What do you do when you love your alma mater nearly as much as you love your betrothed?
You hold a #Rutgerswedding.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we asked for stories about and photos of Rutgers weddings and got some romantic, fun responses. Here are a few from couples with ties to Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden. If you want to tell us about your #Rutgerswedding, go to our Facebook page to share your stories.
Tom and Michelle Howell
It was Valentine’s Day 2002, and some friends, single on the holiday of love, were hanging out together at Howell’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house in New Brunswick. That night, Tom Howell and Michelle Jobes, both Rutgers 2002 grads, met and started a conversation that would one day lead to their wedding at Kirkpatrick Chapel.
First came Feb. 29, 2008. Heeding Irish legend that it’s good luck for women to propose on Leap Day, Michelle, a Phi Sigma Sigma sister, made sure she and Tom ended a New Brunswick date at his fraternity house. “She hands me this scrapbook, which she had given to me before, but she added some new pages,” Tom says. “I’m flipping through it and I see one little note: ‘Will you marry me?’ She wanted to do it at the fraternity house where we met. After that, it was pretty evident we were going to get married at Rutgers.”They posed for their engagement photos on campus, eating a Fat Sandwich from a legendary Rutgers grease truck, at the fraternity house where they met, walking along College Avenue. Their wedding party was mostly friends from Rutgers, and Tom’s big brother from his fraternity officiated at the March 2009 ceremony at Kirkpatrick Chapel. They entered their reception to the Rutgers fight song, “The Bells Must Ring,” and ended the night by singing the Rutgers alma mater, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan,” with their guests.
“There was so much energy and love with both songs because guests at our wedding either attended Rutgers as well or knew how important Rutgers is to both of us, so everyone was really into it,” Michelle says.
Now living in Baltimore with their two young children – Michelle, who received her doctorate degree in toxicology from Rutgers in 2008, is a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health and Tom is director of global marketing for a tech company – the couple plan to continue their strong record of attending Rutgers home games, meeting friends at 6 a.m. for tailgates no matter the game start time.
“We've been season ticket holders since we graduated and have been attending games since 1998,” Tom says. “We are both very proud of our Rutgers backgrounds and have an immense love for our alma mater.”
Marie-Danielle Attis and Greg Springs
Marie-Danielle Attis and Greg Springs decided to do a wedding do-over, Rutgers-style.
When the couple knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, they tied the knot in the Union Township municipal building in 2014 after a brief engagement. They were thrilled, but Greg pushed for more fanfare."I was getting married for the first time at 43, and he did not want me to miss out on the wedding planning and excitement that my sisters and most brides-to-be experience,” recalls Marie, assistant director for health promotion and coordinator for sexual assault services at Rutgers University-Newark.
The Hillside couple, who met one day while each was walking alone, had their second wedding several months later – a church ceremony followed by a reception at Rutgers-Newark’s Paul Robeson Student Center, where each of her two sisters, who earned nursing degrees from Rutgers, also celebrated their marriages.
Marie’s deep connection to the university helped make for a perfect wedding day. She is committed to her challenging dual roles helping young students live healthy lives and working with sexual assault victims, mostly women. She is also grateful for the opportunities she found at Rutgers-Newark, as a student who had to interrupt her education to deal with personal issues, and as a part-time employee, before she returned to complete her bachelor’s degree and then earn a master’s in public administration.
“Now I am helping students who have had to leave school,” she says. “Just navigating through life as a teenager can be difficult. I can feel their pain.”
Scott and Jennie Owens
Scott and Jennie Owens will always treasure renewing their vows at a 2011 Las Vegas-themed alumni weekend at Rutgers University-Camden, and not only because an Elvis lookalike officiated and Jennie was pregnant with their first child.Rutgers-Camden has long played a major role in their lives and likely will for years to come. They met there as undergrad political science majors, when Scott asked a friend to make the introduction. It turned out they were taking several of the same courses though they never had classes together.
In addition to being such an integral element in their romance, Rutgers also allowed each to establish a strong foundation for their professional lives. “It’s been life-changing for sure,” says Scott, Rutgers-Camden’s director of alumni relations. “I will always remember the administration and faculty taking the time and doing the things to help the students succeed.”
The passion that Jennie, a family and matrimonial law attorney in Haddonfield, and Scott share for Rutgers is evident throughout their Gloucester Township home – where they proudly display Rutgers pillows, wall hangings, stuffed animals, hats and pennants – and in the support they give to the Honors College at Rutgers-Camden as well as to other university activities. They also spend lots of time attending Rutgers athletic events, home and away.
“We like to do what we can do give back, so that students continue to have the opportunities at Rutgers that we did,” says Scott, who’s chaired the Gloucester Township Planning Board for the past year. Scott and Jennie are expecting their second child in June.
Valentyna and Alcibiades TorresLife took Valentyna Olynyk and Alcibiades Torres to Georgia after they graduated from Rutgers in 2013, she with a bachelor’s degree in political science and American studies, he with his master’s degree in Spanish translation and interpretation. An Army ROTC member at Rutgers, Alcibiades was getting ready to begin an Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course with the Army. Valentyna had not planned to go to Georgia, but when she didn’t land a job right away in the New Jersey/New York area, she decided to join Alcibiades near Fort Benning.
She was glad she did. As soon as she arrived, Alcibiades started playing her videos of friends and family members who were complicit in his plans to propose marriage. And even though they were nearly 1,000 miles away from New Brunswick, they both knew where the wedding would be.
“We were both heavily involved on campus and all but three of our 13-person bridal party were also Rutgers graduates, so we knew we just had to have a Rutgers wedding,” Valentyna says. They were married at St. Peter’s parish in New Brunswick in October 2014 and had their wedding pictures taken across Somerset Street on Old Queens Lawn.
“For four years both my husband and I lived on College Avenue Campus, so it was like being home again,” Valentyna says. Both were very active as students, both working on the Rutgers Dance Marathon, and Valentyna was a resident assistant with Residence Life and worked in Student Life.
Now living in Texas, Valentyna is awaiting Alcibiade’s arrival home from a nine-month deployment to Korea. She is working for a school district near Fort Hood while completing a master’s program in education and earning her teacher’s certification at Texas A&M University.
“We credit Rutgers with bringing us together,” she says. “We would never have met if we hadn’t been so involved.”
- By Jeff Tolvin and Dory Devlin