Despite graduating in the same class, Curtin and McDonnell had not met each other until their senior year. “Michael was in the rugby, beer-drinking circle,” McDonnell said. “And I was in the African drumming circle.”
Rarely did those two circles ever intersect, but a College-sanctioned party for their class brought them together. When they ran into each other at the 86 Days Party (a keg party that was held 86 days before graduation), Curtin was instantly smitten and later asked McDonnell to the Spring Dance. “I think I totally caught her off guard, so against her better judgement, she said yes,” he said.
However, the night of the dance, Curtin was hospitalized after a serious back injury during a Little Three rugby tournament. He spent most of his time in the infirmary for the rest of their spring semester. When he later asked McDonnell to the Senior Dinner Dance, McDonnell turned him down. “I was kind of like, ‘I don’t even know this guy,’” she said. “We had totally different experiences … I really didn’t want to have this culminating Williams event with [someone other than] my great friends.”
“It was definitely the right move,” Curtin said.
“I’d never broken anyone’s heart,” McDonnell laughed. “He still talks about it.”
After graduation, the two parted ways. Curtin flew to Japan while McDonnell went back home to Buffalo, N.Y., and after several months of sporadic letters, they lost touch. A couple years later, McDonnell relocated to Washington, D.C. where, one fateful night, she ran into Curtin during her birthday pub crawl.
Soon afterward, she sent him a card with a watercolor painting of a Zen rock garden Curtin had constructed for a final project in an Asian Studies class. Within it, she had written her phone number. “It was a time when I was trying to reconnect with some Williams friends and the whole experience,” she explained.
McDonnell hadn’t written the letter with romantic intentions, but Curtin didn’t get the memo. The moment he received the card, he picked up the phone and left a voicemail: “Hey, this is Mike Curtin. I don’t know if you remember, but Saturday night is four years from the date that never was. Do you want to try again?”
“And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s more sentimental than I am,” McDonnell said. “‘I’m calling him up.’”
They married a year later in 1991 with a wedding reception chock-full of College friends and family. Despite the missed opportunities of senior year, the two said they have no regrets. “I don’t think it would have worked [if we began dating at Williams],” McDonnell said. “I think we both had maturing to do.”
“God knows, if we had gone to Spring Weekend, that probably would’ve been the end of it,” Curtin agreed. “We wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”