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From Meet-Cutes to a Single Rose, Alums Recall Romance on the Hill

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Hearts on the Hill

Big (Red) Love: A Celebration of Cornellian Couples

For Valentine’s Day, Cornellians from across the decades share their memories of Big Red amour

By Joe Wilensky

Her first semester on the Hill, CALS student Leah Minemier MacLeod ’78, MS ’83, was invited to a fraternity party, where she hung out with a fellow member of the Big Red Band: Don MacLeod ’77, BS ’81.

Later, on Halloween night, there was a knock at her door.

“Lo and behold, there was Don and a friend of his,” she recalls. “‘Trick or treat,’ they said. I said I didn’t have any treats, and Don said ‘That’s OK. We have some,’ and gave me some Red Hots.”

After an outing to see Taughannock Falls by moonlight, they closed down the Chapter House—then sat outside its window to listen to the last of the songs they’d paid for on the jukebox.

“What a special night,” she says, “for this small-town girl who thought her heart had been irretrievably broken by her high school boyfriend.”

Leah Minemier MacLeod ’78, MS ’83 and Don MacLeod ’77, BS ’81

And the romance didn’t end there: she and Don went on to marry, and recently celebrated their 38th anniversary.

The MacLeods’ heartwarming tale was just one of the many that Cornellians received after, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked alumni to share their most romantic memories from their time on the Hill—whether the relationship proved to be fleeting or lifelong.

Generations of alums sent tales of meet-cutes at parties and concerts, pizza dates in Collegetown, budding relationships during Orientation, and much more. We heard about folks who have been together for decades—and in a few cases, bittersweet memories of “the one that got away.”

So stream the “Jennie McGraw Rag”—and read on!

(Stories have been edited and condensed.)

Chiara Puffer Shah ’91 & Sunish Shah ’91, BS ’92

Chiara Puffer Shah ’91 and Sunish Shah ’91, BS ’92

From Chiara: “I met my husband of 30 years on a staircase in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. It was during a party, and I was going up the crowded stairs and he was going down.

Progress was slow, and we stopped for a time on the same step. Drink in hand, he smiled at me and said, ‘I would tell you my name but you won’t remember it.’ I laughed and said the same thing. It was fate that two oddly named Cornellians meet!”

Andrei Talaba ’18 and Erika Axe ’18

Erika Axe ’18 & Andrei Talaba ’18

From Erika: “My fiancé and I met the summer after freshman year, when mutual friends planned a summer trip for our NYC-area friends to visit our Philly-area friends.

Andrei and I became friends right away, and eventually started dating during our junior year.

This engagement photo was taken while visiting my family in Japan in July 2023. We’ll be getting married in August 2024 with six Cornell friends in the bridal and groom’s party!”

Glen Shannon ’88 & Mark Sifling ’87

From Glen: “We met at Common Ground, the best bar in all of Ithaca, in 1987.

Married in 2013! It was a brief civil ceremony at the courthouse, and everyone there was in a great mood, smiles everywhere. And lots of other same-sex couples.

This is our favorite wedding photo (Mark on left, Glen on right). We made it into a postcard to mail to friends and family.”

Mark Sifling ’87 and Glen Shannon ’88

Suzi Annis Hileman ’73 & Bill Hileman Jr. ’72

Suzi Annis Hileman ’73 and Bill Hileman Jr. ’72

From Suzi: “Resting my bags of books on the sidewalk, I was catching my breath at the edge of the Thurston Avenue Bridge before hiking up to the North Campus dorms for my shift as an Orientation counselor.

Coming up University was a red convertible with a blond boy at the wheel. I stuck out my thumb. He stopped. I got in. He was headed to ‘meet freshman girls’ while doing the heavy lifting of moving them in to their new homes.

Feeling sassy from my lofty perch as a sophomore, my snarky response began a day of gentle teasing that has lasted for 53 years.”

John Sullivan Baker ’20 & Alexis Fintland ’22

John Sullivan Baker ’20 and Alexis Fintland ’22

From John: “After we met through a non-partisan political organization, we quickly bonded by cheering on Big Red Hockey, sailing on Cayuga Lake, and taking way too many trips to the Ithaca Chili’s.

We had our first kiss on Valentine's Day 2020, but we were abruptly separated only a few weeks later when campus shut down due to COVID. Soon afterward, I published a love letter to her in the form of a Daily Sun column, which told the story of our romance and reflected on the emotions sparked by the pandemic.

As we approach our fourth anniversary, our Cornell memories remain an important part of our lives.”

Dom Nocturne, PhD ’70

“On a beautiful late 1969 September evening, I walked to Willard Straight Hall to attend a small graduate party.

For a while, I observed the small crowd, then zeroed in on a young woman.

I asked if she wanted to dance. She did. She turned out to be a senior at Elmira College, just back from studying abroad in Paris—my hometown.

We have been married 53 years.”

Dom Nocturne, PhD ’70 & Margaret Nocturne

Joanne Wilson Wietgrefe ’54 and Walt Wietgrefe ’54, MS ’63

Joanne Wilson Wietgrefe ’54 & Walt Wietgrefe ’54, MS ’63

From Joanne: “I met Walt in a cappella chorus. The director hosted a get-acquainted party at his home every fall semester; I was in charge of the food.

Walt had a car and volunteered to take me. He later told me he was impressed with my organization of the food.

We went out for coffee later—the first date that resulted in 67 years of marriage.”

Sujin Lim Chang ’96 & Jae Chang ’95, BS ’96

From Sujin: “We started out as friends in college, so Cornell holds a special place in our hearts. For our 17th anniversary in summer 2021, I thought I’d take advantage of my 25th Reunion perks to purchase a college ring for Jae to commemorate that sentiment.

To our delight and surprise, we discovered that the stone for Cornell’s ring is the carnelian—and it’s also assigned to the 17th wedding anniversary!

Moreover, it symbolizes endurance, which, given another taxing pandemic year, was pretty perfect.

Bobblehead figures of Jae Chang ’95, BS ’96 and Sujin Lim Chang ’96 with carnelian Cornell rings atop their heads

I love the idea of having physical touchstones to remember events or people of deep personal significance. And our respective Cornell experiences—and our marriage, now nearing 20 years!—make these rings particularly meaningful.”

Gene Studlien, MS ’71 & Susan Tillman, Grad

From Gene: “We happened to sit next to each other at a table on the seventh floor of Olin Library. I was writing pretty fast while working on my thesis. Susan was either impressed or entertained by how fast I could write while she was mostly thinking.

She asked what I was doing and I explained how I was trying to finish my thesis. We decided to take a break and go to the Straight for coffee and ice cream. Now, 53 years later, we are still married.”

Peter Wong ’02, MEng ’03 & Janet Tang Wong ’02, MEng ’03

Janet Tang Wong ’02, MEng ’03 and Peter Wong ’02, MEng ’03 with their five children on campus for their 20th reunion

From Peter: “Toward the end of Orientation, our group decided to check out Cascadilla Gorge Trail. As we descended the first few steps, I whispered to her to be careful and offered her my hand. She took it!

To this day, she recounts how I never let go of her from that moment on. Fast forward 25 years: Janet and I are happily married with five amazing kids. We take every opportunity to come back to campus to relive the memories.”

Charlotte Brunelle Wojcik ’70 & Larry Wojcik ’70, MEng ’71

From Charlotte: “I was ‘sitting desk’ at Donlon Hall on February 12 when a hallmate introduced me to a friend from her hometown.

He ended up visiting with me through my whole shift. There happened to be a form on the desk for wiring flowers and I commented, ‘I think the nicest thing any girl could get on Valentine’s Day is a single red rose.’

On Valentine’s Day I returned to the dorm after a long day of classes—and Larry had sent me a rose!

We have now been married almost 53 years. Sure glad I was sitting desk that day!”

Charlotte Brunelle Wojcik ’70 and Larry Wojcik ’70, MEng ’71

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Hearts on the Hill

Big (Red) Love: A Celebration of Cornellian Couples

Stefan Belman ’58, DVM ’61 & Anita Lesgold Belman ’60, MS ’61

From Stefan: “I was a third-year student in the veterinary college and often studied in Mann Library. I asked her to walk with me to the apple dispensing machine. After I placed the coin in the slot, Anita selected her apple. We exchanged info briefly and returned to Mann life.”

Stefan asked Anita out several times—but she always begged off on the grounds of being too busy. Finally, he invited her to a party, but she again demurred, saying that a friend might be visiting for the weekend.

“This uncertainty gave me the impetus to say I’d come to the sorority at 6 p.m., not knowing if I had a date. Well, guess what—Anita was ready to go with me to the party, and we now have been together for 65 grand years.”

Annette Fogo Harper ’58 & Jim Harper ’58

From Hadley Harper Witcher ’87: “My parents met in geology class freshman year. My mother had undergone an emergency appendectomy that summer and had not fully recovered.

Annette Fogo Harper ’58 & Jim Harper ’58

The class went to the gorge to collect samples. Climbing back up, she found herself struggling and asked the closest nice-looking boy if he would carry her rocks. They dated off and on and were married in 1960.

My mother died 10 months shy of their 60th anniversary. My father lived three years longer.

He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and could not access or communicate many memories—but of the handful of stories he repeated, the one of meeting my mother was clear until the end.”

Randy Heller ’76 & Cindy Rosenthal Heller ’77

From Randy: “Although I came to Cornell for the academics, playing in a band was a nice side hustle. Who knew it would change my life?

Cindy was the least likely ‘groupie’ ever to follow a rock band in Ithaca; she was drug-free, hated alcohol, and wasn’t even that fond of live rock music.

Although we chatted during breaks between sets, it took me until my last semester to muster the courage to ask her out.

Some 50 years later, she still never misses a performance of mine (choral or instrumental).

Randy Heller ’76 and Cindy Rosenthal Heller ’77

And, oh yeah—I’m her groupie for everything else.”

Jay Coburn ’86

“In the mid-’80s, Cornell’s gay and lesbian community, as we called it back then, was quite strong. However, there were still under-the-radar gay spaces—and Alpha Delta Phi’s semi-annual Victory Club party was one of them.

In March 1984 I went to Victory Club and caught the eye of a handsome guy who I had never seen on campus. It was the beginning of a five-year relationship—my first—and now a lifelong friendship. In March 1986, we attended Victory Club together—out and proud.”

Owen Amadasun ’12 & Sheela George ’12

A photo of them at their 10th Reunion, celebrating their engagement with Touchdown, was widely viewed on Cornell social media.

Owen Amadasun ’12 and Sheela George ’12 with their August 2023 wedding party

From Owen: “We got married in August 2023 and obviously had to take a few Cornell photos. We celebrated with our signature drink, ‘Big Red Love,’ and with our friends and family and alumni ranging from ’95 to ’19. Who knew that a chance encounter during Homecoming would lead to Big Red love?”

Carol Wiley Bossard ’64 & Kermit Bossard ’63

From Carol: “The 4-H Club was sponsoring a square/fold dance evening on the third floor of Warren Hall.

I was asked to dance with the young man whom I eventually married. Those dances always ended with ‘Stormy Weather,’ which became ‘our’ song.”

Carol Wiley Bossard ’64 and Kermit Bossard ’63

Bill Olin ’71 and Linda Bonney Olin ’73

Bill Olin ’71 & Linda Bonney Olin ’73

From Bill: “Much wooing ensued on my part. She lived on the second floor of South Baker, and I got in the habit of calling up to her from outside the dorm, à la Romeo and Juliet.

She still talks about answering a knock, followed by a rose thrust through the opened door before she ever saw me.

We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year.”

Janice Perlstein Maxwell ’09 & James Maxwell ’07, MEng ’08

Janice Perlstein Maxwell ’09, James Maxwell ’07, MEng ’08, and son Ezra

From Janice: “It was a weekly Monday night Rulloff’s karaoke outing. He was singing ‘867-5309 (Jenny)’ by Tommy Tutone and I was singing ‘Shoop’ by Salt-N-Pepa. When the night was coming to a close, he got my number.

Later that week we met up at Pixel and headed to a party in an apartment on Eddy Street and had our first kiss on the balcony. We’ve been in love ever since. Cornell is so special to us and our story that we even named our first son Ezra (we joked about Rulloff, though!).”

Michael Steinitz ’65 & Heidi Maenz Steinitz, Grad ’65

From Michael: “My thesis in engineering physics involved irradiating samples at the nuclear reactor. Security was much more relaxed than it is today, and Heidi would often join me for long nights of data-taking.

We enjoyed turning off the lights in order to gaze into the water to observe the strange blue light of the ‘Cerenkov radiation.’ It was very romantic, and I often told my students that we saw the light and then she married me—a falsehood, as we were already engaged.”

Michael Steinitz ’65 and Heidi Maenz Steinitz, Grad ’65

Neda Simaika ’09 & Saif Alzoobaee ’10

Neda Simaika ’09 and Saif Alzoobaee ’10

From Neda: “Saif and I met in front of Anabel Taylor. He had just been dropped off to start his sophomore year, and I was walking back from Collegetown. We recognized each other because a mutual friend had previously talked us up to each other; we struck up a conversation, and the rest is history.”

Sheila Moy Saul ’72

“Not romantic, but a fond memory of my brother-in-law, John Beau Saul ’81, BS ’97. I was dating his brother, who was in school downstate. I lived in Risley, and Beau (then age 12) would treat me to a meal at Louie’s Lunch truck on a regular basis. We would sit on the grass with our sloppy meatball subs and sodas, eating and talking. Fast forward to 2024: I’ve been married to George, the big bro, for 50 years!”

Lynn Korda Kroll ’65 and Jules Kroll ’63

Lynn Korda Kroll ’65 & Jules Kroll ’63

From Lynn: “We had our first date in the spring of my freshman year. We studied at the Law Library, followed by tea in the Ivy Room and a walk back to Dickson V in time for me to make curfew. That’s it!

Our second date was six years later; after that, we didn’t date anyone else.

The lesson I impart to my children and grandchildren—and anyone who asks my advice about dating or trying something new—is, ‘always give it a second chance; you just never know.’”

Top: Illustration by Caitlin Cook / Cornell University. All photos provided.

Published February 7, 2024

Do you have your own romantic Cornell moment to share?


  1. Jennifer ( Bell) Dauphinais

    I didn’t meet my husband at Cornell… but I could have. I was a Clinical Nutrition major ( Hum Ec ’90) and he had applied to Cornell for their Nutritional Biochemistry in Hum Ec… and he WAS ACCEPTED! However, he opted to go to Colgate’s Biochemistry Program for Pre- Med, and to also better accommo some other activities like swimming, into his schedule. Fast forward seventeen years and our paths crossed for the first time when he returned to CT from medical school to begin residency at Yale ( he took time off after graduating), and I had returned to CT from working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to start my role as a surgical ICU nutrition support dietitian/nutritionist. We talked for three weeks before we met in person, but on our first date, we realized we grew up going to the same very special holistically minded pediatrician, Dr. Leo Litter, in West Hartford ( neither of us were from West Hartford having grown up in CT. To add to the intrigue of that coincidence, we also learned that we both wrote about him in our Cornell applications because he strongly inspired both of us for our aspiring career paths in nutrition and medicine! We married almost two years later. I suppose the old cliche sayings, ‘timing is everything,’ and ‘better late than never,’ hold some merit! The name, ‘Leo’ was also on the short list of names for our adopted son from South Korea ( we ended up naming him after my grandfather, William, who was a proud Cornell grandfather , who attended manyof my NBT acapella and choral concerts on the Hill with my grandmother and parents)!

  2. Dianne Gwynne Berger, Class of 1972

    Bobby Berger ’71 and Dianne Gwynne Berger 72

    Exam week: January 1969: I was on a Straight Break from the library, talking to my roommate at the top of the stairs to the Ivy Room. Two boys came from behind, grabbed the arms. that held my books, and carried me downstairs where they bought me a cup of tea. I had met Danny previously, but Bobby Berger, a stranger, became my best friend, the love of my life, my husband, the father of our two boys.

    We never said “Till Death do us part”, so we are still married though he died in 2001.

  3. Jessica Costanzo, Class of 2000

    Jessica Honeyman Costanzo ’00 (A&S) and Robert Costanzo ’00 (Engineering)

    We lived in the same dorm freshman year but didn’t meet until the last week of that year at a concert on campus. We’ve been together ever since. After I graduated law school we came back to Cornell for our wedding at the Chapel and Statler. It was part wedding part Cornell reunion for our friends. We celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year. But our anniverary of meeting at Cornell is 27 years!

  4. Michael Gordon Mage, Class of 1955

    Rose and I met at Cornell Folk Dancing in 1953, got married in 1955, with folk dancing at the reception in the Statler. We are still married and still in love now, and send greetings to all who read this.
    Mike Mage A&S,55 and Rose Goldman Mage Ag’56.

  5. Karen Viglione Lauterwasser

    Having read all these wonderful stories, I thought I’d speak up. I stayed at Cornell after undergrad to work on a master of science in engineering. I happened into a crowd of fellow grad students in the joined buildings occupied by Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and Materials Science and Engineering. My friends kept mentioning this fellow who was also part of the group, who never seemed to be around when I was (and vice versa). He was a folk singer/guitarist (as was I), and they figured we’d likely hit it off. Eventually we did meet (on a song-trading sort of date) and they were right. We ended up playing at the wedding of two other folks in that group (outdoors, at the Big Red Barn. We eventually married, and stayed that way for the 39 ensuing years. He died on 2021 and I certainly miss him still.

  6. Tim Lynch, Class of 1990

    Fall of my sophomore year, I’d gotten involved with the CU Science Fiction Association (CUSFA), and we were having a movie party. One of the things we were watching was “Aliens,” and in a particular scene that evokes Asimov’s First Law, I was about to lean back obnoxiously and say “Asimov. First Law.” Before I got the chance, this freshman girl I’d never seen before said, “Well, *that* sounds familiar.”

    That’s how I met Lisa Hazard ’91. We got married just under four years later, and are celebrating our 33rd anniversary this June. And yes, we’re still both exceptionally geeky.

  7. George Gonzalez, Class of 2005

    Me (CLS ’05) met my wife Stefanie Goldberg (MS ILR ’04) in 2003 while on a double date. We came from very different backgrounds but we’re both from Florida and struggled through the winters in Ithaca. After school we moved to NYC and then south Florida where we married in 2008. 15 years later we’re happily married with two daughters ages 8 & 11.

  8. Lisa Dayan, Class of 1988

    I didn’t meet my husband, Peter Dayan Med ‘85, in Ithaca but Cornell played a role in our meeting. His friend, who was Class o f 1985, used “did you go to Cornell” as a pick up line in the bars on NYC’s upper East side in the 8o’s. I said yes, we talked but didn’t know anyone in common. He had a girlfriend, so he told my husband to call me. How he found my phone number is another story. We’ve been married 32 years and our son graduated from CALS in 2023. We all love being on campus.

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