Retriever Love Week: The Big Wedding Scene at the End

For our final Retriever Love Week 2016 post, we’d like to share a story told to us by Jen Dress, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Student Life. Jen works closely with students throughout their college careers through organizations like (seb), and when these students become alumni, they will occasionally ask her to officiate their weddings. She’s married no less than five couples at this writing, and is preparing for a sixth next spring.

Dress (center) officiated the Bricklemyers’ wedding in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Jen Dress).

“I started creating wedded bliss a little bit by chance.  I had a former student and student then turned staff member from some pretty different family and religious backgrounds who said, hey we got engaged, so can you marry us?  And the internet said I could and it just sort of snowballed from there.  Basically you can go online and submit your name to be able to file paperwork for folks and become an officiant.  My first wedding was Ryan and Sameeha Bricklemyer [who were featured on the blog on Wednesday].  

“I also officiated for Jay Lagorio ’08, computer science, and Cassie Lagorio ’09, political science and psychology; Beth and Simon Reilly; and Morgan Simonds ’12, psychology, and John Privot ’12, psychology and environmental studies. […]  I officiated for former staff member Stephanie Hemling and her husband Steven Palinkas as well.  Stephanie was such a fan of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, so we made sure to incorporate that into the ceremony script.  In some ways writing the stories for the wedding script has been a fairly easy task because I spent so much time working with and growing with these people at UMBC.  To be able to tell their stories in front of their families and friends really brings things full circle for me.  

“The weddings are such a stumble down memory lane.  I meet them when they are 18 and now they are headed down this path of marriage and family and all that goes with it.  To see how their lives have unfolded and the UMBC friendships they have maintained […] speaks to the power of this place.  They make friends here and sometimes meet their person here!  I love my job because I get to be part of these major transitions for our students every single day.  And at face value I work with the fun stuff, but it’s so much more than that.  The stories and memories and moments and growth are so hard to even capture in words.  For that connection to remain and to be with them, standing by them at such a critical point in their lives is humbling.  I love doing it and feel so incredibly lucky to be asked.  

The Lagorios, who met during a UMBC Musical Theatre Club production in 2008, were married by Dress in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Cassie Lagorio.)

“I have a million memories and there are a ton of alums at these events, but one of my favorite memories is from Jay and Cassie Lagorio.  Jay worked with the Commons Operations staff and my team and was instrumental in supporting large scale concerts on campus.  Concerts always have credentials, these lanyards that allow you access backstage, etc.  Jay had credentials created for his wedding party was pretty funny.  We all wore the lanyards to ‘work his wedding.'”

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!

Retriever Love Week: Day 6

Surprise, folks! We got so many responses to our call for your UMBC love stories that we’re extending Retriever Love Week 2016 EVEN FURTHER into the weekend. Feel all of the love!

johnandIStefanie Thomas Commins ’06, mathematics,
says that her husband John Commins ’06, information systems, was one of the first people she met at UMBC, through the track and cross country teams. During their junior year, when Stefanie and John started spending more time together, they found that their feelings for each other had deepened, and decided to pursue a relationship.

On the night of Stefanie’s last final exam — she says it was a stressful one — John took her to a relaxing dinner, drove her home, and proposed. She said yes, and shortly after they graduated together in December 2006, they got married. They are now the parents of five: daughter Katie was born in 2008, only son Caleb arrived in 2010, and in 2013, the family grew even more with the birth of identical triplets Rebekah, Sarah, and Kylie.

Stefanie says that she and John continue to balance their professional careers with the responsibilities of parenthood. The family lives in a Catonsville house that John and Stefanie would run past in college, “just a mile from where we first met.” (Photo courtesy of Stefanie Commins.)

weddingBrian Frazee ’11, political science, and M.P.P. ’12, public policy, and Angela Brant Frazee ’11, psychology and sociology, were both resident assistants at UMBC, and got to know each other through their mandatory RA class. They’ve been together ever since, and were married last spring. (Photo courtesy of Brian Frazee.)

IMG_5979Brad Borowy ’11, environmental science, and Tori Chanda ’13, psychology, went on their first date on November 11, 2010, after a mutual friend set them up. On July 2, 2015, they were on their way to a friend’s house when Brad asked Tori if she wanted to stop by campus, to see how much it had changed since they graduated.

They walked around for a while, and when they came to the statue of True Grit in front of the RAC, Brad told Tori to rub the dog’s nose for good luck, as is customary before exams. She did, and when she turned around, Brad was down on one knee with a ring in his hand. A November 12, 2016, wedding is planned, and Tori writes, “…we are looking forward to what the future holds.

“UMBC was more than an education to us. The memories will last a lifetime.” (Photo courtesy of Brad Borowy and Tori Chanda.)

Jess and JonJon Kerr ’10, ancient studies, and Jessica Ruth Baker ’12, theatre, began dating during Snowpocalypse 2010. “We had been friends for a while, having both worked at the Chesapeake Front Desk, but we started hanging out more and more as the snow fell, and we never stopped spending all of our time together!” writes Jessica.

“Now, six years later, we have moved across the country to Portland, Oregon, to seek new experiences and adventure. We have only been here a few months, and miss Baltimore terribly, but we are so excited for our new life out here on the West Coast!” (Photo courtesy of Jessica Ruth Baker.)

Jennifer Mack Abrams ’97, mathematics, and her now-husband, Ed Abrams ’97, psychology, were both involved in Greek life during their time at UMBC (Delta Phi Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon, respectively). They met in 1995, got married in 1999, and live in Catonsville with their two children.

Jenna Poland ’12, modern languages and linguistics, met her fiance, James Mortensen, at UMBC in 2008. They will be getting married in October.

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!

Retriever Love Week: Day 5

Well, fellow romantic Retrievers and interested onlookers, the end is almost here…the end of Retriever Love Week 2016, that is. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these stories as much as we’ve enjoyed putting them together. We’ve also compiled a UMBC couples photo album on Facebook, which can be found here. If you’d like to see yourself and your significant other featured there, send us your story and a photo at 

2016-02-19 13_46_17-Salma and Tim’s Musket Ridge Wedding on Vimeo
Watch Tim and Salma’s wedding video, produced by Monachetti.

Salma Warshanna Sparklin ’11, English, says that she and her husband, Timothy Sparklin ’09, history and interdisciplinary studies, have UMBC to thank for their marriage, and that “[culture], food, writing, and poetry brought [them] together.”

“We used to run into each other at the AOK Library. Without knowing the other person was doing it, we each changed our usual study spot to run into the other person more often,” she writes. “We started studying together and taking long walks around campus.”

Soon after their friendship began, Tim graduated, and Salma left for a semester abroad in Wales. They kept in touch by exchanging six-to-eight-page letters transatlantically, and they made their relationship official when Salma returned.

In 2012, while walking along one of the first trails they’d ever walked together, Tim proposed to Salma under what they called the Giving Tree, after the Shel Silverstein book of the same name. Their August 2013 wedding was, as Salma describes it, “a mash-up of Polish, American, and Middle Eastern cultural traditions.” They held the ceremony at the Islamic Society of Baltimore (the mosque President Obama visited earlier this year), and a reception at the Musket Ridge Golf Course in Frederick County.

The Sparklins now live in Catonsville. Salma currently works as a writer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Tim is a nursing student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and he still frequents the RAC as an aikido instructor. It seems that a connection to UMBC runs in the family: Tim’s father, Timothy Sparklin ’81, sociology, works in the university’s Office of Research Protections and Compliance.

IMG_3805When it comes to love stories, there’s “meet cute,” and then there’s “rescue the prince.” Raven Gronsbell ’15, emergency health services, had to do exactly that for a Search and Rescue course back in 2011, searching for her student TA, Michael Miller ’14, emergency health services, in the woods of New Germany State Park.

The attraction, Raven says, was immediate, but the pair didn’t really start getting to know each other until the following semester, while she was studying abroad in Peru. “Once we started building a relationship, we counted down the days until I got back to the U.S. and started dating immediately after,” she says. The day she landed in Baltimore, they went on their first date to the National Aquarium.

The couple have been together ever since, and have returned as staff to the Search and Rescue course every year. They saw each other through an intensive paramedic training program, and are now paramedics on the Eastern Shore. (Photo courtesy of Raven Gronsbell.)

IMG_2508.JPGAnd now, in her own words, a story from Morgan Thomas ’13, political science, about how she met Ricardo Francis ’13, M21, biochemistry and molecular biology:

“My mom, [Valerie Thomas, UMBC’s Associate Vice President for Human Resources,] looked at me one day and said, ‘I had a dream about you last night.’

I was in high school at the time, and terribly sarcastic, so I looked over at her with a smirk and said ‘Oh really? What was it about?’

She said, ‘I had a dream that you went to UMBC and [were] dating a Meyerhoff.’

Thinking this was a ploy to get me to go, I challenged her. ‘Oh really, what did he look like? What was his name?’

She said she didn’t know the answer to either of my questions but the look on her face was serious and somewhat mystified. ‘All I know is he was a Meyerhoff.’

Flash forward about a year later, when I moved into Susquehanna Hall for the beginning of my freshman year. I ran into this guy with an accent and I asked him where he was from.

‘Jamaica! Can’t you tell?!’ his friend chided me. The guy just laughed and the two walked off. Turns out that was my Meyerhoff. The guy with the Jamaican accent that laughed at me when I couldn’t pinpoint it. His name: Ricardo Francis.

Flash forward to the summer before junior year, when I was doing research for Dr. Tyson King-Meadows and taking summer classes. I was at home one night on Facebook and saw that he was online. I sent him the casual ‘hey’ and we started chatting, and chatting turned into a scheduled first date.

The first date turned into another and we just kind of fell into it. None of our friends saw it coming. But here we are, almost 5 years later, still together and still happy. We’ve now transitioned into a long-distance relationship. I’m in my third year nearing graduation at University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and he is in his third year at Baylor University, pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry.

We’re not sure what’s next, but the story continues…” 

(Photo courtesy of Morgan Thomas.)

Read more about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!

Retriever Love Week: Day 4, Part 2

And now, for the second half of today’s Retriever love stories…

philly (1)Mitch Case ’11, media and communication studies, met Brian Brown ’13, biochemistry and molecular biology, on the STRiVE Leadership Retreat in the winter of 2010. They started dating soon after, and will have been together six years this March. Brian is currently enrolled in the M.D./Ph.D. program at the NYU School of Medicine, and after nearly three years in a long-distance relationship, Mitch recently moved to New York to be closer to Brian and to pursue his next opportunity. (Photo courtesy of Mitch Case.)

IMG_5815.JPGAna Schultz ’15, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Alex Lombardi ’15, information systems, dated all four of their years at UMBC. Says Ana: “[We] believe that being [Retrievers] together helped make [our] relationship as strong as it is today.” They will celebrate their seventh anniversary this fall. (Photo courtesy of Ana Schultz.)

image1Joseph Eassa ’11, history, and Alison D’Ottavio ’12, modern languages and linguistics, had an education class together and were partners for a project. They became close friends for a year before Alison went to Spain to study abroad, and when she came back, they became a couple. They have been living in New York City for almost three years, and celebrated their five-year anniversary on Thursday, February 11. They got engaged on a trip to Panama in December, with a wedding date to be determined. (Photo courtesy of Alison D’Ottavio.)

10414619_663354453712316_4984570627771330482_nOn the night of their microeconomics midterm in the spring of 2013, Kiara Berg ’15, business technology administration, and Justin Mahaney ’15, business technology administration, struck up a conversation, but Justin couldn’t quite place Kiara’s accent. She says that when she told him she was from Sweden, “he was hooked from then on.”

She had forgotten her pencil, so he lent her one. After the midterm, she hung around outside so they could talk more. He asked her if she wanted to start a study group together, which, Kiara later found, was “the college way of asking someone out.” They have been a couple since May 2013, and moved in together last summer. (Photo courtesy of Kiara Berg.)

FB_IMG_1455334350000As UMBC lacrosse players, Jen Dragoni Muston ’04, American studies, and Pat Muston ’04, psychology, ran in a lot of the same social circles. “Soon after freshman move-in, we became best friends,” Jen writes. “We hung out in between classes on campus and attended each other’s games.” By 2002, they had begun dating, and Jen says they’ve been inseparable ever since.

They got married in Cape May, New Jersey, on August 28, 2010, with about 25 of their closest friends and fellow Retrievers in attendance. When Pat was scouting out proposal spots, he picked the back steps leading up to Potomac Hall, where he says he first saw her leaving for lacrosse practice in 2000.

“He says that day, he knew there was something special,” says Jen. (Photo courtesy of Jen Muston.)

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!

Retriever Love Week: Day 4, Part 1

We’re in the homestretch of Retriever Love Week here at the Alumni House, and we have quite a few stories left to go, so we’re making multiple posts today! Enjoy these tales of UMBC romance, and stay tuned for the next round…

natbradSome of these stories, like the one Natalie Bacon Lockett ’03, visual and performing arts, sent our way, begin even before the college years! Natalie met her now-husband, Brad Lockett ’07, information systems, at the Black Student Overnight the spring before freshman year. One of the ice-breakers involved finding someone from the same area as you, and Brad, a New Jersey native, recognized Natalie’s Ocean Township High School T-shirt and made a beeline for her.

As it turned out, they lived just 20 minutes away from each other back in the Garden State, and had a lot of friends in common. Natalie says they hit it off right away, but they didn’t exchange information that day.

The next time they saw each other was at placement testing that summer. “As he tells the story, I was sitting by the pencil sharpener, and he broke his pencil [on purpose]  so that he would have to come by me and sharpen it,” Natalie says with a smile. They continued to talk after the test, but still didn’t exchange info.

On the first day of college, outside the old Pub at the University Center, Brad and Natalie ran into each other a third time, and she was so happy to see him she gave him “a HUGE hug.” By October 2, 1999, the two were officially dating, and in 2008, nine years to the day after they first became an item, the Locketts got married in old Ellicott City.

After seven years, Natalie says they’re “going strong,” and hopes that their two small children, born in 2012 and 2015, will be Retrievers someday. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Lockett, taken at the Black and Gold Ball c. 1999-2000.)

940984_10101206129478803_2967882375291134880_nIn 2002, Michelle Jabes Corpora ’03, English and theatre, was the Retriever Weekly’s theatre critic, and Adam Corpora ’03, music, was one of the stars of that year’s production of Baby With the Bathwater. The pair had seen each other around at various Artist Scholars functions before, but it wasn’t until the dress rehearsal that Michelle attended to review that they were formally introduced.

“I guess I could say I started falling in love with him that night, because he was so ridiculously funny onstage,” says Michelle. She even called him out by name in her Retriever review of the show. But she didn’t see him again for another few weeks, until he and his roommates sat next to her and hers in the dining hall one night. From then on, the group was inseparable, and after “months of cajoling” from their friends, Michelle and Adam started dating the summer between their sophomore and junior year.

Defining moments [in our relationship] happened on the UMBC campus: arguments in the [Erickson] courtyard, a first ‘I love you’ on the hill by the old apartments, many nights of fun with friends walking back to the dorms after picking up pizza and chips from The Spot,” Michelle says now. “He wanted to be a music teacher, and I wanted to be a writer—but those things were still so far away then.”

Michelle and Adam have been married for ten years now, and live in New York City with their two children. Michelle works in children’s book publishing – “Believe it or not, […] they pay me to dream up and write stories!” – while Adam is the music teacher at a middle school in Queens. This coming summer, they’ll be moving back to Maryland to raise their family and rejoin their loved ones. Michelle says that upon her return, she plans to revisit those places on campus where their relationship began.

“It’s been a wonderful journey, and we’re so happy to be coming home,” she says. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Corpora.)

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!



Retriever Love Week: Day 3

We’re halfway through our unofficial Valentine’s Extension Week! We’ve shared so many great stories with you already, and we have plenty more to go. We hope you’re feeling the love as much as we are.

FB_IMG_1455718451858Megan Smell Tarver ’04, psychology, remembers meeting her husband Curtis Tarver ’03, psychology, in their experimental psych class during her sophomore and his junior year. Curtis, on the other hand, remembers her from their sociology class the semester before, and from seeing her around Patapsco, where he worked at the desk.

“We didn’t actually become a couple until the waning days of my undergraduate career – just in time for me to head off to Florida for graduate school a few months later,” Curtis writes.

They decided to break up due to the distance, but, as Curtis puts it, that didn’t take. At their 2010 wedding, held in Baltimore County, they walked down the aisle to the UMBC alma mater, surrounded by friends and family, many of whom are also alumni. Today, the Tarvers live in Greensboro, North Carolina, with their two children, four-year-old Anastasia and two-year-old Austin. (Photo by Jason Putsché ’01, information systems, courtesy of Curtis Tarver.)

DSCN0369aIn the spring of 1996, Matthew Koenigsberg ’98, English, was a transfer student from Catonsville Community College when he first sat behind his now-wife, Jessica Koenigsberg ’97, English, in an Early American Literature class. They got to know each other through the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus, and by the end of that year, they were close friends.

When the semester ended, Jess went back to her parents’ house in Cecil County, and one day in June, Matt drove up to see her. They went to the waterside, watched the ducks, and had dinner with her family. That was their first official date, and they continued their relationship into the next school year.

Jess graduated in May of 1997, and with a year left to go in school, Matt knew it was time to “paint or get off the ladder,” as his father would say. In early February 1998, he asked her parents for their blessing, and on Valentine’s Day, after dinner at Nacho Mama’s and a screening of The Wedding Singer, Matt proposed to Jessie. “[It] was pretty ironic that I was watching that movie with an engagement ring in my pocket,” Matt says now.

Matt graduated a few months later, and they were married on November 7, 1998. (Photo courtesy of Matt Koenigsberg.)

taylors“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, really just the best of times,” write Taylor Gaines ’13, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Taylor Westhoff ’13, modern languages and linguistics. 

Taylor 1 and Taylor 2 met as sophomores in the Social Justice Lounge of the Commons, and a friendship blossomed over burritos. For two years, they ran in the same circle of friends, sharing laughs at Late Night, Homecoming, and talent shows. Their group prided itself on being strictly platonic, but that was bound to change.

At the end of fall semester senior year, Taylor asked Taylor to go on a date at a local Indian restaurant, and Taylor agreed. From then on, they were inseparable, known affectionately by their friends as “Double T”. They helped each other through finals, job searches, and graduate school applications. Now, as Taylor is set to finish her graduate degree in speech pathology and Taylor passes the halfway mark in veterinary school, plans are underway for a summer 2017 wedding, kicked off by a proposal last summer in Mexico.

“Thanks, UMBC, for bringing us together,” says Double T. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Gaines, pictured on the right.)

esme(30of52)Sameeha Azeez Bricklemyer ’09, visual arts, was introduced to her husband Ryan Bricklemyer ’04, information systems, and M.S. ’06, information systems, at Quadmania 2009 by Jen Dress, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Student Life. Sameeha was a senior about to graduate, while Ryan was helping out as an alumni volunteer.

The following October, with the help of Dress and the UMBC’s Mama’s Boys, Ryan proposed to Sameeha with a Commons serenade. Their 2011 wedding was officiated by Dress, and the wedding party included friends from UMBC and Greek Life brothers and sisters from Pi Kappa Phi and Delta Phi Epsilon.

The Bricklemyers welcomed baby Esme on November 19, 2015, and Sameeha says that given the family’s deep roots in the University System of Maryland, “it was only fitting” that she was born at a University of Maryland hospital. (Photo courtesy of Sameeha Bricklemyer.)

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!


Retriever Love Week: Day 2

So many of you have found lasting love at UMBC that we decided to extend Valentine’s Day to tell your stories! Here are four more.

DSC_7340.JPGMichael Glassman ’12, geography and environmental systems, met his now-wife, Michelle Colbert ’12, sociology, at UMBC in 2011. They were married in November 2015. (Photo courtesy of Michael Glassman.)



ADP-36_resizedPeople meet their life partners all kinds of ways these days: online, out and about, through mutual friends. Catherine Lane Kruder ’12, English, met her husband Josh Kruder ’11, computer science, in one of the oldest ways in the book: through her mother.

“We never would have met had [my mother not been] in the same computer science class as Josh in the winter of 2009,” Catherine says. “It was a set up from the beginning when she told me about the really cute [blonde, blue-eyed] guy in her class one night at dinner.”

Catherine’s mother told her to come see her before class the next day, and, while “cringing at the thought” of her mother playing matchmaker, Catherine agreed.

“[The] rest, as they say, is history.”

Catherine and Josh were married in 2012, and their daughter, Genevieve, will be a year old in March. To this day, Catherine says, her mother prides herself on what she calls “the set up of the century.” (Photo courtesy of Catherine Kruder.)

image1 (1)Some of these stories cut right to the heart… literally. Kenneth Tai ’06, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Diana Salvador Tai first met in anatomy and physiology class while dissecting a cat.

“Romantic[,] huh?” Diana, then a pre-nursing student at UMBC, jokes now. “He was fascinated by my visual memorization skills[.]”

Their relationship only grew from there: from Phi Mu and Lambda Chi Alpha socials to late night practices for FASA [UMBC’s Filipino American Student Association]. They married in Washington, DC on August 8, 2008.

“A cat, a dog, and two beautiful kids later[,] we look forward to sharing our unfairytale-like story with them,” Diana writes. (Photo courtesy of Diana Tai.)

IMG_6040.jpgSpeaking of excellent memorization skills, Kathy Weems Guerra ’96, English, who met her husband Peter Guerra ’96, English, in Dr. Falco’s fall 1994 Medieval and Renaissance Literature class, says she helped him prepare for the final “because I take excellent notes and never missed class!” They were married in Annapolis in June 1997. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Guerra.)

Read about all the couples we’ve featured this year here!