Alumni Couples Share Wesleyan Romance Stories on Valentine’s Day

Did you fall in love at Wesleyan? Dozens of Wesleyan alumni found their significant other at Wesleyan and some shared their romance stories with us on Valentine’s Day!


Martha Haakmat ‘87 and Stephen Warner ’87.

Martha Haakmat ‘87 and Stephen Warner ’87
This year, Martha and Stephen celebrate 25 years of marriage, and it all started at Wesleyan.

During her junior year, Martha, an African American studies major, joined fellow students to volunteer running a hotline for pregnant women. “We were trained one afternoon, gathered together in a conference room to go over our scripts. We were all women in that room, except for one, slightly awkward, stereotypical white guy. In the 80s, this meant bearded, scruffy and wearing a knit Mexican poncho-sweater,” Martha recalls. “I think I was the only woman of color. I barely glanced at this guy, but did wonder what kind of male would volunteer for this kind of work.”

Despite catching her eye during their training session, they hadn’t seen each other again until they ran into each other at the airport, boarding a flight to Italy for a semester abroad. They had applied for the same program, but didn’t even remember each other’s names.

“We very quickly became friendly and hung out at cafes in the evening with the same group of Italians who regularly visited our dorm. We had both left significant others back at Wes, but slipped fairly effortlessly into an easy romance. I think we both fell in with the belief that this would only be a thing until we got back to the States,” Martha says.

Thirty-two years later, the couple resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. with three daughters, two in college and one in high school. As their middle daughter finishes her first year at Wes, they could not be happier for her and for themselves, as they are reliving Wes through her stories and loving every minute of it.

“Thanks, Wes, for helping us both to find ourselves as individuals through fabulous classes and rich extra-curriculars, and for putting us in the same sphere to find each other,” Martha says.

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91.

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91
Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91 of Evanston, Ill. met on campus on Aug. 31, 1989. A mutual friend, Cherie Spencer ’92, introduced them on the steps of Olin Library. Phillip made an immediate impression on Hilleory because he didn’t fit into any ‘type’ that she had met before.

“You could tell from his ’12-pack’ that he worked out a lot but he wasn’t a jock. He was wearing what could only be described as homemade clothing,” Hilleory recalls. “He had on a pair of cut off sweat pants and a muscle t-shirt that had been cut up so much that it was basically strings. He also was a physics/math major and wore glasses so thick that they resembled magnifying glasses. I thought he looked like Buddy Holly on steroids!”

Nevertheless, American studies major Hilleory found mathematics major Phillip to be “super cute” and on Oct. 13, they went on their first official date to McAndrews restaurant in Middletown.

“I remember that there was a beautiful clear moon that seemed to sit on the horizon as we walked downhill toward town. We joked about how we were off to an ominous start because it was Friday the 13th,” Hilleory says.

The couple celebrated their first Valentine’s Day in 1990 at “a fancy restaurant on the river” called Harbor Park. Hilleory searched every store in the vicinity for a red dress but settled for pink.

They both have fond memories of working out together at the old field house gym and Freeman Athletic Center; hanging out in the Science Library, McConaughy Dining Hall and spending the night on Foss Hill with friends. However in in the fall of 1990, Phillip went to Caltech to fulfill his 3-2 program where he would receive degrees from both schools.

“We wanted to stay together. So in the time before reliable wide spread internet and e-mail, we sent a lot of mixed tapes and had a lot of long phone calls and visited each other as often as possible,” Hilleory recalls. “We knew we would make it and we did.”

The Pippengers, who now have four children, will celebrate their 22nd anniversary in June 2017.

“Wesleyan holds a very special place in our hearts and our lives not only because it was a great school but because it was also the beginning of our story,” Hilleory says. “We have been together for almost 28 years and now I well up with tears thinking about our time there—when we were young. We had our whole lives in front of us and so many plans. It sometimes seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago.”

Lynn Chen '98 and Abe Forman-Greenwald ’98

Lynn Chen ’98 and Abe Forman-Greenwald ’98.

Lynn Chen ’98 and Abe Forman-Greenwald ’98
Lynn Chen ’98 and Abe Forman-Greenwald ’98 are celebrating 20 years together this year. They met at Wesleyan in 1997 and have been together ever since.

Lynn and Abe met in Ebony Singers. “There weren’t enough tenors that year so I moved from the alto section into the men’s section next to Abe. Singing together weekly plus bus rides to local gospel concerts equals love,” she says.

Although the couple doesn’t generally celebrate Valentine’s Day, they may make an exception.

“One of our first dates at Wesleyan was at the Taco Bell in Cromwell, so maybe we’ll celebrate our 20th Valentine’s Day together by getting drive-through chalupas here in L.A.,” Lynn says.

Stephen ’06 and Jemma Siperstein ’05
Despite overlapping for three years, having mutual friends, and even living in Low Rise the same year, Stephen and Jemma don’t remember actually meeting during their time at Wesleyan.

It wasn’t until 2011 at a friend’s wedding at Wesleyan Hills’ Barns, about three miles away from campus, that they finally met.

“We had both traveled back for the occasion from our respective homes in Oregon and Arizona. Stephen asked me to dance and I said yes,” Jemma says. “We returned to campus in the fall of 2013, when Stephen proposed to me on the bleachers of Andrus field.” The couple was married in 2015 in the courtyard of the Davison Art Center.

“Welseyan was such a special place to us both as students, but I don’t think we could have imagined the role it would play for us after we had graduated,” Jemma says.

Cecelia (Leonard) Bolden '88 and Curtis Bolden '88

Cecelia (Leonard) Bolden ’88 and Curtis Bolden ’88.

Cecelia (Leonard) Bolden ’88 and Curtis Bolden ’88
Cecelia (Leonard) Bolden ’88 and Curtis Bolden ’88 met during the fall semester of 1984. They shared an English class together, but didn’t become acquaintances until later that spring.

“I loved his smile and he liked my spunk, especially because when we met on my hall in Butterfield C, I had on a robe and rollers in my hair. Talk about a first impression except it was not quite a first impression,” Cecelia recalls.

Cecelia and Curtis went on their first off campus date – a concert in New Haven — in April 1985. And on Oct. 24, 2017, the couple will celebrate 25 years of marriage. They also have two children, Avery, 16, and Malcolm, 8.

“I can honestly say that I have Wesleyan to thank for many things in my life, but I am truly thankful for meeting my lifemate,” Cecelia says.

Cecelia majored in psychology and Curtis majored in economics. They reside in Chicago, Ill.

Kate Slevin ’99 and Mike Owen Benediktsson ’00
Kate Slevin ’99 and Mike Owen Benediktsson ’00 of Brooklyn, N.Y. met at Wesleyan in 1995. They both lived in West College.

“He lived upstairs and would slide down the poll connecting the top balcony to my balcony on the first floor to see me,” Kate recalls.

After learning that there were 17 Mikes in their class during frosh orientation, Mike introduced himself to Kate as “Owen,” his middle name.

“I didn’t realize his name was Mike until I met his parents! I still call him Owen, as do all his college friends,” Kate says.

Kate, an earth and environmental sciences major, and Mike, an American studies major, have been married for 10 years and have two children.

Lele ’83 and Brad Galer ’83

Lele ’83 and Brad Galer ’83.

Lele ’83 and Brad Galer ’83
Lele and Brad Galer ’83 met at Wesleyan in 1979. Brad was in a punk rock band and Lele was “one of the many groupies.” After “taking off his dog collar one night,” Lele and Brad began dating and the relationship flourished for two years.

Brad ended up marrying another alumna from Wesleyan, however, and Brad and Lele didn’t see each other for seven years. Yet, they kept in contact.

“Brad had written me a holiday card saying he had broken up with his wife, and I had written him a holiday card saying that I had broken up with my Italian fiancé. I thought he was in Boston and he thought I was in Italy, but it turned out, we were both in the Bay Area in California!”

The couple became reacquainted on Valentine’s Day. Thirty years and three children later (Alex, Peter and Simon), Lele and Brad are “happily married, still very in love, and it all started at Wesleyan and restarted on Valentine’s Day!”

Jon Chesto '93 and Susan Walker ’93

Jon Chesto ’93 and Susan Walker ’93 got married in Memorial Chapel.

Jon Chesto ’93 and Susan Walker ’93
English major Jon Chesto ’93 and psychology major Susan Walker ’93 started dating during their senior year at Wesleyan. Continuing the relationship proved to be difficult, however, as their post-Wesleyan careers took them to various corners of the Northeast that never seemed to overlap at the right time. Although they kept track of each other, they decided to move on with their lives.

A decade later, and by coincidence, Jon and Susan reconnected when they ended up on same flight out of Logan to Dulles Airport for the wedding of their mutual Wesleyan classmates, Andrew Hazlett ’93 and Geetanjali Chander ’93. At the time, they were both living in Boston.

The relationship immediately rekindled.

“So it was logical that we would plan to get married at Wesleyan as well,” Jon says. “After I proposed in 2007, we picked the old Fayerweather basketball court for our reception hall, even though it was still under renovation at the time. They finished the work with a week to go before our big event.”

The couple wed in Memorial Chapel and the organist played church-music versions of U2 songs. During the reception, a student had snuck in to hear the band and danced.

“The event manager asked me if we should kick him out,” Jon recalls. “I said, ‘no, please tell him he can invite his friends.’ By the end of the night, we had college kids, event staff, and friends and family from the wedding all dancing to the songs, singing the words to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the top of our lungs.”

The couple resides in Needham, Mass. with their 6-year-old daughter, Olivia.


Matt Bush ’09 and Hannah Sugarman ’09

Matt Bush ’09 and Hannah Sugarman ’09.

Matt Bush ’09 and Hannah Sugarman ’09
Matt Bush ’09 and Hannah Sugarman ’09 of Pleasant Hill, Calif. met their first year in Nic 7, where they both lived on the third floor.

“As freshmen often do, we traveled in a pack with many of the frosh who lived on our hall. Matt was always the last one to finish eating at MoCon, and while the rest of the group would wander off, I would stay and keep him company, and our friendship grew,” Hannah recalls. “Everyone suspected that there was something going on between us because we would watch movies late at night in Matt’s dorm room, but we were truly just friends until the summer before sophomore year, when we started dating.”

Matt, a mathematics major, and Hannah, an astronomy major, spent much of their time together during the evening hours. Matt would accompany Hannah on late-night telescope observing sessions. And Matt, who worked as a lighting designer and technician, welcomed Hannah’s company at shows at the ’92 Theatre and Center for the Arts.

Matt and Hannah got engaged in 2010 and married in June of 2012. “This month we welcomed our first child, Caleb. He will be 10 days old on Valentine’s Day, so our only plans involve trying to sleep as much as possible when he sleeps,” Matt says.


Deron Estes ’97 and Suzanne (Newby) Estes ’98

Deron Estes ’97 and Suzanne (Newby) Estes ’98

Deron Estes ’97 and Suzanne (Newby) Estes ’98
The junior year housing lottery didn’t go too well for Deron Estes ’97 and his three friends. They ended up near the very bottom of the list, and facing limited options, they chose to live in Intown 19, a six-person townhouse near Long Lane. “We knew going in that we would be assigned to live with two strangers. But it was the best we could do.”

Suzanne ’98 and her roommate, Kate (Dunton) Middleton ’98, also fared poorly in the housing lottery. In the summer of 1995, they too were assigned to the two-person room in Intown 19.

Despite living in the same house, Suzanne and Deron, a history major, kept their distance at first, content with being housemates and enjoying a nightly ritual of watching the Simpsons over “gourmet” angel hair pasta meals from Weshop.

However, in hindsight, there were hints at their future love story. Suzanne’s parents were not able to make Parent’s Weekend that semester, so she ended up going out to dinner with Deron and his parents (her future in-laws).

“Early in the second semester, I realized I really had a thing for her,” Deron recalls. “Our flirting become more and more intense, and I hoped we were heading for more than just being housemates. In February, we took a road trip to my sister’s basketball game at Williams. We went out that night and have never looked back.”

Deron and Suzanne got married in 2002, with many Wesleyan friends in attendance including Rich Moreau ’98, Matt Hecht ’98, Aaron Tell ’98, Sarah Poulin (Miller) ’98, Brendan Armm ’98, Sam Kidston ’98, Jamie Kidston ’99, Ben Wilson ’98, Claire Fuqua ’99, Tom Robinson ’99, Sunshine Vogt ’98 and David Montgomery ‘97.

They have two boys, Jackson, 10, and Henry, 8, and reside in Amherst, Mass.

“Suzanne works at Amherst College, but despite that, we cheer on Wesleyan at every game we attend,” Deron says.

Tina Demastrie Lippman '91 and David Lippman '90,

Tina Demastrie Lippman ’91 and David Lippman ’90,

Tina Demastrie Lippman ’91 and David Lippman ’90
“It was Valentine’s Day 1990,” recalls Tina (Demastrie) Lippman ’91. “I was in my apartment in High Rise, disappointed because I didn’t have a date. My roommate had just left on her date; the smell of her lilac perfume still lingered. I pulled a frozen pizza out of the oven when the phone rang. It was David Lippman ’90 inviting me to go to the Wesleyan Film Series movie with him the following night.”

Tina and David worked two, one-hour shifts together in their work study jobs at the Olin Library circulation desk. “This was before automation, so we were busy with the little cards that go in the pockets in the back of the books (remember those?),” Tina says. “David had a great sense of humor; he made me laugh constantly. I was very shy, but had tried to drop hints that I was interested in him. Apparently, it worked.”

Tina, a Classical studies major, and David, an English major, wed in May 1996 and during their honeymoon, they visited Olin Library. Their former boss, Diane Kelley, let them sit at the desk and pretend to check out books with the new automated system.

In 2001, on the anniversary of their first date at Wesleyan, their daughter Lucy was born. “She is now 15 and considering applying to Wesleyan,” Tina says. “We will have to make sure her campus tour includes a stop at the Olin Library circulation desk.”

The family resides in Newburgh, Ind.

John ’89 and Ellen (Ross) Shields ’89

John ’89 and Ellen (Ross) Shields ’89.

John ’89 and Ellen (Ross) Shields ’89
Economics major John ’89 and English major Ellen (Ross) Shields ’89 met at the end of their first year at Wesleyan while scrambling to find housing. They were each part of a separate group of friends, but were brought together at the coveted 10-man student residence located in A-2, Low Rise.

They were each dating other people that year, but bonded in deep friendship while sleeping out for Genesis concert tickets. “John even sent me a book about Genesis (the band, not the Bible) while I was in Spain the following fall,” Ellen recalls.

Senior year arrived, and both single by then, they spent many hours together, only to be interrupted when John returned to his previous relationship.

“After a few months of patience on my part they broke up again, we returned to our much-missed evening routine of watching The Tonight Show, Letterman and Love Boat reruns. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and are both grateful to Wes and to A-2, the 10-man that brought us, eventually, together!”

The couple resides in Davis, Calif.

Brian Howell ’91 met Marissa Sabio ’89
Brian and Marissa met at a Wesleyan Christian Fellowship (WesCF) retreat. For two years they “were just good friends,” attending weekly planning meetings and going on retreats and camping trips in the mountains with WesCF.

“Toward the end of her senior, my sophomore year, we found ourselves sharing many cups of tea from my cheap aluminum hot pot in Foss 5, while sitting on Foss Hill, or even at her place in High Rise—when I wasn’t too lazy to walk that far,” Brian recalls.

About a month before she graduated, Brian and Marissa realized all these cups of tea and time together had become something more.

“Fortunately, she’d taken a job teaching in West Hartford, so we were close enough to make it work, and in June, 1993, we made it official.”

Three children and almost 24 years later, the couple is still going strong.

Don Verrastro ’77 and Heidi Dollard ’78
Don Verrastro ’77 first saw Heidi Dollard ’78 on the first day of transfer student orientation in August of 1975. “She caught my eye for the usual reasons, but I was particularly struck by the fact that she was reading a copy of ‘The Iliad’ while waiting in line,” Don recalls. “I wasn’t sure whether to think ‘My god, how pretentious!’ or “Wow! Wesleyan students sure are a different breed!’”

Don saw her again at a mixer that night while he was chatting up one of her suite-mates. “I decided she was the much more interesting one. I remained interested,” he said.

Don and Heidi moved in together after he graduated in 1977 while she was finishing her degree. He later followed Heidi to graduate school in South Carolina. They married in 1979 and celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary this past New Year’s Eve.

“I expected my academic experiences at Wesleyan to be life changing and they were,” Don says. “I had no idea that the social experience would have an even more dramatic — and beneficial — impact!

Don majored in anthropology and Heidi majored in biology. The couple resides in Pelham, Mass.

Chris '96 and Leigh (Copperman) Burchell '95

Chris ’96 and Leigh (Copperman) Burchell ’95

Chris ’96 and Leigh (Copperman) Burchell ’95
Chris and Leigh met at a party Leigh and her roommate were hosting to kick off the ’94-’95 school year at their InTown condo. “I walked up to ask who he was, given that he was helping himself at the keg and none of us knew him,” Leigh recalls.

It turned out, Chris, a hockey player, had transferred to Wesleyan while Leigh was studying abroad in Italy. “We hit it off pretty quickly. That was more than 22 years ago, and our three kids never get tired of hearing the story!”

Leigh and Chris both majored in American studies. The moved to Raleigh N.C. in 1999 shortly after getting married.

Nina Eichacker ’06 and Johann Patlak ’06
Economics major Nina and molecular biology and biochemistry major Johann met during their first year at Wesleyan, but didn’t enter a romantic relationship until the fall semester of their junior year when they attended an event together at Eclectic.

After graduating, the couple endured a long-distance relationship, but ended up getting married and found careers in the Boston area. They have one daughter and another on the way.

The couple resides in Hull, Mass.


Jennie (May) ’78 and Gary Witkin ’78

Jennie (May) Witkin ’78 and Gary Witkin ’78.

Jennie (May) ’78 and Gary Witkin ’78
Physics major Jennie (May) Witkin ’78 and biology major Gary Witkin ’78 met at Wesleyan in 1977. Jennie was an RA in West College’s Unit 4 and Gary lived in Unit 3.

“Unit 4 was the first freshman dorm to be co-ed by room and there was a lot to figure out,” Jennie recalls. “The first semester people weren’t comfortable sharing the bathrooms so the guys had to use the first floor bathroom while the women used the one on the second floor. It didn’t take too long for everyone to decide they’d rather share than have to go up or downstairs!”

Gary and Jennie had many friends in common and met through a mutual friend. When they were done studying, they spent “lots of time just hanging out and talking about everything and anything. We also spent time together listening to music, and we went to lots of movies. This was in the old days when the announcement of the semester’s film schedule was eagerly anticipated. The West College coffee house was also part of our world that year,” Jennie says.

Senior year, the couple lived in off-campus housing and spent time going to theaters in New York.

Since Gary and Jennie both have winter birthdays on either side of Valentines’ Day, they’ve never celebrated the holiday. “We plan to continue our tradition of ignoring it again this year,” Jennie says.

The Witkins returned to campus in 2008 for their 30th reunion. The couple resides in Newark, Delaware. They wed in 1981 and have two children, Alison and James.

Richard Goodstein, Esq. '74 and Judith (Lawrence) Goodstein '74

Richard Goodstein, Esq. ’74 and Judith (Lawrence) Goodstein ’74

Richard Goodstein, Esq. ’74 and Judith (Lawrence) Goodstein ’74

Judith Lawrence Goodstein ’74 was in the first class that accepted women as incoming frosh, and Richard Goodstein was in the same class. They were both assigned rooms in Foss Hill 9; Judi on the third, Richard on the first.

Judi’s roommate, Sheryl Auerbach Richter ’73, was a very close friend of Richard’s from high school.

“Judi, Sheryl and I were like the Three Musketeers the first few weeks of school. We took some of the same classes, and spent considerable time together getting lost (at my direction) numerous times, which was not easy, especially when the campus was appreciably smaller than it is now,” Richard recalls. “I really liked Judi, and asked her out to a Temptations concert in Hartford around week six. Shortly thereafter, we were very much an item, fell in love, met each other’s parents, and spent summers in Washington, D.C. where we have lived since leaving Middletown.”

During their first year, Judi and Richard took a course titled Sex, Love, and Marriage, and “I am glad to report that we checked each box of that course (although not in that order) getting married the week after we graduated from Wesleyan in June 1974,” Richard says.

Their togetherness continued even after we moved to Washington. Richard, who majored in the College of Social Studies, worked as a legislative assistant to Senator Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, and Judi, a psychology major, worked for the committee that Ribicoff chaired.

The Goodsteins will celebrate their 43rd anniversary on June 9, 2017. “I think we hold the record for the length of marriage for an incoming Wesleyan freshman couple,” Richard says.

The couple resides in Washington D.C. and has one son, Josh, 32. They still keep in touch with their friend Sheryl, who insists on introducing them as “my college roommate Judi and her husband Richard.”

Nadine DeLuca Elder ’89 and Scott Elder ’89
Nadine DeLuca Elder ’89 and Scott Elder ’89 met the first week of school in August 1985 when their paths crossed in Butterfield C.

“We had rooms on different halls, but kept bumping into one another,” Nadine recalls.

The Elders’ first date was to the Big Eastern States Exposition Fair in Springfield, Mass. They were supposed to go with a group of friends, but everyone dropped out at the last minute.

“Even though we didn’t know each other well, we decided to make a day of it. We had a great time driving up there in Scott’s 1972 baby-blue Dodge Dart (complete with fussy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror).  Scott (almost) kissed me on the top of the Ferris wheel but he chickened out at the last minute,” Nadine says. “He did kiss me at the door to my dorm room when he said goodnight. And the rest was history.”

The couple had a standing date every Monday night at 11 p.m. at a Mexican cantina in Middletown called La Boca.

“We always ordered the same thing: a pitcher of raspberry margaritas with chips and salsa,” Nadine says.

Nadine and Scott dated throughout college and Father John Tivenan, the Roman Catholic priest assigned to the Wesleyan Chapel at the time, married them on June 24, 1989.

Nadine majored in English and Scott majored in biology. They reside in Marietta, Ga.

Jessica (Gutow) Viner '93 and Dan Viner '93

Jessica (Gutow) Viner ’93 and Dan Viner ’93.

Jessica (Gutow) Viner ’93 and Dan Viner ’93
Jessica and Dan met in the beginning of their sophomore year in 1990 in an American intellectual history class.

“We loved our Wesleyan experience and loved falling in love in the Olin stacks, at Wes Wings, at Davison Art Center, through my RA post at Clark Hall and Dan’s care-taking of Russell House,” Jessica recalls.

The couple resides in Nashville, Tenn. with their three children: twin daughters Gaby and Rebecca, 15; and son Jacob, 13. Jessica majored in American studies and Dan majored in philosophy. They got married in 1997 and “have been champions of Wes ever since,” she says. “Go Wes!”

Joshua Borenstein ’97 and Katherine Hsu Hagmann ’98

Joshua Borenstein ’97 and Katherine Hsu Hagmann ’98.

Joshua Borenstein ’97 and Katherine Hsu Hagmann ’98
Joshua and Katherine met at Wesleyan while working on a production of The Tempest at the Center for the Arts Theater.

Joshua, a classical civilization major, was the stage manager, and Katherine, an East Asian studies major, was the assistant costume designer. “Katherine brought me some Taco Bell during a very long technical rehearsal, and it’s been true love ever since,” Joshua says.

The couple resides in North Haven, Conn. with their daughters, Naomi, 10, and Sophia, 3.

Katie ’95 and Mike Patterson ’95

Katie ’95 and Mike Patterson ’95.

Katie ’95 and Mike Patterson ’95
Katie ’95 and Mike Patterson ’95 met their frosh year in Spanish 101. During their junior year, the Latin American studies majors studied abroad in Santiago, Chile.

The Pattersons, who reside in New York, N.Y., have been married for 18 years and have three children.

“We speak Spanish when we don’t want our kids to understand us,” Katie says.