If you’re even a casual Class Notes reader, you won’t be surprised to learn that Willamette has more than 1,700 alumni couples on record. Chances are every Willamette graduate knows at least a few people who met on campus and decided to make a life together. Two members of WU’s alumni office are among the couples ranks — Director of Alumni Relations David Audley ’93 married his WU sweetheart, Erin Good ’93, and Kristin Friesen ’04, assistant director of alumni and parent communications, married Anton Akervall, a Willamette exchange student from Sweden. With spring in the air, there’s no better time to share a few heartwarming stories of love, Willamette style.
The alumni office is always urging alumni to stay connected, but no one could have foreseen how involvement in University events would bring a second chance at love for a couple from the 1940s. They may have graduated 60 years ago, but Bob Donovan ’47, MEd’48 and Jean Sanesi Donovan ’45 celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary last December at ages 82 and 83.
Bob studied at Willamette in ’42 and ’43 as part of the V-12 program. When it came time to leave campus for his military service, he met up with Robert Hamilton ’43, who was looking for another officer to serve onboard the LSM (Landing Ship Medium), which was eventually stationed in Guam. Bob knew Robert, respected him as former ASWU president, and agreed to serve on his ship. Two years later, Bob returned to Willamette to finish his bachelor’s degree in physical education and pursue a master’s degree in education. He married Emma Lou East ’45 and enjoyed a career as a teacher, coach and vice principal, eventually retiring after 12 years as principal of Leslie Middle School in Salem.
Jean graduated from Salem High School in 1941, received a voice scholarship from Willamette and enrolled with the Class of 1945. After graduation, she married and moved to Southern California. Throughout the years, Jean kept in touch with many Willamette friends, including Emma (East) Donovan ’45. The two were lifetime friends who had known each other since grade school, played tennis together at Willamette and continued their friendship long after graduation.
Shaken by the death of her husband in 1981 and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Jean moved back to Salem in 1994 and became active in the Willamette community again, especially in the Alumni Association. Widowed himself when wife Emma died in 1995, Bob had been serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for some time. And so the two 1940s graduates, lifetime acquaintances, became reacquainted just as Bob’s term on the board was about to end.
The couple often quips about how they started spending more time together. “The alumni office was looking for someone from the same era to take his place,” Jean explains. “I’m not replaceable!” Bob objects, both of them smiling. Both have fond memories of their time at Willamette and enjoyed campus activities such as athletics and Freshman Glee. “She was a song queen,” Bob recalls, “but I don’t think she ever saw me then.” Jean claims the contrary. “Of course I remember him! He was on the football team.”
It was their ties to Willamette that kept them in contact over the years, their ties to Willamette that brought them together again. And as they share their golden years, they remain active in the Willamette community. Besides being members of the Alumni Board, Bob and Jean were inducted into the Willamette University Athletics Hall of Fame for Meritorious Service in 2000, and Bob was awarded an Alumni Citation for his community service in 1997 and a Sparks Medallion in 1999.
It’s apparent they feel lucky to have this time together. With a twinkle in her eye, Jean whispers, “I can’t say this in front of Bob, but there were lots of other women running to his door with casseroles. I just ran the fastest.”
Yoshihiro Nakamura ’98 came to Willamette through the Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) exchange program in 1994, but after his year on campus, he decided to transfer to WU and enroll full time. During that first year on campus, he shared a room in Baxter Hall with Dave Rigsby ’00, now assistant director of campus life at Willamette. That same year Sumiko Enjoji came to Willamette as a TIUA student and lived down the hall from Yoshihiro and Dave, and they all became friends.
Sumiko went back to Japan in 1997, and Yoshihiro graduated from Willamette in 1998. “A couple of months after I returned to Japan, we started dating,” he explains. “When we got married in 2001, we decided to have a wedding at Willamette since it is the place we met and started our lives together.”
Now living in Japan with their 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, the couple recalls all the support they received from Willamette and TIUA staff as well as friends from campus and the Salem community as they planned their wedding at Cone Chapel. Religion Professor Lane McGaughy performed the ceremony, the organist was from a Salem church, Sumiko found her dress at a Salem shop, her bridesmaids — Liberty Davis ’99 and Mandolin Brassaw ’99 — were friends from Baxter Hall, the wedding photographer was a friend of Rigsby and Brassaw, and the reception was held at Mission Mill. “Many friends and family from Japan came to our wedding,” Yoshihiro remembers, “and there were many TIUA staff members, Willamette professors and host families from Salem.”
Shared interests in music, human rights and environmental issues brought Christine Montgomery and Sarah Kimball, both Class of 1996, together during their campus days.
“The nurturing intellectual environment at Willamette enabled us to deconstruct our ideas about sexuality, nature, culture and society,” Sarah explains. “We were both inspired to try to change the world through activism.” This inspiration came from encouraging friends and from courses like Literature and Sexuality with Professor Fran Michel and Politics of Environmental Ethics with Professor Joe Bowersox.
Both Sarah and Christy became active in community service programs and ventured to San Francisco to participate in the March to Fight the Right. In their senior year, they organized a residence life program called “Guess the Straight Person,” a popular event that has continued annually.
The California couple became registered domestic partners and exchanged matching gold bands last September. “We’ve gone from being serious anti-establishment slackers to progressive career women,” Christy says of the 10 years since their graduation. “The biggest changes in our relationship are hard to separate from the changes in our lives over time.” The strength and encouragement derived from their relationship has helped them both as they pursue competitive careers. Sarah is a field ecologist currently finishing a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Irvine. She recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation for her research and was awarded UC Irvine’s “Most Promising Future Faculty Member.” Christy is a successful graphic designer whose specialty is architectural graphics and signage. Her current projects include large mixed-use developments, a community college, and an entertainment center located at the sailing venue for the Beijing Olympics.
Tracey Harrison ’75 was a member of a loyal WU family, including grandfather William Harrison ’45, who was thrilled when she decided to enroll at Willamette and continue the family tradition. Paul Saucy ’75, JD’79 says his family thought he wouldn’t want to go to college in Salem, but “I walked on the Willamette campus and loved it from that day on.”
Those early days on campus were life changing for Paul. He was smitten with the beauty of the campus — and of a certain girl whose photo he saw in the Fusser’s Guide during orientation. He quickly decided Tracey was one of the first people he wanted to meet, and they soon began dating. They balanced their differing schedules to find time together. “In the evenings, I would go out with friends, and Paul would go back to his room to study,” Tracey remembers. “He was the more serious student,” she says, recalling that his nickname was “no-fun-um.” Paul counters, “But I had a year of straight A’s in organic chemistry!”
A “little tiff” at the end of their junior year led Tracey to transfer from Willamette, but by the end of their senior year they were dating again. “Which meant that every weekend I had to drive to Eugene,” Paul recalls. The couple married the summer after graduation.
Today, 36 years later, Paul and Tracey live in Salem and all three of their children — Lauren Saucy JD’03, Allison Saucy ’04 and Adam Saucy ’05 — have Willamette degrees. While Tracey came from a legacy family, both she and Paul wanted their children to choose their own paths. It just so happened they all chose Willamette. And for Allison, following in her parents’ footsteps meant finding love as well as getting a Willamette degree.
“Since my dad met my mom at freshman orientation, I felt some pressure to meet someone during my first days on campus,” Allie recalls. But Ryan Carty ’04 wasn’t in her Opening Days group. They met later in their freshman year, when both were in the theatre department’s production of Guys and Dolls. The two started off as friends and even dated each other’s roommates before becoming a couple themselves sophomore year. Ryan tells of their first kiss at Black Tie, the University’s winter formal. Noticing there were several other men interested in Allie, he says “I knew if I wanted to get her attention, I needed to do it then.”
After graduation, the theatre majors tried their luck in the film industry in Hollywood, but neither enjoyed the culture, and they returned to Salem. Ryan enrolled in Willamette’s law school Class of 2009. The couple married New Year’s Eve 2006, with Jonathan Cole, theatre professor, as one of Ryan’s groomsmen.
Will the Harrison-Saucy-Carty legacy continue? With such a strong family tradition hanging in the balance, any grandchildren will certainly have to consider attending Willamette. “They would want to,” Ryan says, “after hearing all the great stories.”