Although Valentine’s Day is fleeting, these Dartmouth love stories were not.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day — a celebration that, every year, the cynics disparage and hopeful romantics await with anticipation. For some students, the commercialized expectations of the day echo hollowly, reinforcing the seeming absence of romance at Dartmouth. Yet, despite their often innocuous arrivals, lifelong relationships spark on our campus in the most fleeting moments.
To spotlight this sometimes faraway-feeling truth, I decided to interview three former students who found their eventual spouse here in the woods. Because as Hugh Grant said in the opening of “Love Actually” — and as is true on a campus even as small as Dartmouth — “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
Carolyn Anctil Med’92, on meeting her husband Ken Libre Med’94
CA: I did try to, you know, stalk my husband a little bit. I saw this really cute guy playing a lot of Ultimate Frisbee, and I kept running into him. And I was thinking, “Oh, I wonder if that guy is an undergrad? I wonder if he is a grad student?”
I remember walking out of the medical school’s library, and I had fallen off my mountain bike horribly. I had road rash all over me and I was limping. And there’s the guy — Oh my god! There’s the guy that I think is so cute, that I see playing frisbee and who I watch around campus. He stops, and I stop, and we both say “Hi!”
He asks, “Oh, what happened to you?” My husband has a really profound stutter, so I thought he was stuttering because he thought I was really cute. It was not the case. But we talked for a while, and about two weeks later, we essentially were inseparable.
In med school, particularly before the internet and everything, you had to choose what you were going to specialize in and where you were going to match in January — and Ken and I met in October. I really wanted to go to one of the best emergency medicine programs in the country, and none of them were in New England.
So I said to Ken, “Hey, I could spend another year here, or I could match where I want to match, but I guess I would want a commitment from you. Do you want to get married?”
And he’s like, “Oh, my God! We just met two months ago.” I said, “Yeah, but this is going to change my whole life. Do you want to get married or not?”
He responds, “No! I don’’t want to get married.” I was like, “Okay, fine. Great! This is terrible.”
Two years go by, and Ken is out in New Mexico with me. It’s now his time to make a career decision, so he asks me, “Do you want to get married?” And I was like, “No! We live together. Life is great. Why would we get married?” Why ruin anything, you know?
Another couple years go by. Finally, we wrote on the refrigerator: “If I ask you to marry me, we are going to ask each other every day for a month.” So we asked each other every day for a month, “Do you want to get married?” And we said “yes.”
That was 31 years ago.
Laurie Donaghu ’90, on meeting her husband Michael Donaghu ’89
LD: Michael was a year ahead of me on the cross country and track team, and I was coming in as a freshman and joining the cross country team. We met at a party at South Fayerweather freshman fall, before classes even started my freshman year, so I was actually still 17.
Dating is different now then it was then, probably, but we set a date that night to meet again. He introduced himself to me as a fellow cross country teammate — I had not met him before — and then we just chatted for a little bit. Then he said, “Hey, have you seen the weight room yet? I could show it to you.” It sounds really forward now, but it didn’t feel like that.
This is going to sound so weird, and I will tell you, it is absolutely true. I knew that first night I met him at South Fayerweather that I would marry him. I don’t know that he knew, but I did. It was just that thing.
I was with another friend of mine, a guy who had been on my freshman trip, and he was there when Michael walked up and introduced himself to me. I was walking home from the party with this friend of mine, and he said, “You want to marry him, don’t you?”
“Oh, my gosh!” I thought in my head, “How does he know?” But then I said, “No, no, no.” But I was wondering, “Shoot, how does he know?!”
We didn’t have a breakup at all. He graduated a year before me, and he moved to the West Coast to start his job at Nike, where he still is. We were apart that year but not dating other people.
Then after my senior year, I moved out to Portland, Oregon and joined him.
I graduated in June of ’90, and we got engaged in January of ’91. We went out to dinner, the ring came out on my dessert plate and he asked me.
We’ve been married 30 years, almost 31.
Alice Rudd ’86, on meeting her husband Brooks Elder ’86
AR: I met Brooks on the steps of Mid-Mass Hall freshman fall. A classmate, Russell Aney ’86, was standing down the street, and I was going into the dorm, and he called, “Hey, Alice!” I turned, and he said “Meet Brooks!”
I was like, “Hi, Brooks!” Then fade out, fade in, I saw him later.
We had hung out a bit together, and he was very cute, very cool and had a single in Butterfield, so I’m spending a lot of time over there. He was a babe, and he started ski jumping — he’d never ski jumped before — but put a cute guy in a ski jumping outfit, and you’re done.
We went on a date to Lou’s. That was Dec. 3, so we celebrate every year, Dec. 3, 1982, as an anniversary.
We had a great time at Dartmouth, great friends, and then after college we traveled together. We went rock climbing for five and a half months throughout the country from ’86 to ’87. I joke that we lived out of the back of a 1984 Ford F-150 — that truck was our first home. We traveled to five or six states climbing and stuff. We’ve been breathing each other’s air ever since.
During sophomore summer, we were doing this big bike loop — it was a classic, gorgeous sophomore summer day — and it was blissful. I said, “You know, one day, we’re going to live in this state, in the state of Vermont.”
So by hook or crook — and as I said, we were probably young enough and dumb enough and had nothing to lose — in ’93, we moved to Burlington.
Laurel Richie ’81, who used to be the chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, came up with some defining descriptions of what Dartmouth is. She said that Dartmouth is the “base camp to the world.”
Dartmouth and my experience there, it’s our base camp. Every time we get to campus, my blood pressure drops — I feel at home, I always feel so welcome. There is no other school that has that, where the minute you set foot on campus, you feel like you’re home again, and even though with the D-Plan people are coming and going, you really feel connected to a sense of place.
I think that really permeates my relationship with Brooks, in that we feel like this experience at Dartmouth is so in our DNA together that it’s been the backdrop of our relationship. Dartmouth really is supportive, not just your four years that you’re there but for your entire life.
We say it’s either the greatest love story of all time, or we are the only two losers in the world that can stand each other. Either one.
Love — as extraordinary as 30 years of marriage and as ordinary as a reunion between friends — pervades our community, even after Valentine’s Day passes. So enjoy the little moments: the evenings, the still winter nights, the snow and the cold. Savor the quiet and appreciate Dartmouth for what it is. Or maybe, put your fear aside and just say “Hi.”
Because as banal as it might sound, each of these couples is living proof that we might be one more introduction away from love.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.