘14, biomedical engineering) began dating over the winter of 2008 and earned their undergraduate degrees in 2009. They married in the spring of 2015 and moved to Massachusetts in 2016 where they live with their 3-year-old son and their rescue dog, Hazel.  

Andrew and Karen Wood sit on a stone wall on campus
Andrew and Karen Wood

Two alumni of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Lucinda (NUR ‘78; GRS ‘84, nursing) and Geoffrey (NUR ‘78) Cave met in the Nursing Fundamentals lab in the fall of 1976 and had their first date on the campus tennis courts. The two were married in 1979 and have two children. Lucinda retired from nursing in 2017, but holds an adjunct clinical position at the school of nursing in nursing continuing professional development. Geoffrey passed away in 2010.

When Karen (CWR ‘16) and Andrew (CWR ‘17) Wood became supplemental instructors for senior instructor Chris Butler's calculus classes in their sophomore year, they had no idea they would end up together. But after two years of working together, the two started dating. “When we started planning our wedding the very first thing we decided on was our officiant,” said Karen. “It had to be the very professor who brought us together: Chris Butler! We've been married now for about three and a half years.”

Engineers Angela Kerekes (CWR ‘22) and Jacob Bejune (CWR ‘22) became close friends through shared classes where they sat next to each other. “He helped me with physics—he's the mechanical engineer,” Angela said. “And I helped him with chemistry—I'm the chemical engineer.” The two went on their first date in the fall of 2017. “I asked him to go to Rocky Horror (Picture Show) with me…and now we live together in a house with a dog.”

A selfie of Appleton Mason and Caroline Baird Mason
Appleton Mason and Caroline Baird Mason

Appleton Mason (MED ‘68) met Caroline Baird Mason (GRS ‘67, English) while she was dating his medical school roommate. When the relationship ended, the two dated for a while before she went to Dublin to attend graduate school. “I wrote to her to say that I was now with someone else,” he said. “When she returned at the end of the term, we ran into each other at a poetry reading by Allen Ginsburg held in the Case Western Reserve chapel” The two married in September of 1967.

These stories, like a box of chocolates, are only a sampling of the variety of relationships formed at Case Western Reserve University and its predecessor schools and colleges—but they only highlight the opening chapters of the lives of our alumni. We look forward to all of them, and you, sharing your stories—both from your time on campus to deep into retirement and everything in between.

To share your story, visit the Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve website.