From MORTARBOARDS to Matrimony

In rooms across campus, seniors are trying on their caps and gowns as they prepare to enter the real world of financial independence.

But some Harvard students, who are getting ready for a new type of dependence, are trying on something slightly different--wedding gowns.

For at least three Harvard couples, springtime means love is in the air.

It's been much sweeter the second time around for Michael D. Simson '95 and Veronica Flood '95. The Currier House couple, who will graduate tomorrow and marry on July 8, first dated as first-years after they met through their Weld proctor group.

"Freshman year, we were both at different times involved with other people," Simson recalls. "I think I wanted to keep dating her, but I didn't."

Flood protests: "You're the one who broke up with me, just for the record."

Regardless of the details of the end of that first relationship, Simson asked Flood out again on November 20, 1992. Last fall, he proposed to her--on one knee--at Weld on the second anniversary of that second first date.

They will be married by The Rev. Preston Hannibal in a small ceremony at Memorial Church, with a reception following at the Faculty Club.

"It's going to be a nice typical Harvard wedding," Flood says with a smile.

The couple will live in Boston next year, while Simson attends Harvard Medical School and Flood goes to medical school at Tufts. That arrangement was decided long before Simson proposed in November.

"We had the complete same list of medical schools," Simson says. "Our goal was to go to medical school at least in the same city."

"It's sort of in the back of your mind," says Flood. "You always think, `What if I were to get married to this person I'm going out with?'"

Both Simson and Flood say their families have reacted to the marriage with excitement and support--as well as help in furnishing their first apartment.

"My mom is fond of telling me she is the reason we got together. She came up sophomore year right before we started dating, and she invited [him] to dinner," Flood says. "She's liked him ever since. My dad likes him better than he likes me."

Simson's parents were also married right after college. He says they were not at all surprised to learn he planned to marry Flood.

"I think they thought it was coming before we did," he says. "They thought, `If you're dating someone at the end of college, don't you usually get married?'"

Friends have been more surprised. Although most have been excited and have asked to come to the wedding, they have also expressed some concern that Simson and Flood are marrying too young, the couple says.

"I think it's the opposite," Simson says. "I think if I waited until later, had already started my career and got used to living on my own, it would be harder to change."

"Now I'm going to medical school, which is a change, and getting an apartment for the first time," he continues. "I'm going to be deciding a lot more about who I am and what my lifestyle is like. Being married during that time [will] be easier."

Despite embarking on a major lifestyle change, Flood and Simson say they're not very nervous about walking down the aisle.

"You're supposed to be nervous. In the magazines, everyone's running around all flighty," Flood says. "I feel like I should be more nervous than I am. That worries me...because usually I stress over every big decision."

"I'm more nervous than she is," Simson says. "I'm more nervous because I know I should be."

Two and a half years ago, when Simson asked Flood out for the second time, she says she was still mad at him for ending the first relationship. And saying yes was against her better judgment.

But she has no such qualms about marrying him next month.

"This time it's with my better judgment," she says as she places her hand affectionately on his knee.

Fortunate Match

When James S. Gwertzman '95 met the mother of his girlfriend, Sarah T. Stewart '95, during spring break of their first year, Stewart's mom made what has become an ironic prediction.

"My mom...reads palms," Stewart says. "She read James's palm. She said, `You're going to get married twice. The first time it's going to end in divorce.'"

Now, three years later, after having dated since October of their first year, Gwertzman and Stewart are engaged and determined to prove Stewart's mother wrong.

"Sarah is definitely the only person I've ever met who I can see myself 20 years from now still having fun talking to and living with," Gwertzman says.

The couple has yet to set a date because they feel they're not yet ready for marriage and because they will be living in two different cities come September. Gwertzman will be working for Microsoft in Seattle, and Stewart will be pursuing a Ph.D. at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

"There's no way we're going to stay together if we don't have the mind set that we are together," Gwertzman says. "This is a commitment to stay together, to grow together."

Gwertzman and Stewart first met while taking the same physics and math classes.

"I remember thinking, `She's a really smart woman. She's asking these really great questions,'" Gwertzman says. "I noticed her because she looks exactly like a friend from high school."

"He comes up to me in section and says, `Hi, I'm James, and you look just like a girl I knew in high school," Stewart recalls. "I'm thinking, `What an awful line. Get something new.'"

But the pair soon started studying together and had their first date on October 11. The relationship was casual for the two months until winter vacation, both say.

"Over Christmas break I realized that this relationship [wasn't] going anywhere," says Stewart. "I said, `I think I'm going to break up and just look around.'"

Gwertzman, though, felt differently about his relationship with Stewart.

"I was like, `Gosh, I really miss her. Maybethis is turning into love here,'" he says.

"I came back and said, `I think I really loveyou and I think we should date seriously,'" heremembers. "And she said, `I think we should breakup.'"

Gwertzman says he embarked on an intensive"wooing" effort and managed to win Stewart over byIntersession.

The situation was reversed though early thisspring, when Stewart, faced with the prospect ofliving 1,000 miles apart next year, decided thatthe time for a commitment had come.

"I swore to myself I would not become engagedas an undergraduate. I had heard too many horrorstories," Gwertzman says. "I was very wary."

But Stewart confronted him after a conversationtwo weeks before spring break with a friendengaged to be married in August.

"It wasn't exactly an ultimatum. But either we[were] going to make a commitment and startdeciding on things together or we [were] going todecide to go our separate ways," Stewart says. "Hemoved really quickly."

While Stewart was touring graduate schools overspring break, Gwertzman got up the nerve topropose.

"I finally decided to go out and buy the ring.I went down the escalator at the T stop in theSquare and went up the escalator and went down theescalator," he remembers.

"He had strong bachelor feelings," Stewartsays.

Gwertzman picked Stewart up at the airport whenshe returned to Boston and drove her to a bed andbreakfast in Kennebunkport, Maine, where heproposed at dinner that night.

"It was really romantic the way he asked," sheremembers. "All of a sudden the conversation gotonto marriage again. He's warning me, `You knowI'm going to be working very hard. I'm verydriven.'"

"After all these warnings, he says, `Well,we're agreed then.' He starts fumbling in hispocket. I went, `woah,'" Stewart says.

"He pulls [the ring] out and slides it acrossand says, `Will you marry me?'" she says. "And Isaid yes."

Long Distance Love Affair

While Gwertzman and Stewart are embarking on along distance relationship, Victoria Clisham '95and her fiance Scott Speder, a student at theUniversity of Arizona, are bringing theircross-country love affair to a close.

The couple, who have dated via telephone andairplanes for two years, will finally be togetherwhen they marry on August 4 in Wisconsin and moveto Arizona.

"It's been hard," she says. "I have a humungousphone bill."

Clisham and Speder almost didn't meet. Threeyears ago Speder was involved in a disastrous caraccident which should have killed him, she says.

"He is one of those miracle children," Clishamsays.

But Speder did survive and spent a summerrecuperating in Wisconsin while living with hisgrandparents, who are friends with Clisham'sfamily.

"The first summer I met him, he was there thewhole summer," she says. "We've always spentsummers together and all of the school holidays."

Clisham says she is not concerned aboutmarrying Speder even though they've never spentmore than three months together at a stretch.

"It's not a rash decision. I definitely knowhim. The times he spent with us he's lived with usin the house," she says. "I know the good and thebad. I know I want to spend the rest of my lifewith him."

Although Clisham and Speder had discussedmarriage, she says she was not expecting aproposal last summer.

"It was in a park, a favorite place of ours,"she says. "He took me by surprise, which he tendsto do."

Clisham said yes right away, and says her onlyregret is that she will be leaving her familybehind when she moves to Arizona to pursue acareer teaching history.

"I wouldn't have lived in Wisconsin anyway,"she says. "But it's a final break to get marriedand leave home. That's going to be hard,especially for my mom, because I'm really close toher."

Although she's had "complete strangers" tellher she's too young to get married, Clisham saysit's not too early. She will be 23 and Speder willbe 25 when they marry this summer.

"If someone had asked me freshman year if Ithought I'd be getting married right out ofcollege, I would have given them the big no,"Clisham says. "But there comes a point whereCrimsonGabriel B. EberSARAH T. STEWART '95 and JAMES S. GWERTZMAN'95