Illustrations by D’Ara Nazaryan

Alumni often speak of the deep connections they’ve made with other members of the Colgate community during classes as students, at reunions, and through chance meetings. Some even form the deepest connection: Love. Colgate Magazine spoke with seven married alumni couples via Zoom. We found that, while there are many types of Colgate couples, they share one commonality: Their stories all travel back to Hamilton, even if they didn’t begin on the Hill.

Must Love Dogs

Emmalee “Emmie” Dolfi ’13 and Jessica “Jesse” McCarrick ’10

Ten-year-old Stella and 8-year-old Stewart lounge on the floor of their Santa Fe, N.M., home, tired after a long day of walks around the neighborhood and watching their parents. Their moms, Emmie and Jesse, recently told them that they’re moving across the country to St. Petersburg, Fla., where they’ll still get to enjoy the sunshine, but this time, on the beach. 

Emmi and Jesse in wedding attire with two of their dogs
Emmalee “Emmie” Dolfi ’13 and Jessica “Jesse” McCarrick ’10

Stella and Stewart aren’t your typical children — they’re dogs Emmie and Jesse rescued when the women first lived together in Washington, D.C., while Emmie pursued a master’s in geography at George Washington University. Stella, a laid-back lab mix, and Stewart, “a big old, anxious pittie,” aren’t the only dogs Emmie and Jesse have cared for. Altogether, they’ve fostered 23 dogs (and one kitten, whom they learned Emmie was allergic to). The couple’s shared love of animals is one of the many attributes that makes their 10-year relationship work.

“We typically foster dogs that don’t show well at the shelter, that are super anxious,” Emmie says. “Or dogs that are hyperactive at the shelter and are bouncing off the walls, but in a home, are a lot better,” Jesse adds. (The two often finish each other’s sentences.) “It allows us to show potential adopters that they’re not crazy, lunatic dogs.” 

Together, they’ve had many adventures looking after their foster pups, including taking on full litters of puppies, and breaking into their own house after a pit bull figured out how to lock the door. Eventually, Jesse took her dedication to dogs a step further and became a vet tech. She works at the same shelter through which they foster dogs.

a modern illustration of two blonde women and their two small dogs

Though their love of canines drives their relationship, Emmie and Jesse started out the way many Colgate couples do: on the Hill. They became fast friends during Emmie’s official visit to Colgate as a softball recruit in 2009, but they didn’t realize there was a spark until after Jesse graduated the following spring. Emmie and a few softball teammates drove down to visit Jesse at her family home in Virginia, and when it was time to leave, Emmie didn’t want to go. “We spent that whole summer going back and forth from Virginia to New York,” Emmie says. They married in 2017.

The couple moved to Santa Fe for Emmie’s position as senior manager of urban analytics at The Trust for Public Land. An avid fan of all sports (in her wedding vows, Jesse pledged to never change the channel, “even if Emmie was watching curling or archery”), Emmie looks forward to starting her new role as a baseball analyst with the Tampa Bay Rays. Jesse hopes to further her career in veterinary medicine.

As they prepare to make the cross-country move during COVID-19, the two are relying on the foundations of their relationship: good communication, laughing together, and balancing each other out. “That was what our family said about us at our wedding,” Jesse says. “You bring me back down to reality, but also I bring you up a little,” adds Emmie. “It’s nice to meet in the middle,” Jesse finishes. 

Their favorite restaurant is La Choza in Santa Fe. “Every time we come in, they have margaritas ready for us,” Jesse says.

The Woman in the Red Dress

Christine Chao ’86 and James “Jos” Shaver ’86

Jos was tired and drenched in sweat from running laps. He’d broken a cardinal rule: Never be late to tennis practice. “[But] it was worth it,” he says, because he’d finally met Christine.

Christine and Jos in cap and gown at their Colgate graduation
Christine Chao ’86 and James “Jos” Shaver ’86

The two resided in different dorms their first year on campus, but many of the men in Kendrick-Eaton-Dodge, where Christine lived, pledged Phi Tau, so she always attended their parties. Jos had also joined the fraternity, and he remembers seeing Christine for the first time at a party, thinking of her as “the pretty girl wearing a red dress.” Mutual friend Andy Blackwood ’86 (who sadly passed away) introduced Jos and Christine a few days later. The two had an instant connection, and their conversation lasted so long that Jos ended up being late to that tennis practice.

Tennis would show up again in their early relationship: For their first date, they played and then grabbed a bite at the Pizza Hut on Utica Street. On the last day of junior year, they shared a drink at the Hourglass and agreed to write letters to each other over the summer. Those long-distance notes cemented their relationship, and they became an official couple on the first day of their senior year (after another drink at the Hourglass). 

a modern illustration with soothing bright colors of a man and a woman playing tennis

After graduation, Christine headed off to Columbia Law School, and Jos accepted a job in nearby New Jersey. Tired of the cold winters, he planned to travel south to Duke for his MBA. But his love for Christine changed his plans: “I made the decision to marry Christine 18 months before I proposed,” he says. Instead of going to Duke, Jos earned his MBA from Columbia. After he graduated, they married. 

Thirty-five years later, they’ve had adventures abroad, living in Hong Kong (where their sons, Ben and Tyler, were born) and London before settling in Greenwich, Conn. “Colgate will always hold a special place in our hearts for bringing us together,” Christine says.

Jos majored in mathematical economics at Colgate and is founder and managing partner of Electron Capital Partners. Christine, who studied English and was a member of Konosioni and Gamma Phi Beta, is now general counsel for Foremost Group. She’s also a Colgate trustee emerita and cochair of the Campaign Leadership Committee. 

The Seven Year Itch

Lauren Galliker ’90 and Michael Spivey ’22

Lauren’s Zoom background can only be described as tropical, with beachy, powder blue walls and the bright sun shining through floor-to-ceiling windows. Michael’s, on the other hand, resembles a dorm room, with a beige wall that is bare except for one decorative piece: A maroon Colgate banner. 

Lauren and Michael on a boat at sea
Lauren Galliker ’90 and Michael Spivey ’22

They’re not virtual backgrounds — Lauren and Michael live separately; she in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and he in Hamilton. Michael travels to St. John during school holidays, but when class is in session, he’s an international relations student at Colgate, attending through the Service to School VetLink Program. VetLink partners with colleges and universities to expand access and opportunity for student veterans. When Michael, a retired special operations soldier, learned (through Lauren) that Colgate joined VetLink in 2019, he jumped at the chance to apply to the University. He’d been familiar with Colgate for more than a decade due to his relationship with Lauren, and he was excited at the opportunity to accomplish his dream of finishing college at an institution that he already knew and respected. 

Lauren is Colgate, through and through. For two decades, she’s served as a senior regional advancement director, and she has generations of friends in the Colgate community. After three years of dating, Lauren invited Michael to attend her 20th Reunion and meet all of her classmates and colleagues. “In order for me to date her, I had to get along with her friends,” Michael says. One year later, their wedding was officiated by the Hon. Timothy Stanceu ’73. All of this to say, they had a tough time keeping Michael’s Colgate application a secret until he was accepted; they didn’t tell anyone until April 28, 2020, when he joined the Class of 2022. 

A modern illustration of a man and a woman hugging under a banner that says "Class of 2022"

The beginning of their relationship isn’t the typical Colgate origin story: They didn’t meet as teenagers, and they’re not tied at the hip. In fact, their 13-year relationship has been mostly spent on opposite sides of the globe. They met while Michael was still on active duty. Lauren lived in New York City, and they made their relationship work through weekends spent commuting, spotty Skype calls overseas, and communication. “That’s the key,” Michael says. “When Lauren and I met, we were both older, so [we knew that] you have to be able to communicate better and more effectively.” He adds, “By the time we got married, we had already spent enough time dating and enough time being apart that we had a pretty good rhythm about how it works.” 

In 2018, when Michael retired from the Army, “life finally gave us the opportunity to live together,” Lauren says. “The restaurant across the bay from us has a weekly trivia tournament … we named ourselves The Seven Year Itch because it was seven years into our marriage when we were finally able to live together.” Although they’re apart while Michael finishes his degree, in 2022, they’ll be together once again.

On their first date, Michael and Lauren played golf, and she chipped in from 120 yards out, “a heck of a shot for any golfer,” Michael says. They went wild, high-fiving and fist-bumping on the course. Two strangers walked over and asked how long they’d been married. “I guess there was something in the chemistry that it was meant to be,” Lauren says. “And it’s been fantastic.”

Lauren received the Ann Yao ’80 Memorial Young Alumni Award in 1995 and a Maroon Citation in 2015. The Colgate banner in Michael’s room was given to Lauren by her mom and dad, 35 years ago.

Opposites Attract

Keith ’01 and Mylisa Sergeant ’00 Brooks

It was the summer of 1997. “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy breezed through radio speakers, and Hamiltonians enjoyed rare hot days. Mylisa was on campus researching water pollution and its impact on underground aquifers. She was single at the time and “there were no guys in my class I wanted to date,” she says. She didn’t know what her “type” was and didn’t mind continuing her search to find the right guy. Eventually, she met Keith.

a modern illustration of a man and a woman wearing a beanie hat sitting together and talking

Mylisa remembers seeing Keith arriving on campus that summer. Wearing a bright yellow shirt and hailing from Florida, Keith was quiet and thoughtful. “I don’t call it love at first sight because I don’t know if I was convinced,” Mylisa says. “But I got a vibe that I would probably date him.”

Keith, in a tux and bow tie, and Mylisa, in a sweetheart dress, smiling together
Keith ’01 and Mylisa Sergeant ’00 Brooks

Keith, on campus early for the OUS program, remembers it a bit differently: “I met Mylisa, and she was different than what I was used to. She was more of an extrovert, and I was more of an introvert.” Though they were on different wavelengths romantically, the two became friends. Keith had a girlfriend back in Florida, but Mylisa still took him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. They also often ran errands together around Hamilton. Eventually, Keith and his girlfriend broke up, and friends urged him and Mylisa to try starting a relationship. As Keith got to know Mylisa better, he finally asked her on a date. One icy night, they borrowed a friend’s stick shift and went to McDonald’s in town, munched on salty fries, then watched Independence Day at the Hamilton Movie Theater. Afterward, they sat on Seven Oaks Golf Course and looked up at the stars. 

The couple married after graduation and now have two daughters and a son. Twenty-four years later, Keith and Mylisa are still opposites in many ways, but they say that’s what makes their marriage so successful. Mylisa can make or fix anything, from a Halloween costume to a household project. Keith cooks and ensures that the family prioritizes time together, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they make it work. “The bottom line is, we’ve learned that we’re a team and we play different roles on the team,” Keith says. 

In the summer of 2022, they plan to spend their 20th wedding anniversary on the Hill. This time, they’re on the same page.

Faith is a cornerstone of Keith and Mylisa’s relationship: “We are both strong Christians, and that was an essential attribute for [each of] us in a potential life partner,” Mylisa says. They were both in the Sojourners Gospel Choir at Colgate, and Keith attended University Church while Mylisa worshiped at Hamilton Bible Fellowship.

A Window of Opportunity

Chris ’81 and Becky Bair ’81 Hurley

Becky can recall with certainty the first time she saw Chris. It was August 1977, and classes for the semester hadn’t yet started. As she and roommate Becky Anway ’81 Valenti leaned out the window of their second-floor dorm room on the back of Kendrick Hall (now called Curtis Hall), she saw two men — “quite a pair in their own right” — in straw cowboy hats ascending the stairs. Chris and his friend Dave Rentschler ’81 were walking over from Dana Arts Center, and they’d just bought the hats from John’s Shoe Shop in Hamilton. “This was a bold fashion move in 1977,” says Becky Bair ’81 Hurley. Ironically, Chris says he remembers Becky wearing overalls the first time he saw her. “We were both city kids, so I am not sure how we independently settled on the country-western look.”

Chris and Becky enjoying an espresso abroad
Chris ’81 and Becky Bair ’81 Hurley

Like many Colgate romances, their early dates weren’t fancy: they were dinners together in the Hall of Presidents and raising glasses at parties off campus. Chris played football, so Becky cheered him on at every game, “and I tried to understand what an offensive guard did,” she jokes. They pored over political science texts in Case Library, discussing Professor Robert Kraynak’s lectures. Their dating anniversary is Oct. 8, 1977, the day they sat together on a bench at Taylor Lake, watching the ducks glide on the water. When they visit campus, they always find their way back to that bench. “My favorite memories of Colgate all feature Becky,” Chris says.

They’ve been together for 43 years and have three children: Daniel ’12, Matthew ’12, and Katie. When their sons graduated, they walked from the ceremony at Taylor Lake to the back of Curtis Hall and took a photo. Becky’s dorm window was in view. 

Becky studied international relations and political science at Colgate. Today, she’s an attorney and land use adviser and serves on the University’s Board of Trustees. Chris, also an attorney, double majored in political science and economics. 

a modern illustration with soothing bright colors of a man and a woman walking down a path, surrounded by trees with twinkly lights

Growing, Together

David Vargas ’81 and Yvette Maitland-Vargas ’81

Campus is different during the summer. It’s almost placid, with most students away and fewer activities planned. David and Yvette credit that unusual environment for beginning their 41-year romance.  

The year was 1979, and at the time, every Colgate student was required to complete one summer semester on campus, to free up space in the dorms the following fall. Outside of class, Yvette passed her time by working in Dana Arts Center. “It was a perfect place for me to work because I could study,” she remembers. “It was quiet, and most times, no one came by.” 

That is, except for David. He’d visit her often, to chat or to sit with her and reminisce about their families back home. The couple says the less-populated, easy-going pace of Colgate in the summer allowed them time to get to know each other. “With less people in the summer and a much calmer environment, we got to see each other more and appreciate each other more,” David says.

a photo of David and Yvette at their wedding
David Vargas ’81 and Yvette Maitland-Vargas ’81

Listening to their descriptions of one another, they seem like yin and yang. When David first met Yvette, he says, she was lively, and he was immediately taken with her. “She was athletic,” he remembers. “And she was a lot of fun.” David was athletic, too, as a member of the wrestling team. But that isn’t what Yvette recalls most about David: “When I first met him, he was pretty quiet.” She was attracted to his calm demeanor, and he was different. “He seemed responsible and very affectionate.”

Yvette never imagined meeting someone like that, and it was even more surprising to her that she’d love someone so much that she’d want to marry them. She had her life planned out: She wanted to be a single mother and adopt several children, all of different nationalities. She wanted to nurture them and teach them to love one another. But, once she met David, her idea of happiness shifted. “I couldn’t even have dreamed it,” she says.

David taught her to express love outwardly and comfortably, Yvette says. In her native Jamaica, as a custom, people don’t express affection openly and that can seem closed off emotionally. David was the opposite, going out of his way to make sure she knew he loved her. “He doesn’t have to say ‘I love you’. I still don’t have to wonder about that.” They still walk hand-in-hand when out and about in public.

They now have two sons, Craig and Gregory, so Yvette’s vision of bringing up babies wasn’t too far off. The couple says the process of raising children has allowed their relationship to grow. “We jumped into childbearing early,” David says. “And that ate into a big chunk of our life together. The majority of the time, [we’re focused on our] commitment to our sons [and our] family.” 

Although both of their children are now grown, the couple is enjoying their next adventure: their baby granddaughter, Cassie. Because she was born during the pandemic, they don’t get to see her in person too often. “We get to see her on Zoom calls, plus lots of pictures, and we just love it,”  Yvette says.

Yvette was a geology major at Colgate, and she traveled to the United Kingdom with a Jan Plan study group. She previously worked in banking and business, and now she’s an internet marketing and ecommerce entrepreneur. David studied economics and went to Granada, Spain, on a study group. He’s had a career in accounting and finance, and he currently works for Greenfield Global as an ERP implementation analyst. They were both OUS students.

Art Is Long and Life Is Short

Ray ’69 and Leslie Heaslip ’74 Wengenroth

At the center of Leslie and Ray’s romance is art … but it began with renting.

Even Leslie acknowledges “it’s a little creepy” that she married her college landlord. “It was kind of a dump,” she says of the apartment on Lebanon Street. “I can’t say that my first impression of Ray was terribly positive.” Ray remembers Leslie sneaking a litter of puppies into the unit — his impression of her wasn’t exactly rosy either. But they eventually saw the humor in their situation and, when they bumped into each other at the Colgate Inn every now and then, they clinked their glasses of 15-cent Utica Club drafts and became friends. Over time, they fell in love.

modern, bright illustration of a man painting a woman on an easel

Ray wasn’t only a landlord after he graduated from Colgate with an art and art history degree — he was a teaching assistant in the University’s art department. Leslie also studied art and art history (in addition to English), and they bonded over a shared love of the craft. Ray was a sculptor at Colgate, and he eventually moved on to paintings that he still makes today, in addition to printmaking. Leslie is a painter, too, and although she took a hiatus for many years to focus on her marketing career, she’s picked up a brush again, creating smaller, detailed paintings. 

Art has popped up in myriad ways throughout their relationship. Once, they were at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a side trip after dropping off their teenaged son, Eric ’07, at the airport as he headed for golf camp. Many of their friends who’d been married for decades were divorcing, empty nesters who discovered that with children out of the house, they had little in common anymore. But when Leslie and Ray arrived at the museum, they were joyful and excited about a solo outing together. “He turned to me and said, ‘This must be what it’s like to have an empty nest!’” she remembers. In addition to art, they enjoy a shared love of outdoor activities, such as hiking and kayaking in Massachusetts and spending time together at their cabin in Downeast Maine. 

Ray and Leslie posing together while on a hike
Ray ’69 and Leslie Heaslip ’74 Wengenroth

Leslie and Ray married 46 years ago in an August outdoor ceremony, after she graduated from Colgate (a member of the first official coed class). They say that doing things together, spending one-on-one time enjoying each other’s company, is their formula for staying a strong couple.

“There can be a lot of intense romance and love at the beginning, then you get caught up with work, and if you have kids, that takes over your life,” Leslie says. “It’s wonderful, but it is all-absorbing. It’s really important in a long marriage to retain the connection you have to each other, and a lot of that is love, but it’s also just ‘like,’ and liking to be together and liking to do things together.”

Renting was a component in their early relationship, but, now, it’s back in Leslie and Ray’s lives. “When you’re an artist, you need a plan B,” Ray says. His was carpentry, which evolved into building lofts for photographers and artists in New York City. When their kids came along, building lofts evolved into building houses in the suburbs of New Jersey. And then, when the couple moved to Boston in 1997, he started flipping homes and selling them to families. Ray leases the homes he doesn’t sell. 

Once again, he’s a landlord. But now, Leslie isn’t his tenant — she’s his partner.

Leslie comes from a long Colgate lineage, but no one was more of a Colgate fanatic than her dad, Cliff Heaslip ’50. Cliff (who passed in 2018) was president of the Alumni Corporation and worked in the development office for a time. “He was a nut about Colgate,” Leslie says. She fondly remembers visiting her family with Ray during college one time, and her dad asked who to make her rent check out to. 

13 Traditions

Colgate is known for its storied traditions, and marriages are no exception. We tapped wedding planner Shannon Whitney Anson and Assistant to the Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Maureen McKinnon to learn how some Colgate couples have celebrated their unions. 

1: A friendly Friday morning golf tournament at Seven Oaks to tee off the wedding weekend

2: Cheers! Welcome drinks at the Colgate Inn

3: Hitching a ride on the Colgate Cruiser around Hamilton

4: Sentimental “first looks” on Willow Path

5: All-alumni wedding parties

6: Celebrating on the Merrill House lawn (complete with “Colgate Cornhole”)

7: The couple’s head table, labeled No. 13

8: Gobbling up Toll House cookie pie for dessert 

9: Alumni gathering for a photo with a Colgate banner

10: Singing along to “New York, New York” at the end of the reception

11: Late-night snacks from Slices

12: Post-wedding sendoff in the Colgate Inn’s Green Room

13: Wedding bells: 13 times

There are 1,683 known married Colgate couples.