Running to the Altar With Diploma in Hand


Love and Harvard sometimes seem incompatible.

Surveys have shown that less than 50 percent of Harvard students have ongoing relationships. Discussions of male-female relationships usually center on sexual harassment and gender inequality. And typing the word "romance" into the HOLLIS library index brings up a list of works on dysfunctional, failed or dangerous love.

Some Harvard students, however, have overcome the stereotype of random hook-ups and formals with friends as dates. A small but proud percentage of the Class of 1993 will leave the singles scene soon after they leave Mother Harvard.

Some of these starry-eyed souls may have been pushed by forces beyond their control. With his last name, Alvin L. Valentine '93 of Cabot House would seem a sure candidate for successful love.

But one needs a little more than appropriate nomenclature to find a fiancee. Valentine and his destiny, Ana C. Guzman '93, first met among talk of fifth-level spells and Dr. Who characters at a meeting of the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.

Guzman and Valentine, who also knew each other from the Puerto-Rican Students Association, began dating in February 1991. "It was love at first sight," Valentine says. "I decided I should quit while I was ahead. If anything else, I'm an opportunist in life--and I know a good opportunity when I see one."

Valentine has lacked such good fortune, however, in other areas. Although he and Guzman had been discussing marriage as a possibility for two years, his repeated plans to propose to her kept falling through at the last minute--plans which many of his other friends knew about beforehand.

Finally, Valentine says, he popped the question in March of this year while vacationing in his hometown. "I got the flu immediately afterwards. The only good luck I've had is finding Ana," he says.

Valentine is not the only Cabotian preparing to take the plunge. Indeed, it would seem as though there is something in the water--or the isolation--of the Quad that encourages senior marriages.

Alicia R. Bloom '93 met fellow Cabot resident Kevin G. Flusk '91 in the fall of 1990. They began dating March 1, 1991, and were married exactly two years later.

Their first ceremony, held at the Cambridge City Hall, was rather small, says Bloom, but the two will be married again July 11 in a larger ceremony--after which they will both drop their current last names. The couple will adopt a neutral name and become Kevin and Alicia Thomas.

"The other options--my taking his name, both of us keeping our names or his taking my name--left something to be desired," she says. "This sort of avoids the non-feminist implications of women taking their husbands' last name, and it's a way to cement our link."

But fellow Quadling Daniel E. Kosowsky '93, a Currier resident, says he and his fiancee are going the more traditional route--she'll take his name when they get married on August 15. And, unlike Bloom and Valentine, Kosowsky will be wedding a non-Harvardian.

Kosowsky met Karen T. Ackerman, who just gradusted from Barnard College in New York, during a trip to Israel in the summer of 1990. "All Harvard relationships, at least the ones I've seen, tend to end miserably," he says. "I think that's why I went out with someone not from Harvard."

He got two vastly different reactions when he told his friends in roommates that he and Ackerman had gotten engaged early last fall. "[Half] of them were really happy, but the other half were shocked. They thought we were out of our minds," says Kosowsky.

Many seniors preparing for marriage have the same story to tell: Although their friends have congratulated them on finding their mate for life, many others are completely surprised that the people with whom they shared a hall, a proctor or Expos class are getting married.

Miriam J. Greener '93 had quite a piece of news for her roommates when she returned from a summer program in Israel this fall--the same program where Kosowsky met his future wife. She had run into a distant relative of hers while visiting his family and had become engaged to him a few weeks later.

"We had met six years before, but we didn't think much of each other then," she says of her fiance, Gady Abramson. "The first day I met him [again], I called home and couldn't stop talking about how wonderful he was."

Greener says her friends were supportive but stunned. "I think a lot of people find it very hard to understand because a lot of people aren't in this type of situation and can't imagine it," she says.

Elva D. Diaz '93 met her intended even later--in September, when she ran into him at a party. But her future husband, Spencer C. Punter '93, wasn't exactly a stranger to her friends. In fact, he lived in her house, Quincy--in the room where the party had been held.

The couple plans on holding its reception in the Quincy Senior Common Room after a Cambridge City Hall wedding the day following graduation. Their honeymoon will consist of a two-week ride across the country to California, where Diaz will attend graduate school and Punter will work at an investment firm.

"I was never the marrying type--I always said I'd wait until I was 30," Diaz says. "It was a last-minute decision...We got engaged over spring break."

Carl T. Bergstrom '93 of Currier House didn't surprise his roommates a year and a half ago after winter break when he announced his engagement to Holly N. Lauwers. Bergstrom had met Lauwers, who just gradusted from Syracuse University, in ninth grade, and he had begun dating her two years later.

"We decided to go to separate colleges because we weren't sure the relationship was right," Bergstrom says. "It became quite obvious to us by late October of freshman year where it was going."

Bergstrom's blockmate, Steven C. Krause '93, says he had expected the announcement sooner or later. "It seemed like the right thing to do," he says. "I can't imagine getting married now--but I'm sure if I had a girlfriend I'd been dating for the last six years, I'd consider it."

Scott H. Podolsky '93 also met his girlfriend, Amy Shapiro, during his first year of high school. Podolsky and Shapiro, a recent graduate of Boston University, started dating the next year and got engaged a year ago last May.

"When I first came here, I wasn't sure, but I realized pretty quickly when I got up here," Podolsky says. "We realized we were both happy and felt really complete around each other."

Podolsky says he has enjoyed having a "safe haven" with Shapiro at BU, despite the distance. "I've gotten used to taking the T," he says.

John H. Cawley '93 met his fiancee even earlier than Bergstrom or Podolsky. Cawley and Dharma E. Bilotta went to grade school and most of high school together, both participating on the speech and debate team.

But after Bilotta transferred to a different high school, Cawley didn't see her again--until two years ago, when he bumped into her on a street corner in their hometown of Scranton, Pa.

Cawley proposed to Bilotta last month on the middle of one of the bridges over the Charles River. "We ran down to the river and I asked her at midnight," says Cawley (although Bilotta claims it was closer to 1:30 a.m.).

Bilotta says she had an inkling that Cawley would be the man for her when she told him, right after their reunion two years ago, about her baby daughter Amanda (who is now almost three years of age). "One of the first things he said to me was 'A baby? I love babies! I can't wait to have a baby! He's very family-oriented."

The two say their long-distance relationship has been stressful, but also beneficial at times. "When we were together, we would be together intensely. We never had any competition, as we would have if we were going to the same school," Cawley says. "At the same time, I think I needed someone."

Steven T. Flomenhoft '93 is another senior who knows about romance over the telephone wires. His wife, Debbie A. Auer '92, has been living in Kentucky for more than a year taking pre-med courses.

As he pursues a professional hockey career and she attends medical school in Kentucky during the next few years, the two will have to be apart frequently. It was the prospect of his fiancee having to deal with wedding plans all on her own, says Auer, that led them to elope to New Hampshire on March 15.

"It was on the spur of the moment," he says. "It was her spring break. Massachusetts requires a blood test, so the timing wouldn't have worked out."

Flomenhoft says his friends and family were surprised at the suddenness of his marriage, but not displeased. "They all were pretty happy. It's nice to have everyone come up and shake hands."

Some engagements were even more unexpected. Richard L. Levy '93 had lived ir, the same building as Sage C. Stossel '93, a former graphics editor for The Crimson, for almost four years, first in Wigglesworth and then in Cabot House. He had asked her to the CityStep Ball during their first year but was turned down, and "she basically spurned me for four years," he says.

While sitting at the Cabot Senior Dinner in early May, however, an inspiration came to Levy. He borrowed a ring from a friend stood up and proposed to Stossel in a toast, much to the amusement of the others at the dinner. Although Stossel was completely taken aback; he says, she accepted the proposal.

"I guess I just grew on her," Levy says. "We were never officially sort of going out. If I had let myself think I was serious before the last minute, I don't think I would have done it."

He says their engagement is still somewhat up in the air, but that they have talked considerably about getting married.

"I've had relationships at Harvard--I had a very difficult one, but it had nothing to do with this. Maybe it was good that I never had a relationship with her," Levy says.

Stossel says although the two were simply "very good friends for four years," they had talked about marriage before. "But I was not expecting it at the senior dinner," she says.CrimsonJamie W. BillettMIRIAM J. GREENER '93 will soon marry her flancee, GADY ABRAMSON (top), while STEVEN T. FLOMENHOFT '93 eloped with DEBBIE A. AUER '92 last March (bottom).