We asked you to tell us your love stories. And you came back with stories about awkward introductions—meeting your future wife in nothing but a towel—and first dates on the Corner—some that went swimmingly and others that were disasters. Thank you for sharing your surprise proposals on the Lawn and your weddings at the Chapel.
Kelly McElwee (Col ’09) & Damin Altizer (Col ’09)
Damin and I first met in elementary school, where we formed a friendship over a shared love of college basketball. My family moved a few years later, so we had only sporadic contact throughout high school. We reconnected again after realizing we would both be members of the Class of 2009.
Not long after our arrival at the University, we officially began dating, and have been together ever since. Our years at UVA were marked by the usual Wahoo experiences, including many trips to Littlejohn’s, hanging out on the Lawn and some serious time spent in the library. In our second year, Damin became a walk-on member of the basketball team, meaning he was a member of the team that celebrated the inaugural win against Arizona to open John Paul Jones Arena and finished the year tied for first in the ACC.
In August 2010, we returned to Charlottesville to visit friends and made our usual stop to walk around Grounds. After dinner on the Corner, we decided to revisit all our favorite places, winding up back on the Lawn. We sat chatting on the Rotunda steps while awkwardly realizing that the girl also hanging out at the Rotunda wanted to streak the Lawn (and streak she did). Fifteen minutes later, Damin proposed. Obviously, our engagement was a true UVA experience.—Kelly McElwee
John Brandberg (Col ’93) & Cheryl Lindahl Brandberg (Col ’93, Educ ’94)
I met my wife-to-be, Cheryl, out of necessity on Feb. 27, 1993. Five days out from a formal dinner and dance for my fraternity, my date canceled on me, so I needed to find a “replacement” at a Thursday night mixer for a Saturday formal. So at the upcoming Chi Phi/Sigma Kappa Mexican mixer, I was on the hunt.
My fraternity brother Lee Rasmussen—who, incidentally, also married a UVA Sigma Kappa girl—recommended that I seek out Cheryl, but would not formally introduce us to avoid being guilty of facilitating a brother into a committed relationship—such status was frowned upon at Chi Phi. Lee did provide me a very accurate physical description. I found Cheryl and struck up a conversation over Ms. Clemens’ seven-layer Mexican dip, and the rest is history.
We spent spring break in Key West the following week during the “Storm of the Century” and August in Maine. We were engaged later in 1993 and married in the University Chapel on June 12, 1994, with a reception in Garden 8, down by the apple trees. Through these months, there were long talks on the Lawn, football games, nights on the Corner and many other wonderful memories at the University.
UVA remains our constant “home,” as we’ve moved all over the country these past 17 years. Our kids are convinced that their college experience MUST be UVA, which makes us happy, proud and nervous (about the out-of-state tuition).
I have UVA forever to thank for introducing me to a beautiful, intelligent woman that I love with all my heart and certainly don’t deserve.—John Brandberg
Jack Gruninger (Engr ’90, ‘92) & Wendi Gruninger (Engr ’92)
I first met Jack briefly in the fall of 1990 when I sought out my teaching assistant, Jack’s office mate, for help in an introduction to a systems engineering course. During my last semester, Jack was the teaching assistant for a course taught by Yacov Haimes. Fortunately, the course was pretty straightforward and no visits to the TA were required. Jack sat in the back of the room, graded papers and fetched the professor’s “colored chalk” during every class.
We both graduated in May 1992 and took jobs with different consulting firms in Northern Virginia. No scandal here—Jack called me about a year later and we met for dinner. Other than our initial meeting, our paths never crossed on Grounds. After a proposal on the Lawn, we were married in 1995 and are very blessed with our two boys.
We are both huge UVA football fans, and we celebrated our 15th anniversary last September in Southern California by attending the UVA-USC game. Jack is the CEO of TapHere! Technology, an IT consulting firm. After 11 years as a stay-at-home mom, I am looking forward to joining Jack at TapHere in the fall. I am glad he gave me an “A”—and he is, too.—Wendi Gruninger
Ron Culberson (Col ’83) & Wendy Colclough Culberson (Col ’83)
My wife, Wendy Colclough Culberson, and I lived in Dunnington our first year. We had our first kiss during a Valentine’s dance on the Range, dancing to Bruce Springsteen. In June 2011, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. In three years, we’ll move to Nelson County, only 25 minutes from UVA. I am blessed to be married to her.
Our time in Hooville literally changed our lives.—Ron Culberson
Katie Cristol (Col ’07) & Steve Giballa (Col ’06)
We became fast friends in the Students Activities Center, performing in Shakespeare on the Lawn’s 2003 production of Cyrano de Bergerac. True love blossomed a few years later.
Steve petitioned me to perform a part in his Playwriting III class project in 2006, and the rest was history. UVA has always been the supporting actor in our love story, from early dates eating Take it Away on the Rotunda steps, to starry nights in Room 38 East during my fourth year on the Lawn, to a marriage proposal in a snow-covered Garden VII.
We were married this June, in that same garden. We couldn’t have scripted it better ourselves.—Katie Cristol
Christy Garrett (Col ’04, Law ’07) & Michael P. Devlin (Engr ’04)
One evening in April of my third year, I opened the door to my sorority house to meet the man that would later become my husband. A few days later, we ran into each other again at Biltmore ($2 pitchers Tuesdays!) and several weeks after that we were regularly talking and meeting up at Corner bars. Fast forward four years, Mike proposed to me in Charlottesville at the Boars Head Inn before celebrating with friends back at the Biltmore. A year later, we married in the UVA Chapel. We just celebrated our three-year anniversary, and we still love spending time back at UVA where it all began.—Christy Garrett
Susan Malecki (Nurs ’80) & Tom Renda (Col ’80, Law ’84)
This is actually my parents’ story. My mom, Susan Malecki Renda, and my dad, Tom Renda, both lived in Courtney their first year. My mom was playing volleyball outside when the ball bounced out of the court and into one of the first-floor suites. She ran in to go get it, where it had rolled in the men’s suite near the bathroom. And as she went to get it, my dad came out of the shower on his way back to his room.
Their second encounter wasn’t less awkward. She was in his suite again looking for someone, and she passed him in his room, folding his underwear.
So, of course, it was meant to be. They dated throughout college and lived together in the top of a little farmhouse just west of Charlottesville while dad was in law school. They even helped raise a cow together.
They later moved to Baltimore, where my mother went to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner and where they eventually had me and my sister.
With all of the visits to UVA when we were little, my parents passed on the legacy. My sister Karen (Col ’06, Educ ’07) graduated from the University, and I’ll be still hanging around until 2014.—Emily Renda (Col ’14)
Robin Meyer Frye (Col ’76) & Randall S. Frye (Col ’76)
My husband and I met our second year at a fraternity party, introduced by one of his dormitory mates from first year. I’d like to say, “Love at first sight,” but sadly, that was only true for one of us.
In the fall of our third year, I was shocked to get a call from him, inviting me to do some pre-football partying and post-football Bloody Marys (he failed to mention the mid-football rum & Cokes). I was thrilled, but subsequently discovered I was his sixth call, after he’d been shot down by five others.
A few dates followed, and I discovered that he had a class in the Comm School immediately after my Econ course. I would wait in the hallway, hoping to run into him. He also realized that I had a course prior to his and quickly developed a completely different route so that he could avoid me.
Persistence paid off, and eventually he became convinced that I might not be the geeky stalker he envisioned. We became engaged over Christmas break our fourth year and got married two weeks after graduation.
This year, we celebrate 35 years of marriage, but it seems like only yesterday that I was peeking around hallway corners and pacing the Lawn in hopes of catching his eye.—Robin Meyer Frye
Stephanie Krebs De Falco (Col ’00) & Tony J. De Falco (Col ’00)
I hadn’t been at UVA for two weeks when my dorm room phone rang. It was a writer for the Cavalier Daily asking if I would participate in a survey about relationships at UVA. I only remember one of the questions she asked: “Do you think you’ll meet your future spouse while you’re at UVA?” My enthusiastic response was, “I hope so!”
Around that same time, I was visiting a friend from high school in another dorm when I saw Tony for the first time. He was sharing a good laugh with his roommate over hanging an “Italian Stallions” sign on their dorm room door. I liked that he was more reserved—laughing, but recognizing how silly this early college moment was—and I was interested in learning more about the fact that he was born in Italy and had moved to America in elementary school.
We didn’t hang out much that first semester (we both thought the other wasn’t interested), but I really missed Tony when I was home for winter break. We started talking more after we returned and realized that, despite our different upbringings, we had quite a lot in common. Our first date was Feb. 14, 1997, at the Biltmore, and we’ve been together ever since. We often argue that our love for the University and our love for one another go hand in hand. We had the most wonderful four years at UVA largely because we got to spend them together. From sorority formals and prep step classes to trips to Monticello and Chris Greene Lake, we really made the most of those years. We even took “Sociology of the Family” and “Judaism and Christianity in Conflict” together, two classes that enhanced our relationship and, in many ways, prepared us for marriage.
We got married in May 2002 with a wedding that sampled many of our experiences at UVA, including a Rotunda-esque wedding cake and table names (rather than numbers) of our favorite cities; we sat at Charlottesville.
We return to UVA every opportunity we get and always show our support for UVA sports when they’re playing in our neck of the woods. We also love to talk about our experiences at UVA (and talk up the school to high schoolers) whenever we have the chance. We even wore Virginia T-shirts when we climbed Mount Fuji together in 2006; UVA graduates are no slouches.
We now have two children (ages 2.5 and 1) who both have extensive Virginia apparel in their wardrobes. The older one knows to cheer “Go Hoos!” when he sees a UVA T-shirt. Not to jinx it, but we would be honored if Sammy and Brie attended the University of Virginia. We’re certain that they, too, would love every minute of their experience there … and maybe even find their true love.—Stephanie Krebs De Falco
Hillary Rouse Billingsley (Col ’05, Educ ’10) & Jamie Billingsley (Com ’05)
My amazing husband and I met as first-year students and residents of Dobie dorm in 2001-02. He was an in-stater from Richmond enrolled in the E-school (and later Comm); I was a legacy from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky that had no idea what I wanted to become.
We started dating at the very beginning of our second year, after he asked me out on our first date—Ruby Tuesday’s at Barracks Road—at the Colonnades behind Lambeth Field. We enjoyed attending any type of sporting event we could get to, cheering on the Hoos, and using my Corner meal plan for dinners at the Corner and on the Downtown Mall. Jamie proposed when we were third-year students, so my Tri-Delta sisters and I spent the next year and a half planning my wedding. We were married June 25, 2005, less than two weeks after walking the Lawn to take our degrees. We had an ice sculpture of the V and crossed sabres at our wedding reception and sang “The Good Old Song” with members of the wedding party and guests.
I have since returned to get my master’s degree, and we now have two future Wahoos who have attended every home football game with us since their birth: Caroline Elizabeth (Class of 2029) and Camden James (Class of 2032). On our fifth wedding anniversary last year, a friend and I snuck away to Charlottesville to paint Beta Bridge in honor of Jamie and my anniversary. We sent Jamie a text message with a photo of the bridge on our way home to Richmond.—Hillary Rouse Billingsley
Wendy Kamen (Com ’91) & Howard Kamen (Col ’91)
It was first year, the first day of school, early in the morning in a calculus course. I, as usual, was early and sat in the front row—so eager to get started. Howard, as I’ve come to love, was late. The packed class had only two seats left; one in the front row next to me and the other next to a very large football player. Howard chose the front row. Over that semester, we started a great friendship over differential equations, which grew into four years of dating and eventually, after graduation, marriage. Howard went to great lengths to get me back to Clark Hall, the site of that calculus class, to propose. But, due to a fierce, unexpected snowstorm, we never could get there or his back-up plan of the Jefferson Memorial. Luckily, he didn’t give up, and 16 wonderful years later we have two girls and a happy life.—Wendy Kamen
Lynsey Miller (Col ’09, Educ ’10) & Ryan Miller (Engr ’08)
I met my husband Ryan at my sorority formal in the Spring of my second year. A big group of us went out to dinner beforehand and after dinner I walked up to him and tried to start a conversation. Ryan was, of course, wearing his Army uniform because he didn’t have any other “nice” clothes. I started out commenting on his uniform and talking about my dad, who was in the Army before I was born. Ryan asked what my father did in the Army and we struck up a conversation about military careers. After much encouragement from one of my sorority sisters who was in the engineering school with Ryan, he eventually asked me out for ice cream. We followed that ice cream date with several sports related dates where he watched me get body slammed in touch football and I got up extremely early one weekend to watch him finish a 5K.
We continued dating through the rest of our years at UVA and Ryan graduated in 2008 and began his military career. Luckily, technology allowed us to stay connected during his first year in the Army while Ryan trained all over the United States. After finishing Ordnance School in Maryland, Ryan proposed and promptly left for Alabama and Florida for more specialized training. We were married in the UVA Chapel in March 2010 right before Ryan graduated from the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School and I graduated from the five year BAMT program in the Curry School. Ryan is currently deployed to Afghanistan and is due to come home soon. He’s currently an EOD technician and platoon leader in the 49th EOD at Fort Campbell while I’m working as a substitute teacher.—Lynsey Miller
Kathleen Van Eron Sherman (Col ’04) & Gary Sherman (Col ’04, Grad ’11)
My husband and I have been at the University for 11 consecutive years. We both started our undergraduate degrees in 2000. Gary completed his Ph.D. in psychology this year and I worked as the lab coordinator/research specialist at the Child Study Center, also in psychology.
Here is how it all began: During the fall 2003 semester, Gary and I had two classes together in the psychology department “Emotion Cognition” and our Distinguished Majors seminar. We asked each other the basic “How is your thesis going?” question, but that was about it.
In the spring of 2004, I asked Dr. Jon Haidt about some equipment that his lab uses. He directed me to speak with Gary since he was the expert on that specific equipment. Gary and I began spending more time together at the lab. One evening, Gary and his friend saw me out on the Corner. After I left, his friend suggested that Gary should invite me to a party they were hosting. The next time I saw Gary, he invited me to the party. After a fun evening of dancing, Gary asked me on our first date. We had a delicious dinner at Escafe and, being new to the Downtown Mall, tried to find the MudHouse. We didn’t realize it was beside Escafe and we walked completely passed it!
As in most love stories, there is a twist in ours. One year into our relationship, I was diagnosed with cancer. Gary and his family supported me and my family through the whole experience. After a year I was given a clean bill of health.
On Aug. 17, 2006, Gary surprised me at Escafe. He came out of the kitchen with the drinks we had ordered on our first date, a purple rose and a ring. He got down on one knee and proposed. Of course, I said yes. We got married at the UVA Chapel on April 5, 2008. UVA played a huge role in our love story and will forever hold a special place in our hearts.—Kathleen Van Eron Sherman
Hunter Ruch (Arch ’99) & Blaire Dennier Ruch (Col ’99)
I met my amazing wife, Blaire Dennier Ruch, while we were in the student choir Jubilate together. Our first date was on January 31, 1998. We had dinner at the Blue Bird Café followed by a movie on the Downtown Mall. I’ll always remember that she ordered one of her favorite foods ... steak. Our friendship blossomed into a more serious dating relationship over the next several months. By the time our fourth year arrived, I knew she was my true love and I proposed to her on Jubilate’s Spring Break Tour on St. Patrick’s Day 1999. We were married in the UVA Chapel in April 2000.
We have moved around a bit over the years. After living in Northern Virginia, I attended seminary in Dallas and now we live in Topeka, Kansas, where I serve as an associate pastor at Topeka Bible Church. The Lord has also blessed us with three adorable kids, Courtlyn, Kiefer and Everett, who can identify Thomas Jefferson in just about any picture book. Throughout it all, I am deeply grateful for Blaire—she has been a blessing to me and our kids in so many ways. We can attest that Virginia truly is for lovers!—Hunter Ruch
Caroline King Sciullo (Col ‘03) & Luca J. Sciullo (Col ‘03)
At the end of my first year at the University, I was still on the waiting list for an on-Grounds apartment for second year in Lambeth Field. I was disheartened that it did not seem I would get a spot and had already begun looking into off-Grounds housing options. I had just joined a sorority, and I discovered that a new sorority sister had an opening in her Lambeth Field apartment for the coming year, which she offered to me. I gladly accepted and looked forward to getting to know my new roommates.
Shortly after we all moved in, we met our neighbors across the landing, an apartment of six men. I first officially met one of these neighbors, Luca, when he knocked on our door to borrow an ironing board.
A few months later, as I admired chalk birthday wishes on the sidewalk under our apartments that my roommates had written, Luca walked down the steps from his apartment. He said, surprised, “It’s your birthday today? Mine is tomorrow!” And so we discovered that our birthdays are one day less than a year apart. Luca is 364 days older than me.
Second year came and went, and everyone moved into different apartments for third year. Luca and I ran into each other through mutual friends a few times. Eventually, Luca asked our mutual friend for my “Instant Messanger” contact information, and we started chatting online, where he asked me out to dinner and a movie.
Our first date was at the College Inn on the Corner in September 2001, and we’ve been soul mates ever since. We shared several marketing and economics classes during our time at the University, and celebrated graduation together in 2003. Afterwards, we both moved to the Northern Virginia area to begin our careers.
My family is from Charlottesville, and we decided to spend Christmas with them in 2004. After dinner on Christmas night, Luca and I decided to drive to the Lawn because it is one of our favorite places. It was a clear, cold, starry night with a full moon and no one in sight. Under the twinkle lights that lined the Rotunda and Lawn rooms, Luca got down on one knee, handed me a gorgeous engagement ring and asked me to marry him. Surprised and elated, I said, “Yes!” Three years after our college graduation, we were married at the UVA Chapel on a gorgeous June afternoon in 2006. After our wedding ceremony, we took photos on the Lawn, the site of our engagement. In 2008, we welcomed our first son, Luca Jr. “Luc”. And, in 2010, we welcomed our second son, Marc. We visited the Lawn in the fall of 2010 for the first time as a family of four. We had family photos taken in the very spot where we fell in love, were engaged and spent our wedding day.
Celebrating our birthdays—one day apart—every year now for 10 years, we can see that our chance meeting as neighbors in Lambeth Field was meant to be. We adore visiting the Grounds and reminiscing about the place where we met and fell in love.—Caroline King Sciullo
John Pavlovsky (Engr ’69) & Anne Bentley (Educ ’67)
I entered the University intent on graduate study in engineering. Anne Bentley, a high school teacher from Tennessee, was a graduate student at the time. I was not looking for a spouse, but met her in the University Cafeteria on the Corner on Valentine’s Day. I continued to see her and over time our friendship grew close. After completing her degree, Anne worked in Nelson County, then took a position in the engineering library as an assistant to Roger Bristol. I left the University with degree in hand to enter what became a career in the U.S. Army. After basic combat training and completion of Officer Candidate School, I was commissioned at the U.S. Army Engineer School, Ft. Belvoir, Va. Anne and I were married at Fort Monroe, Va., in 1970. For 33 years, we raised and educated four children on a variety of duty stations and in Europe on two different assignments. After parenting and volunteering in our military communities, Anne returned to teach literature and composition at Central Texas College, where she also wrote instructional materials.
Our long marriage was loving, strong and resilient, even through her battle with cancer. While on the Grounds for a different purpose, we found a lifetime of love. I married a Wahoo.—John Pavlovsky