This week, justFeatures interviewed six couples who met because of Brandeis.
From proposals on the Massell bridge to meeting for the first-time at alumni events, Brandeisians have been coming together since the University’s inception — and each story is different from the last. According to the Office of Alumni Relations, about 10 percent of Brandeis undergraduate alumni marry fellow alumni. In an interview with the Justice, F. Patricia Fisher, the vice president of alumni relations, explained the phenomenon affectionately called “Louie Love.”
“I think some of it is self-selected in a way, because people are attracted to come to Brandeis for certain reasons. So the attraction to Brandeis ethos, its values, its whole social justice facet — I think it could be around shared values,” Fisher said.
Although, a study has not yet been done in comparison to other universities, the Office of Alumni Relations likes to think that we are “above average” in alumni marriages. A total of 4,089 living undergraduate alumni out of a population of 38,984 are married to fellow alums. In other words, one in 10 Brandeis undergraduates meet their life partners because of Brandeis.
Fisher explained that some of her favorite stories are of the couples that met after graduating, either through mutual friends or at alumni events, and did not know each other while students. “So they didn’t have this shared experience as students together, and yet having the shared experience of being at Brandeis … I just think the stories are adorable. And then when people tell you the stories, their faces light up,” Fisher said.
Around this time last year, Alumni Relations asked alumni to submit their stories of “Louie Love” on Facebook and got hundreds of replies. “I think people feel that it’s a really special aspect of themselves, as alumni — that they also have a partner who’s a Brandeis alum. So just as a theme, the whole idea of Louie Love just seems to be really sweet and something to celebrate.”
This week, justFeatures shared six stories of alumni whose love stories each intersect at Brandeis.
Nancy Alpert '75 and Gwen Marcus '78
By ALLISON YEH
While Nancy Alpert ’75 and Gwen Marcus ’78 both majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies as Brandeis undergraduates, the two, given their class gap and different extracurricular interests, never crossed paths. Nancy described her free time as one that revolved around athletics. “I was on the tennis team and did other varsity sports,” she said. It was suggested by Nancy that Gwen, on the other hand, loved theater and outings to the Stein for the dancing. While Marcus agreed she participated in both, she seemed especially nostalgic of the Stein and dancing. “Yes! That is what I did!” Gwen exclaimed.
However, it was not until they were both employed at the law firm of Paul Weiss in Manhattan in 1981 that they realized their Brandeis roots. “It wasn’t a hit,” Nancy said as the two recalled how they met. Nancy described her first impressions of Gwen as “lewd and crude,” while Gwen thought Nancy to be a “goody two-shoes.”
During a summer outing in Westchester hosted by the law firm, Nancy found herself unable to participate in most activities given a recent surgery. This misfortune led her to scope out the pool, which happened to be Gwen’s hangout. “Gwen loves lounging at the pool,” Nancy said. This trip was the start to their more than 30 years together. The couple started their relationship in 1983 and solidified it further by legally marrying on a ship in the Boston Harbor in 2008.
After leaving the law firm of Paul Weiss, Nancy held various legal jobs, mostly in cable television. She is currently retired from her position as senior vice president and deputy general counsel at A&E Networks and works as a volunteer mediator in her spare time. Gwen, however, found herself at home working at Showtime Networks. She has been there for 32 years and currently serves as the executive vice president and general counsel. Both Gwen and Nancy still return to their Brandeis family as well, taking the trip up from their home in New York for alumni events and reunions. They also hold off-campus interviews for Brandeis applicants in their area.
“Sense of humor is key,” Gwen said as advice to young couples. Nancy agreed, also emphasizing the importance of compromise and of embracing, despite any differences, the overall essence of a person. If there’s one thing Gwen said she learned from her 33 year relationship, “I may be lewd and crude, [but] Nancy is not a goodie two-shoes.”
Josh Asen '13 and Elizabeth Fields '13
By DAISY CHEN
Six years ago, when Josh Asen ’13 walked into Massell Quad to meet up with his friends, he did not expect to meet his future fiancée Elizabeth Fields ’13 there. However, as one might expect from a typical romance, Josh and Elizabeth did not fall in love at first sight. As members of the same friend group, Josh and Elizabeth became friends naturally. “Our freshman year, I became very friendly with everyone in her hall. The idea was really the meeting of two worlds and how I … started spending more and more time [in her hall], and you know, that’s when I really got to know her,” Josh said in an interview with the Justice. The two quickly became best friends as they connected over their shared friend group and shared interests. “We started talking and, you know, the rest is history,” Josh said.
During their time at college, Josh double-majored in Business and American Studies while Elizabeth received her degree in both Creative Writing and English. As students, Josh and Elizabeth were both involved in community service. “I was a tutor for Waltham Group … and I helped out with Brandeis Buddies, which Elizabeth was the one of the heads of,” Josh said. “[Brandeis Buddies] works with adults with developmental disabilities that either work on the Brandeis campus or who live close to Waltham.”
As a big fan of sports, Josh joined the Justice and became the editor of the Sports section as a first-year. Driven by passion, Josh did everything sports-related when he was a senior writer, including plenty of interviews about sports. “I was involved in sports my entire life, really. … They’re part of who I am. I’ve always loved writing and was really interested in journalism, so when I first started Brandeis, I really wanted to be active with the student newspaper,” Josh explained.
When Josh reflected on his time at Brandeis, he thought about life-long friendship and love. “I don’t think there’s any particular moment [that stands out], to be honest; I think it’s really just making friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life,” Josh said. Furthermore, after being with Elizabeth for more than six years since their first year at Brandeis, the two are now engaged and planning on getting married. To Josh, playing sports, hanging out, taking class together and finding his fiancée at a young age were all aspects that made his Brandeis experience worthwhile.
When asked for advice to give to young couples, Josh laughed before answering. “I would just say ‘have fun,’” Josh noted. “College is such a great experience, and I [will suggest] just to keep an open mind. Try [to] meet new people [and] keep an open mind, [since] you will never know whom you will meet, really. Stay open, … expect the unexpected and just trying to enjoy your college experiences as much as you can. Before you know it, it gets over really quickly.”
Penny Bernstein '68 and Jon Bernstein '68
By LIZZIE GROSSMAN
Jon and Penny Bernstein ’68 met at the very beginning of their first year at Brandeis. Jon, originally from New Jersey, found Brandeis to be very different from his experience at the preppy boarding school of Deerfield Academy. He immediately called his mother and told her that he did not like it at Brandeis and planned to take a year off and apply to other colleges.
Penny, who was from Rhode Island, had similar feelings. She exclaimed that many of the members of her class were doing the Horah — a Jewish circle dance — around the pond in Hamilton Quad (now Massell Quad), the only freshman quad at the time. “So, I’m on the phone with my mother, saying ‘They’re doing the Horah around the freshman pond, this is not me!’ You know, that’s not what I thought it was gonna be!” Penny said in an interview over the phone with the Justice. Penny exclaimed that she then looked out the window and said, “Wait a second Mom! There’s a boy swimming naked in the freshman pond! I’ll get back to you.”
Jon admitted that he was upset that night, so he took off all of his clothes and went swimming in the pond. The next day, Penny passed by Jon while he was sitting near the pond, very intrigued by him. “She walks over to talk to me, and I say to her, ‘Those are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen in my whole life!’” said Jon. “She sort of looks down, harumphs, and walks off. That was our first meeting.”
Jon, who majored in psychology, said that his most enduring memory about Brandeis was being there with all the other Brandeis students — many of whom he and Penny are still very close friends with. “I almost feel like I started living — my life really started — when I got to Brandeis,” he said.
Penny, who was a theater major, said that her most important experience at Brandeis could not be isolated to one specific memory but rather included all the events that were going on at the time and how that manifested into her college experience. She explained that some of her most memorable times in college were the protests that she engaged in, about events that were going on both in the world and locally.
In terms of advice to young couples, Penny and Jon — who have been together for almost 52 years now — agree that couples should follow their love. “If you feel it, you gotta follow it,” said Penny. Jon added that an important part of a long, successful relationship is being aware that people change. “People are constantly in transformation,” he said. “The things that are important at 18 — when we met — really aren’t what keep two people together when you’re in your 60s.” He said that their shared values are what really keep them together.
A few years ago, Penny and Jon revisited Brandeis for their 45th reunion and decided that they wanted to leave something on campus to mark their relationship. They left a bench in Massell Quad, with a plaque on the back that says “Penny and Jonathan Bernstein, class of ’68, met right here.” “We started with Jon swimming in the pond naked, and we end with [us giving] a bench to Brandeis that commemorates exactly where we were when he was doing that,” Penny said.
Sue Loeb '90 and Andy Zeitlin '90
By MADELINE ROSENBERG
For many, senior year offers opportunities to transition into life after college. For Sue Loeb ’90 and Andy Zeitlin ’90, those opportunities included finding a lifelong partner. A mutual friend introduced them at a party during their sophomore year, but Andy spent his junior year studying abroad in Cambridge, England. The two reconnected and began dating at the beginning of their senior year. Four years later they were married.
Andy, an economics major, and Sue, a pre-med student, worked as tour guides and orientation core committee members during different years in their spare time. For Sue, however, there wasn’t much down time. “I studied a lot,” Sue said.
“She was pre-med, she had to study a lot!” Andy agreed. Now, after more than two decades of marriage, they continue to learn new things about one another. When Andy shared that he also was a member of the debate team while at Brandeis, his wife was shocked. “I didn’t know that!” Sue said.
While some things may be new, others are longstanding and never forgotten, including the landline number to Sue’s senior year room in Foster Mod 34. “Back then, they didn’t change the phone numbers from year to year,” Andy explained. After three years, her digits were engrained in his head. “I had gotten in touch with the people who lived in Sue’s mod and told them about my plan.”
On Oct. 30, 1993, while Sue was in her fourth year of medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey and Andy was a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, “He basically kidnapped me and brought me from New Jersey to Boston and proposed in Mod 34,” Sue reminisced. Andy remembered how supportive the 1993 residents of Mod 34 were, adding that “they actually bought us a bottle of champagne.”
While at Brandeis, date nights for the couple often meant going to the movies, but on one special occasion, it meant dining with Brandeis University President-emeritus Evelyn Erika Handler (’83-’91) and her spouse. “We invited her and her husband to [my] apartment for dinner,” Andy recalled, “and that was a good memory.” And a sweet one at that — President Handler and her husband brought with them to the Mods a five-pound Hershey bar for the occasion.
“Our Brandeis connections are the strongest connections we have in our life,” Sue confirmed while reflecting on their relationship. More than seven couples that Sue and Andy are friends with today are Brandeisians. They stay in touch by celebrating New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July together, and are actively involved in the alumni association.
Sue believes Brandeis attracts “a special type of person, special type of people,” leading to the success of so many couples and lasting friendships.
Sue, an OB/GYN practicing in New York City, and Andy, a litigator practicing in Connecticut, have two sons. Their oldest is a senior in high school and is currently applying to Brandeis for his undergraduate degree. Sue shared that his personal essay discussed how he felt that he “was brought up Brandeisian” and has observed that relationships and friendships at Brandeis “are like no others.”
Edina Stollinger '92 and Robert Stollinger '92
By KIRBY KOCHANOWSKI
“It was not love at first sight,” Edina Stollinger ’92 said of her marriage in an interview with the Justice. “To be honest, when I met Robert, I never thought that we’d get married. I never thought we’d have anything to do with each other.”
The couple, who now have been married for 23 years, first met in 1990 when they both enrolled in the Lemberg program at Brandeis. The program, launched by Peter Petri (IBS), offers a master’s degree in International Economics and Finance.
“We were … a small community within Brandeis,” Edina explained. The program, though it held only approximately 20 students, was heavily international. Edina came to the program from her home country of Hungary, while Robert was from Austria.
During one of her first days at Brandeis, Edina went out to breakfast with a fellow Hungarian student who happened to be Robert’s roommate. She remembered the three of them standing in the Prime Deli. “I didn’t know Robert, but he looked just as puzzled as me about what he should get for breakfast at a place like that,” she explained.
From that day, their friendship only grew. Robert helped Edina adjust to aspects of American culture that she had been completely unfamiliar with growing up in communist Hungary.
“I think the best thing that we did was [going on] a lot of weekend trips. We visited a lot of fun places together. We explored Boston, … we went whale watching and all of [those] kinds of things. So that just pulled us together.”
The summer after their first year at Brandeis, Edina and Robert both acquired summer jobs in Vienna. There were no other Brandeis students there, and the two ended up spending a lot of time together.
“That’s when we fell in love with each other,” Edina said. “We went back [to Brandeis] as a couple.”
Part of the master’s program required students to spend half of their second year abroad. Edina went to Milan while Robert was in Hong Kong.
“He pooled all of his money together … to fly from Hong Kong to Milan. And then in Milan, he asked me whether or not I would marry him, ... and I couldn’t find a reason why I should say no. So I didn’t say no, I just said yes!”
After they graduated, Edina and Robert considered living in New York where she had been offered a job. However, Robert especially missed Europe, and both were able to find jobs in Budapest. They’ve lived there ever since and now have three sons.
Living in Budapest was something Robert had never expected to happen. Before he went to Brandeis, Robert had served as a soldier stationed at the Austria-Hungary border.
“At that time he said to himself he would never ever go to Hungary. … So when he met me, he said, ‘You know, I live just right next door, but I don’t think I would ever go to Hungary.’ And then he ended up moving to Hungary,” Edina laughed. “We travel a lot, so we’re not stuck here.”
Recently, the family took a trip to the United States, where they visited New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it to Boston, though Edina is adamant that on their next trip to the United States they visit campus.
Reflecting on her love story, Edina recalled, “It was surprising to me. I went to Brandeis, and I turned my life upside-down for him. But it worked out, because ever since then, we’ve been happy.”
Rashad Williams '02 and Marsha Pierre-Jacques Williams '01
By TESSA COLLINS
Brandeis Varsity Basketball players Rashad Williams ‘02 and Marsha Pierre-Jacques Williams ‘01 got married 12 years ago after finding romance in the training room. In the summer of 1998, as they both recovered from surgeries, they found time in their busy lives to start a relationship.
“Being a student athlete takes up a lot of your time, so most of our time was spent in the gym,” Rashad said. In order to reconcile the tricky balancing act between a relationship, a demanding sport and academics, he said that they “had a great understanding … that both of us had to prioritize things” and that their “really similar situations” actually benefitted the relationship.
Oddly enough, according to Rashad, basketball was the only place on campus where their paths intersected. Engaged in different majors, different clubs and different activities, they “had to sneak in any time [they] could get together.” They both were involved on campus; Rashad is a member of the Joseph M. Linsey Brandeis Athletic Hall of Fame and participated in on-campus clubs, and Marsha was active in her positions as an Orientation Leader and an Admissions Office volunteer.
When prompted for advice to give to current college students in relationships, Rashad reflected on the similar athletic and academic goals and the sense of honesty that he and Marsha shared; these elements of their relationship helped them “stay on the same page.” He also noted that the expanding presence of social media provides “more outlets for communication” and can help students stay connected regardless of their different schedules and responsibilities.
As Rashad contemplated his favorite memory of Brandeis, he laughed and described it as a “funny story.” It was his first date with Marsha. A basketball movie titled “He Got Game” was coming out, so Rashad invited her to see it with him. However, he explained that he “asked Marsha to go to the movie literally four months before the movie was even coming out.” He said they “kinda joke about it now,” and his anticipatory invitation serves as a great Brandeis memory for them.
Fast-forward to 2016, and you will find the Williams in Portland, Ore., where they have resided for the past seven years. Rashad and Martha have two children together and are expecting a third this May. Rashad works as the director of footwear for Under Armor Basketball; Marsha has recently co-founded a charter school nearby.