True Blue I Do’s

Red might be the traditional color of Valentine’s Day, but for many U-M alumni, true love’s hue is Maize and Blue.
Read time: 13 minutes

U-M is not only a center of academic excellence, but also the backdrop of untold numbers of romantic relationships that form between students. We share just a few stories of couples who met their mates while at the University.

Valerie Lemper Bullen, ’51, and Lawrence L. Bullen ’51, JD’54

Valerie Lemper Bullen, ’51, and Lawrence L. Bullen ’51, JD’54Lawrence: I was a first-year law student in the fall of 1951 and studied all the time. Because I had no social life that year, I knew no girls.

So one day I called my cousin, Ruth Torrant, ’53, MD’57, who was a member of Tri Delt sorority, to get me a date. She came through. The nice young woman with whom she fixed me up later invited me to the Tri Delt Christmas party at Washtenaw Country Club. A young alum of Tri Delt who was teaching in the Ann Arbor Schools, Val Lemper, was going to drive us there. When I arrived at the sorority house, I learned that Val’s date also had a car. Val looked over the group and chose me as the “most mature and reliable-looking person” to drive her mother’s ’49 Plymouth to the party. All went well, and the car made it back to Val in good shape. I did not see her again for more than two months.

A mutual friend, Jack Schantz, ’51, JD’54, asked me if I remembered the girl with the ’49 Plymouth and, if so, would I like a date with her. Val picked me up that evening—Friday, Feb. 13, 1953—at the Law Quad. Among our stops was the Pretzel Bell, where they were selling red beer in celebration of Valentine’s Day the next day.

She later reported to me that she didn’t like me very well because I was sort of a braggart and a bit pushy. However, she did agree to Sunday night supper at the Gingham Inn on Washtenaw Avenue. That went better; we saw each other twice during the next week.

I learned she had been engaged to a medical student, George, until the past summer. I became a gentle counselor rather than an anxious suitor and told her I thought she was still carrying a torch for George. “Call him,” I urged her. She later reported to me that I was so kind and understanding that she had a veritable epiphany, concluding that I was much better than George. She had decided by our next date that she was going to marry me. On Feb. 27, I took her to a Schuler’s Restaurant in nearby Jackson and then to my folks’ home to show her off.

Bingo! That night in the front seat of the ’49 Plymouth—in the Law Quad parking lot, where the underground library now is located—she accepted my fraternity pin. We married on Aug. 29, 1953, after knowing each other for six months and two weeks.

Our marriage lasted more than 67 years. We welcomed four children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. The greatest gift besides the wonderful memories of the whole family is the unbelievable range of accomplishments of our offspring.

We lost Val on Nov. 15, 2019. While I desperately miss her, my kids and their children and grandchildren are a great help in our joint grief in the loss of my life’s partner.

Claire Kaup, MA’12, JD’12, and Anastasia Kaup, JD’10

Claire Kaup, MA’12, JD’12, and Anastasia Kaup, JD’10Claire: I met Anastasia in the spring of 2008 at the Law School. I was a student there and a member of Outlaws, the Law School’s LGBTQ+ student group, and she was visiting as a prospective student. We talked a bit at an Outlaws event for prospective students, and I liked her right away. Kind, funny, and super cute—what was not to like?

Lucky for me, Anastasia decided to come to U-M, and I had the chance to awkwardly flirt with her for months. We reconnected in Outlaws and the student group for animal lovers and animal rights supporters. I tried everything, from attempting to woo her with my dachshund, Charlie, to making her an elaborate vegan birthday cake. We had our first date at Seva, and the rest, so they say, is history.

Anastasia proposed to me at the Law Quad (the same place, incidentally, we took our engagement pictures). We were both still students then. Gay marriage was still not legal in Michigan when we got married in 2010, so we trekked out to Cape Cod in the winter (not our best plan in terms of weather!). Afterward, we had a lovely wedding ceremony at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, complete with Zingerman’s brownies at the reception.

Since then, due to graduate education, teaching, and various professional opportunities (and career changes), Anastasia and I have lived in New York, Tokyo, Chicago, and Indianapolis; adopted a collection of hairless and hairy cats; and enjoyed a series of adventures in our travels.

Anastasia is a managing director in a consulting firm, and I am a special victims prosecutor. Our love is quirky and unconventional, and I still try to flirt with her via vegan baked goods.

Anastasia currently serves as the vice chair of the University of Michigan LGBTQ+ Alumni Association, which allows her to give back to the LGBTQ+ and U-M communities she so loves and cares for. She also serves as co-chair of her Law School Class Reunion Committee.

Tao Tao Wang, ’06, and Andrew Wong, ’07

Tao Tao Wang, ’06, and Andrew Wong, ’07Tao Tao: I was in an Asian sorority, and Andrew had just joined our brother fraternity. While we were more acquaintances in the beginning, we got to know each other better during the summer of 2004. We both stayed on campus that summer to work and take classes and had mutual friends who had also stayed.

Friends started to leave after the first session, so it was just the two of us hanging out. He would come over to do laundry, and we’d watch a movie together. I distinctly remember making him watch “Laguna Beach” with me, and we turned “I LUV U” into an inside joke.

Toward the end of the summer, we went to Purdue for a weekend for a party—he went with his friends, and I went with mine. I drove to my family’s home immediately after the weekend, and Andrew and I didn’t talk the entire time. However, he was the first person I saw when I got back to Ann Arbor, and we made things official that night when he got down on one knee and officially asked me to be his girlfriend.

I ended up working for an automotive supplier in the Detroit area after graduation, so we got another year together before he graduated and moved to New York. I stayed in Michigan, so we had a long-distance relationship.

At one point, we had been together long distance more than we had been in the same city as we crisscrossed the country for various reasons. Because of the financial crisis of 2008, Andrew moved back to Michigan for work, but I moved to Indiana for my MBA (coincidentally at Purdue) a few months later. He ended up going to the San Francisco after almost a year in MIchigan, and I ended up in D.C. after graduation.

I slowly made my way West with a pit stop in Arizona. After five years of long distance, I made the leap to San Francisco. In 2013, Andrew suggested a trip to visit Ann Arbor and proposed to me in front of the Rock. We got married exactly one year later and are still in the Bay Area with our three toddlers.

Katherine Thompson, ’05, MA’13, and French F. Thompson III, ’06Katherine Thompson, ’05, MA’13, and French F. Thompson III, ’06

Katherine: I met French during his first year as an engineering student at U-M in 2004, which happened to be my senior year. French spent his first three years of college at Morehouse College, where he studied applied physics. A friend kept telling me that there were some guys from Morehouse that I just had to meet. I figured that “having to meet” anyone was a stretch, but I gladly obliged.

French and I met in the library, of all places. We would continue to run into each other there over the next several weeks. While the library is a place where you want to be known for being a diligent student, French came to know me as a talker. On my study breaks, I would roam the library and look for unsuspecting victims who were very focused and then interrupt their studies. During these exchanges, French and I learned to appreciate being acquainted and entertained the prospect of being friends.

With a very important ball on the horizon for my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, I decided to ask French if he would be my escort. We began to spend a lot more time together as we planned for the big night. During the ball, French met my family, who came to support me during the momentous occasion. It was during this evening that my mother realized something that it would take me years to realize: that she met her future son-in-law.

In that season, the sparks weren’t enough, and we decided to go our separate ways. Fast forward one year: I return to campus to visit and run into French! What a refreshing encounter. This time, the sparks were immediately detected, and we both decided to commit to exploring what a relationship would be like.

French and I dated long-distance for four years before getting engaged in 2009. Our journey began on July 2, 2010. Today, our journey continues in true Team Thompson fashion. We are the proud parents of an intelligent, witty, and funny 7-year-old son; a loving, creative, and intelligent 4-year-old daughter; and a vibrant, yet sleepy 13-year-old miniature pinscher. Most importantly, we are committed to stewarding a love that began in the library.

Christel Drew, ’03, and Bernard Drew, ’03Christel Drew, ’03, and Bernard Drew, ’03

Bernard: I met Christel in October 2000 at the Michigan Union, where she was hosting the Honoring the Black Man Program for her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. I was attending because I was beginning my journey toward membership in the unofficial brother fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. It was the beginning of our junior year. I was a mechanical engineering major, and she was in the School of Education.

Christel was brilliant, bold, and stunning. I’ve got witnesses who will affirm my expression that she was the finest woman on campus. I wondered, “Where has she been these last two years?”

Things moved quickly after we met. After a casual conversation and a couple of study sessions, we discovered that we had stumbled upon a once-in-a-lifetime relationship. It seemed meant to be. For example, we share the same birthday, coming into the world only 27 minutes apart. That date was Easter Sunday, April 6, 1980.

By Jan. 1, 2001, I knew she was “the one,” and we were engaged in May. Within seven months of meeting, we were engaged to be married! Our first child, Cara, was born while we were still students on campus, entering our fifth year of undergraduate studies. She was born a Wolverine and lived on campus during her first year of life. She is a graduating senior this year at Michigan State University, majoring in education and was voted Miss Black MSU this fall! We lovingly tell her she goes green but bleeds blue. Our second child, Joshua, is 12 years old and he has worn a Michigan hat daily since he was 2 years old. He is the light of our lives!

Our paths have evolved into ministry and service, as Christel is a high school principal and I serve as a pastor of a church in Flint, Michigan, where we reside. This summer, we will celebrate 20 years of marriage!

Lura Lincoln Cook, MA’34, and Gerhard Albert Cook, PhD’35

Lura Lincoln Cook, MA’34, and Gerhard Albert Cook, PhD’35Alan Cook, son of Gerhard and Lura: In the fall of 1933, Gerhard was a 26-year-old graduate student in chemistry who had lost money in a bank closure. He had a minor lab assistantship, but it didn’t pay much.

Still, man does not live by lab experiments alone, and at a meeting of the Graduate Outing Club, he saw a young woman “across a crowded room.” She was beautiful, quite tall, and had short brown hair, and although he was too shy to approach her, he believed he would see her again.

Lura, who had also lost money in a bank closure, was intent on getting a master’s degree after teaching high school history for two years. She shared a job in a men’s rooming house with her sister, Joyce, that included making the men’s beds and washing dishes.

On Nov. 25 of that year, the outing club sponsored a 10-mile hike to a Boy Scout camp on the Huron River. Gerhard went with his friend, Headlee, keeping his eyes open, and spotted Lura walking with another woman, Anne. Gerhard got his courage up and nudged Headlee; they joined Lura and Anne. While Gerhard found Lura to be charming, she and Anne agreed that the men were nice but not “foot-sweepers” (i.e., capable of sweeping someone off her feet).

However, Gerhard and Lura soon went to a dance together at the Michigan Union and then on other inexpensive dates. Sometimes they went to Lura’s rooming house after a date for refreshments and to warm up in front of the fire. Gerhard, who sang with the Choral Union and played the piano, played for the tone-deaf Lura. He also took her canoeing on the Huron River.

In April 1934, Gerhard asked Lura to marry him, but she turned him down. The Great Depression made marriage and a career incompatible for working women because they couldn’t get jobs. However, in May she fell in love with him. In June, they went swimming in contaminated water and Lura got an intestinal infection. She wrote the last exam for her master’s degree in a kind of haze and then went to her family’s farm in Harbor Beach, Michigan, for complete bed rest.

During the 1934-35 school year, Gerhard continued working on his Ph.D. while Lura taught at the Harbor Beach Freshman College. Gerhard went to Harbor Beach when he could. He bought a used Ford for $40, which made the 160-mile commute easier. They agreed to get married in Ann Arbor on June 14, 1935.

But on June 13, Gerhard was diagnosed with measles and put into quarantine at the Health Service. Lura stayed in his rooming house and sat outside his hospital room door during the day. He was released on June 19, and they were married in the parlor of Gerhard’s rooming house. Their marriage lasted for 58 years.

Elkena Jackson, ’16, MACC’17, and Raymond Jackson, ’13

Elkena Jackson, ’16, MACC’17, and Raymond Jackson, ’13Raymond: The first time we saw each other was at a U-M football game in the fall of 2012. I caught a glimpse of Elkena a couple rows back as I made my way to the student section of the Big House. I wouldn’t call it love at first sight, but there was something about Elkena that caused me to do a double take and nervously wave at her. (Side note: I don’t usually wave to strangers, and I’m sure Elkena didn’t wave back.)

From that point on, I was determined to get to know Elkena, even if it was just her name. After the football game, I remember asking a few of my friends if they knew her. Once I had no luck, I was forced to do the millennial thing: I searched for her through our mutual friends on Facebook. After introducing myself and a couple awkward conversations later, we began to see each other at events in the Black community around the University. Every time we met, the butterflies were there for both of us.

The following football season, Elkena saw me tweeting about football, and the rest is history.

Elkena: Our first date was October 2013 on Sweetest Day, we went to see a scary movie. Some of our other dates/times together included Raymond coming over to the lounge at Helen Newberry to watch my home church online. On Feb. 1, 2014, we went bowling in Ann Arbor and Raymond asked me to be his girlfriend.

Since then, we have experienced a lot of life together. We got engaged on Dec. 14, 2018, and married Jan. 4, 2020. We’ve also welcomed three children—Rayla, Raymond, and Ryan—and are happily building and growing together and looking forward to all that God has in store for us.

Meredith (Westerlund) Schneider, ’13, and Matt Schneider, ’12

Meredith (Westerlund) Schneider, ’13, and Matt Schneider, ’12Meredith: I first met Matt through the Public Service Internship Program (PSIP), which helps U-M students find summer internships in Washington, D.C. Introduced by a mutual friend, we became good friends while exploring the city and, once we were back on campus for our senior year, continued to hang out and grow our friendship.

Matt graduated early and went back to D.C. to begin working. After graduating and working in Ann Arbor for the summer, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in D.C. and began to interview for jobs. Matt graciously let me stay on his couch (in a tiny apartment) when I came out for final-round interviews. We continued to be good friends once I officially moved, seamlessly joining our U-M friend groups.

Several months later, Matt grew the courage to ask me out on a date. It was a big step after being friends for more than two years, but worth the wait. The rest is history, so to speak—we dated for eight years as we both went to graduate school and built our careers. In 2019, Matt asked me to marry him at our favorite place in the city, the Lincoln Memorial, at sunset. It was extra special since we used to go there often as PSIP interns—our story had come full circle.

When planning our wedding, Ann Arbor felt like the natural choice to celebrate our relationship. It was amazing walking around campus taking wedding photos, reminiscing with our bridal party (many of whom also went to U-M), and knowing that the University and PSIP are why we are together.

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