My parents flashed me an awkward smile as President Falk addressed the Previews audience proclaiming that our future spouses may also be sitting in Chapin Hall. As if a pre-frosh didn’t have enough to be nervous about, the strange thought that the mac to your cheese could possibly be tossing a Frisbee on Frosh Quad or getting a coffee at Tunnel City could definitely add unneeded stress.
While I presume most students at the College aren’t here to earn an MR or MRS degree, there are definitely some myths floating around about Eph alumni being married to each other. It’s rural legend that 40, 60 or even a whopping 75 percent of alumni are married to one another. Frankly this is false. The verified percentage from Alumni Relations is 11.68 percent. As explained by Brooks Foehl ’88, director of alumni relations (who is married to a fellow Eph classmate), “That percentage [11.68 percent] is calculated as total number of alumni married to alumni divided by the populations of co-ed classes since 1971. Foehl adds that the Alumni Office is a “hot spot” with six staff members married to other Ephs. Mike Reopell, director of information, adds “we have 10,659 married alumni in the system since the (co-ed) Class of 1975. Of this number, 2506 are alums married to alums, so, of the co-ed married population, nearly 24 percent are alumni couples. This number is based on people who have self-reported their marital status to the College.” So although the number is not a mythical 60 percent, a large number of Ephs say “I do” to each other.
In pursuit of learning more about Eph marriages, I talked with some alums with insight on the matter. Brooks Foehl met his wife Alison Foehl ’88 on move-in day. After chatting at a party during First Days they became friends, and started dating at the beginning of their sophomore year. As Brooks Foehl also mentions, many aspects of the College’s environment must contribute to the high marriage rate. “Friendships with entrymates, classmates and, in some instances, teammates set themselves up well for longevity in relationships.” The small social climate is also definitely a large contributor; we aren’t in a big city and there isn’t much to do off campus. We Ephs are forced to spend a lot of time together, devoting less time to meeting students at other colleges, unlike schools located in New York City or Boston. However, a large amount of married Ephs did not start dating during their time at the College but rather met in metropolitan areas after graduation while working or reconnected at Williams reunions.
Another alum I had the pleasure of speaking with was Alison Sutton ’83 (married to Jeffrey Sutton ’83). Having had three children also attend the College, Alison Sutton expressed many benefits to having an Eph husband. “It makes revisiting the school even more fun than it would be otherwise: We know and share secret hangouts and understand sometimes silly stories about the donut man and the tunnels, Professors Dew, Fix, Hyde and Kozelka.”
I was also able to meet up with Keelia Riegg ’14 and Chris Riegg ’15 in Baxter Hall to hear a few of the many cute stories of their marriage. The two met while Chris Riegg was a pre-frosh and Keelia Riegg a first-year; they had a budding friendship that started the next year when Chris Riegg joined the Williams Christian Fellowship, Keelia Riegg already being an active member. The next summer they started a book club with a few friends, but it resulted in the two of them sending each other snail mail and talking on the phone. Their friendship bloomed into a relationship and the two were married last December. One benefit of attending a small college that Chris and Keelia Riegg were able to utilize was the strong relationships with many of the school’s amenities. Campus Safety and Security was a great help when he proposed to her at the top of Thompson Memorial Chapel as it helped with the logistics (Director of Security Dave Boyer himself and his wife laid out candles on the ground spelling out “Marry Me?”). Dining Services and the Office of Student Life were also great help when they were planning their on-campus wedding reception. It’s hard to think that these types of operations would be possible at a large school. Both of them applied for independent Winter Study 99 projects in Zanzibar shortly after their weddings. Both projects ended the first week so the rest was a part of their honeymoon, that the College helped fund, or what Chris Riegg referred to as, “milking the purple udder.” Their faculty sponsors knew what their actual plans were.
At the College we work on making connections, not necessarily going spouse hunting. For the most part, we are all intellectual, quirky and fun individuals. It is hard to predict what our connections may evolve into; your lab partner may become your bridesmaid one day, or you may become the godfather of an entrymate’s cow-onesie-wearing baby. There are also some friendships that may come to an end after graduation, hopefully to be rekindled decades down the road. Of course, the future is impossible to predict, but the College is a great place, if any, to foster meanginful long time friendships and relationships.
So talk to the girl waiting in line behind you in snack bar, or go get a coffee with that boy in your econ class. You never know where it could go.