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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.