Did you meet your spouse, fiance or significant other at SIUE? Many happy couples have met on campus and the Alumni Association wants to celebrate their love stories. Whether you met in class or at a campus party, share your love story and connect with other Cougar couples.
To participate, email your information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Share the story of how you met and a quick update on where life has taken you as a couple. Please include contact information in your email as well as photos to post online. Your story will be featured with the other couples below and may be selected to be included in a future edition of the eConnection.
Thank you in advance for participating and enjoy the SIUE Love Connection stories below!
Nicole (Niki) Cassiday ’14 & Mason Glick ’09
Philip Gattone (BS ’09) & Meredith Burkart (BA ’08)
Christopher Logan (BS ’98) & Joy (Mamaril) Logan (BS ’98)
Tom Gallati (BS ’75) & Pam (Vesci) Gallati
Jason Swagler (BM ’97, MM ’00) & Erica Day Swagler (BM ’99)
Tom Niedernhofer (BSE ’80) & Shelley (Mettlach) Neidernhofer (BSE ’83)
Leonard Hawthorne (BS ’71, MS ’72) & Ruth (Woods) Hawthorne (BS ’70)
Melissa Schaeffer-Hartwig (BS ’01) & Nick Hartwig (BS ’03)
Donald Rice, II (BS ’94) & Rose Anderson-Rice (MPA ’95)
Kathryn (Dulles) Groves (BS ’00) & Ryan Groves
Dustin Hampton (BS ’05) & Stefanie (Schaecher) Hampton (BS ’04)
Brett Streb (BS ’04) & Katie (Wilson) Streb (BSN ’04)
Lawrence Jackson (BS ’99) & Kimberly (Shelton) Jackson (BS ’00)
Chris Pedo (MPA ’06) & Rachel Pedo
Kim (Edgar) Bradley (BS ’05) & Chris Bradley
Elizabeth (Johnson) Asbrock (BS ’01, MS ’07) & Dr. Rodney Asbrock (BS ’02)
Edwin Franklin (’82 BA) & Kimberly (Tolson) Franklin (’88 BS, ’95 MBA)
Lynn (Long) Schaffner (’83 BS) & Tom Schaffner
Erica Thompson (’06 BS) & Jack Sykut (’06 BS)
Cindy (Holesko) Allen (’06 MBA, ’04 BSA) & Justin Allen (’07 MSED, ’05 BS)
Andy Shelby (’97 BS) & Karen (Kelleher) Shelby (’99 BS)
Former Chancellor David Werner & Kay (Buxton) Werner (’88 SD)
Susan (Levy) Kulasakara (’88 BA) & Nali Kulasakara (’92 MBA, ’90 BS)
SIUE assigned Philip and Meredith dorm rooms two doors down from each other in Bluff Hall in 2005. That year, they both made lasting friendships with a group on the floor, who spent the rest of their years at SIUE living with and around each other in Cougar Village. They all spent most of their time in a Cougar Village apartment that became widely known for the pirate flag and skeleton proudly displayed in the balcony window. In 2006, after a year of late night conversations on topics ranging from favorite movies to philosophy, Philip and Meredith began dating officially. “Finally!” all their friends said. Meredith graduated in 2008 and moved to DC to pursue her Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University. Philip followed her out east in 2009. Together they survived the Great Snowpacalypse of 2010. Philip now enjoys putting his computer engineering skills to work for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and Meredith has found a fulfilling position with the United States Government. Almost every Friday after work they walk the monuments. Meredith’s favorite is the Lincoln Memorial. Philip’s is the Washington Monument. In June 2010, Philip took Meredith to the National Mall. On the lawn between the White House and the Washington Monument, he proposed. When she said yes, they sat under the Washington Monument and watched the sun set over the Lincoln Memorial. They’re getting married on June 2, 2011, in a small chapel on Wrightsville Beach, NC, and having a two-week beach party with their family and friends to celebrate.
Hot pants, plaid trousers, tweed sweaters…These may have been the fashion statements of the early 1970s, but to Tom and Pam Galati, they are little pieces of their love story. Tom distinctly remembers what Pam was wearing when they first met at SIUE in 1970. “Hot pants. She wore those for years,” he said. Pam said she had plenty of them, “at least 10 pairs!” “And she had these orange velvet boots on,” said Tom. Pam remembers them being suede. She also recalls what Tom was wearing when the couple had their first date at the University Center movie theater. “He had blue and green plaid pants on. And he had on a brown tweed sweater,” she said. “All of my friends said how badly he dressed. But there was something about him. He was funny! I liked his sense of humor.” Through the fashion hits and misses, the couple’s relationship grew and they spent the remainder of their time at SIUE together enjoying school, concerts and other campus activities, especially athletics. Tom was a talented soccer player, playing four seasons as a defender for SIUE from 1970 to 1973. He was also a member of the 1972 national championship team. “We had so much fun at it,” said Tom. “We had the best field in the country by far. It was natural grass, it was beautiful. The practice fields were even better than half of those around the country. It was an exciting time.” Tom went on to have major success as a professional soccer player after his time as a Cougar. He was selected by the Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the first round of the draft. He helped the Atoms to the NASL championship and was named the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting. “I got drafted and went and played and then came back and finished school,” Tom said. “And we got married in the middle of the season.” “He came back Friday, we got married on Saturday and flew back Sunday,” said Pam. “That was our honeymoon, going back to Philadelphia for him to play soccer.” The Galatis eventually came back to St. Louis, where they still live. They have two children, two step-grandchildren and a new grandchild on the way.
Jason Swagler and Erica Day both played in the SIUE wind symphony as undergraduate music students. Jason played the saxophone and Erica played the flute. One semester, Jason was asked to play the oboe. “We got to sit together, and I got to turn on the charm,” Jason said. One day after rehearsals, Erica invited Jason to Shenanigans. Soon after they started dating in December 1995, Jason was invited to join an R&B group. He toured U.S. embassies and troops overseas as part of a Department of Defense tour in the Mediterranean. The couple kept in touch through letters. Jason earned a bachelor’s in music/jazz performance in 1997 and a master’s in music/music performance in 2000. Erica graduated with a bachelor’s in music/music performance in 1999. They married in January 2000. Erica and Jason have many fond memories of their years as SIUE music students. “My favorite memories are of the flute studio we had at the time,” Erica said. “Our professor was Marie Garritson, and we were a very active studio. We have a lot of funny stories from having to get up early in the morning and drive a hundred miles for a competition.” Jason’s favorite professors, the jazz guys-Rick Haydon, Reggie Thomas and Brett Stamps-have become his coworkers. An instructor of music, Jason has been a faculty member since 2000. He teaches Music 111 and Jazz History and conducts the University’s jazz band. “It’s surreal because the very room Erica asked me out in-the jazz band room-is where I teach every day,” Jason said. Erica’s SIUE experience has also come full circle. She is as an adjunct instructor, working with the private applied flute students. A professional jazz saxophonist, Jason plays nearly 150 dates each year. He has performed in nearly every venue in the St. Louis area and toured extensively throughout Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the U.S. “Students might not realize it while they’re here, but the connections they make with the music faculty and fellow students will be connections they keep throughout the years,” he said. “A lot of the work I get can be traced back to connections I’ve made along the way.” Click here to read the complete interview from the Spring 2010 eConnection.
Tom Niedernhofer and Shelley Mettlach were two of the many SIUE students who could be found watching friends play the popular game in between classes in the student rec center. “These guys were jaw dropping players,” Tom remembered. That’s where he saw Shelley for the first time. Tom and Shelley soon realized they had much more in common than an interest in foosball. “Tom was really into restoring old Porsches, and I used to live up the street from the Porsche factory in Germany,” said Shelley. “We had common interests and quickly became good friends.” The two went on a few dates after Tom graduated in 1980. But when he moved to Fort Meyers, Fla., to work for a structural design firm, their lives took different paths. “We were good buddies for a long time,” said Shelley. “I knew back in our college days that we should have been married, but we were way too young back then. You don’t always see things as clearly as you do when you’re older.” As the years passed, the two would occasionally reconnect, thanks in part to a mutual friend. “Whenever we got together, it was like we were back in our college days,” Shelley said. “It didn’t seem like time had passed.” When Tom proposed to Shelley on Christmas 2002, he did it the “Tom way,” which was, as Shelley remembers, “the perfect way.” Tom and Shelley got married in March 2003 in Carmel-By-The-Sea, Calif. “Everything just lined up perfectly. I don’t know why life takes the path that it does,” said Tom. “I had never been married before. Not that I didn’t try. Things were never right. This seemed right. We picked up where we left off at SIUE.” Tom Niedernhofer, ’80 BS, Civil Engineering, is an urban search and rescue program manager for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Shelley Mettlach Niedernhofer, ’83 BS, Civil Engineering, is a program manager for the National Park Service. The couple lives in Oakland, Cali. Click here to read the complete interview from the Winter 2010 eConnection.
Leonard and Ruth were introduced by a mutual friend and alumnus during the fall quarter of 1969. Len was returning to SIUE to resume a degree program, after completing three years of military service. Ruth was beginning her senior year. After Ruth’s graduation, the mutual friend invited them to join him and his wife for a night out as a graduation gift to Ruth. The relationship blossomed, and they were married after Len graduated at the end of the 1971 spring quarter. Ruth was completing her second year of teaching Language Arts in the Alton Unit 11 School District. Len re-enrolled at SIUE and worked as a graduate assistant in the Business Education Department, completing the degree program in 1972. Ruth and Len both retired from the Alton Unit 11 School District in 2003, after completing 34 and 32 years respectively. They have two children pursuing careers of their own; a son, Antoine, in Kansas City, MO and a daughter, Melia, in Chandler, AZ. Len and Ruth have received awards for educational excellence locally and at the state level. Before and since retirement, both have devoted many hours to community service. They volunteer time to plan and implement the Annual Back to School - Stay In School Program for low income youth sponsored by the Alton Branch N.A.A.C.P. They have developed future leaders through work with youth programs with Madison County Urban League, the 100 Black Men of Alton, National Council of Negro Women., and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They both support United Way at the leadership level. Additionally, Len serves as a United Way Executive Board Member, Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial board member, and board member of Affordable Housing Development Corporation.. They have mentored youth in various ways. Ruth has volunteered hours to present to preteen and teenage girls at church and with a 100 Black Men of Alton program, “Girls Learning and Developing.” Leonard has done both one-on-one and group mentoring of boys with the 100 Black Men of Alton, and the Illinois Adoption Center. He received training and certification by both organizations. Len and Ruth will soon celebrate 39 years of marriage. They currently reside in Foster Township, outside Alton, IL. Len is a lifetime member of SIUE Alumni Association and has served on the Alumni Board. They credit SIUE with being affordable, accessible and providing an excellent opportunity for higher education.
Nick and I met through a mutual friend, my roommate, Anne Ulrich (BS ’00, MSED ’02). She wanted me to meet him because she said he was so much fun. I did meet him but I had a boyfriend at the time. One year later, and single again, we became friends while playing sports for SIUE. I played volleyball and he played basketball. In my off season, I was a student trainer for the men’s basketball team. After many ankle tapes for Nick’s weak ankles, he decided to call me and ask me out. Despite our differences in NFL teams, me being from St. Louis and Nick being from Wisconsin, we started dating. After his graduation in 2003, two days before we moved back to Madison, Wisconsin for his career, Nick proposed to me at the Holiday Shores beach front in Edwardsville. We were married in May 2004 at St. Mary’s church in Edwardsville. We have two beautiful girls, Maggie age 4 and Mallory age 1. We currently live in Wisconsin with hopes of moving back to our meeting place. Thanks SIUE!
Don Rice and Rose Anderson-Rice met at SIUE on January 2, 1990. Rose attended the University of Iowa but decided to visit her sorority sisters at SIUE when Don came by with one of his fraternity brothers to say hi to a mutual friend. After that day, Rose returned to Iowa but they talked day and night in between classes (which did not make their parents too happy after they saw the long distance phone bills). They also wrote each other like crazy. After the Spring of 1990, Rose decided to transfer to SIUE to be closer to him. Both served diligently as student leaders. Don decided to propose to Rose while walking down the streets of Tower Lake (now Cougar Village). He started by making Rose very angry by accusing her of saying something to her sorority sisters about his fraternity. He said, “Since I can’t keep your mouth closed maybe I should marry you.” Rose stopped yelling long enough to reply “don’t play.” Then Don got down on one knee and proposed. They were married July 17, 1993. Both have worked for SIUE (Don as a Financial Aid Advisor, Rose at the Early Childhood Center) and served as Campus Advisors for their Greek Organizations. They have been in love since day one and that feeling continues today. Many have called them a role model couple. They reside in Florissant, MO and have been happily married for fifteen years.
Kathy Groves attended SIUE School of Business after transferring from SIUC in January 1999. Ryan Groves was a Exercise Physiology major. He played basketball and she played volleyball. Kathy was getting her knee checked out in the training room when Ryan spotted her from across the room and came and sat next to her as he had knee problems too. They became instant friends, but he was dating someone at the time. They kept in contact and Ryan eventually broke up with girl that he was dating. One night at Shenanigan’s, they met up and decided to go on a date. They went to St. Louis for the date and the rest is history. Kathy and Ryan were married May 4, 2002. They now have a little girl named Anna.
Dustin attended the SIUE School of Business in 1999 after being discharged from the United States Marine Corps. Stefanie started prerequisites for nursing school and lived in Woodland Hall in the Fall of 2000. Stefanie joined the Army ROTC and met many friends. One friend, Joshua Becherer, invited a couple friends, including Stef, over to his apartment off campus. Josh was Dustin’s roommate. Stefanie, dating another ROTC cadet at the time, took notice of Dustin. Several months later, Stefanie received a message from her roommate that Josh had called and wanted her to call him back. Upon returning the call, she realized it was actually Dustin who had left the message. He thought that by leaving Josh’s name, she would surely return the call. After a few casual dates they both knew they were meant for each other. They dated only two years when Dustin proposed to Stefanie. They were married in July 2003. Dustin changed majors and graduated with his Associates Degree in Nursing from Louis and Clark College in December 2004 and his BS in Nursing from SIUE in December 2005. Stefanie graduated with her BS in Nursing in December 2004. After graduation, both worked for Christian Hospital, Dustin in the ICU and Stefanie on Med/Surg, for a couple years when Dustin decided to join the military. Dustin was commissioned in the United States Air Force in April 2007 as a Lieutenant. They are currently stationed in Las Vegas, Nevada with hopes of returning home soon. They have two sons. Becker Kyle (named after the friend who introduced the couple) born in May 2005 and Sullivan Daniel born in August 2008.
Brett & Katie met during the Spring Semester of 2001 in Woodland Hall. Brett was a sophomore studying Construction Management and Katie was a freshman studying Nursing. Brett and a friend (Shawn) were walking about the dorm after being out at a party and stopped in the social lounge where Katie was studying to introduce themselves. They invited Katie to Brett’s birthday party the following week and Katie and her roommate went. They continued meeting from that night on going to parties in Cougar Village and watching movies in Brett’s room, and eventually started dating in February after a trip to Springfield, Illinois, to meet Brett’s parents and newborn nephew. Katie knew it was a true love connection the semester Brett helped her memorize all 206 bones of the body. They both graduated in 2004. Brett proposed to Katie in June of 2005 on the campus of SIUE. The couple married on May 6, 2006 at St. Boniface in Edwardsville. They currently live in St. Charles, Mo. Brett works for Paric Corp as a Project Estimator and Katie is a Labor nurse at Progress West. They have two amazing kids Mason and Alyvia. Brett and Katie are very thankful for all the friends they met at SIUE but most of all for meeting each other.
Rachel and Chris met through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Chris is from Kenya and arrived in the US in August 2004 for grad school. He joined Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and became an active member. Within one year, Chris knew Rachel and they became friends. They started dating during the fall semester of 2005, got engaged in 2006 and got married in August 2006. Chris works at AT&T Yellowpages in St. Louis and Rachel is back in school at SIUE. They are currently living in Cougar Village.
Christmas Eve ’06 I got the shock of my life when I was given a ring and a proposal. A few days later my fiancee was offered a job in Atlanta, GA. and I learned that I would have only 5 months to plan my dream wedding. Everything moved along pretty smoothly, except when it came to where to have the ceremony. I spent many hours looking at churches, vineyards and any location I could think of to have a wedding. Nothing seems right, and then I flashed on the Religious Center. I always loved this building and it seemed like an amazing place to have a wedding.
We were married under the glass dome on June, 2 2007. Rev. Greg Fields married us and I couldn’t have been happier with the ceremony. With the help of Greg, I was able to completely customize the ceremony to us. It was so special, a day I’ll always cherish. Right as the ceremony began, it began to rain. At first I was horrified that this would ruin my outdoor photo session after the wedding. Then I remembered being told that rain on your wedding day was good luck and was awed at standing under this beautiful glass roof listening to the rain fall. God must have been smiling on us because the rain stopped as our ceremony ended. It ended up being a beautiful day and being married on my college campus only made it more special.
My husband and I now reside in Atlanta, GA. I miss home and family, but am enjoying a more mild winter than I am use to. After graduation I took a job with Cox Auto Trader as an advertising consultant. My husband works for IHG as a training consultant.
Rodney, being late as usual, walked in to the first floor lecture hall of the science building for his first botany class at the university. He walked in the back door of the room, in a vain effort to conceal the fact that he was late on the first day of class. He scanned the back of the auditorium for a seat which would cause the least disruption. He found one and hurriedly moved to get into it, sat down, opened his bag, removed a pen and notebook, and flipped the desktop up, to begin taking notes. Being good and settled in, he turns to see Beth looking right back at him with a curious smile, asking him why he was late. They had lunch together that day, and found out that they also would be in physics class and physics lab together. This meant that they would be spending a lot of time together, especially considering that for next 4 months they had lunch together everyday.
They started dating over Christmas break that first year, after Elizabeth gathered up enough courage to ask Rodney on a date, because he’s basically a coward. Rodney believes it was 1999 when they first started going out, or early 2000, because the Rams won the Superbowl on their second date. They were engaged shortly thereafter, and were married just after Rodney graduated in 2002 at the officer’s club at SAFB, it was beautiful. He was trying to get into dental school at the time, but couldn’t seem to impress the dentists enough to give him a chance, and he desperately wanted to start a family. Elizabeth, being stubborn, demanded he “just try” to get into pharmacy school before she would agree to discussing having children. He applied to St Louis College of Pharmacy, and the pharmacists were somehow impressed enough with him to let him in, and their first son Ryan was born in January of Rodney’s first year at STLCOP. Beth worked as a science teacher at Alton High School to pay the bills, and supported them while Rodney went to school. During this time she also went back to SIUE to get a master’s degree, and she somehow managed to have Maggie, their lovely baby girl, in Rodney’s last year in pharmacy school. They both graduated one week apart in the summer of 07. She earned a master’s degree from SIUE in Education Administration, and he is now a Doctor of Pharmacy. Rodney studied all last summer, and passed his boards to become a licensed pharmacist, and took a staff position at a local hospital. They bought a small house in Collinsville where they plan to stay until Beth finishes her most recent educational goal of getting yet another degree from SIUE, this time a BS in nursing which she will do sometime in 2009. That’s pretty much their story in a nutshell. Rodney says, “And just so you know, my son Ryan wants to be a NASCAR driver, he wants everyone to know that.”
Every time Lynn was working on the bulletin board in the bookstore, this nice guy would talk to her. Then she started to run into him all over campus. Although she saw him almost every day, she didn’t know his name until a friend introduced them in the Goshen Lounge, right underneath the Plumbob. Lynn had the strangest feeling, almost like an electric shock, that this was the man she would marry. That was a little awkward, since she was engaged to someone else at the time. But true love conquers all, and they became engaged a year later. On June 26, 1982, they were married at the Religious Center.
What great memories Lynn has of SIUE! Living at Tower Lake, going to concerts at Mississippi River Festival, hanging out at the University Center, meeting her husband, the wonderful people she met while working at the Information Center. She will always be grateful to the University for making the best things in her life possible--work that she loves and a happy marriage!
Lynn graduated in 1983 with a B.S. in Biology. She is currently a Medical Technologist and works for Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital. Lynn and Tom live in Hazelwood, MO. They have two daughters, ages 20 and 19. Lynn tried to convince the 20 year old to go to her alma mater, but alas--she chose the University of Missouri (they still love her, though).
When Cindy was a junior studying accounting, she accepted a position in the University Center Business office as a student accountant. Her husband, Justin, worked as a student supervisor in the building. They were both seeing other people at the time, but since they had mutual friends, they would see each other occasionally. Then they both ran for positions in student government. She ran for Vice President and he ran for senator on the same “ticket” with their mutual friend, Ryan Bundy. They all got their elected positions, and during that year they worked on some committees together. Since he was a Philosophy major and she was a Philosophy minor, they even took a metaphysics class together. At the end of that year, Cindy ran for student body president and Justin applied for a graduate assistantship with University Housing. She won her election, and he got his assistantship. Over that summer they served on the planning committee for Evergreen Hall. When the Fall semester of 2005 started, she was asked to give a speech at a student affairs breakfast and afterwards chatted with Justin. He asked how she was doing and she told him that she had just broken off her long term relationship and things were a little rough, but it was well over due. Later that day Justin sent Cindy an email asking her, as Student Body President, to write a little something for the welcome back edition of the Prairie Hall newsletter, so she did. When she sent in the article, Justin emailed her back asking if they could go out to dinner sometime. They went on our first date on October 8, 2005. Justin asked Cindy to marry him on October 8, 2006. They got married on July 28, 2007, nine days after they moved into Evergreen Hall where Justin is now employed as the Hall Director.
Susan Levy’s father was a biology professor at SIUE, so she considers herself an “SIUE brat.” Susan was working toward a degree in English, spending most of her time on the second floor of the Peck Building. It was in the fall of her junior year, 1987, when she began noticing a man keeping an eye on her. This process was repeated frequently. Eventually, a mutual friend introduced Susan Levy to Nalin Kulasekara. Nalin had been born in Sri Lanka, but was raised in England by friends of his family, when his parents moved to Nigeria when he was very young. Nalin’s older brother had researched engineering schools, deciding SIUE offered a tremendous electrical engineering program at an enticing price. Nalin decided to follow, and now he found himself following a twenty year old English major. When they were introduced, Nalin admitted to Susan that the only reason he was hanging around the Peck Building was to see her. Susan says she didn’t think too much about it at the time, adding “He didn’t make what I would call a strong first impression.” She was, however, attracted to his English accent, so the two began dating in November 1987. When Susan received her BA in English the next year, she decided to enroll at the University of Illinois to pursue her Masters in Library Science, a degree she earned in 1989. Nalin remained at SIUE working on a BS in Business Administration, a degree he was awarded in 1990. The couple would travel back and forth in an effort to maintain the relationship. While she was attending the University of Illinois, Susan Levy’s father died suddenly in March 1989. “Nalin,” she says, “helped take care of my mother, even teaching her how to drive.” That, she adds, “brought them closer together.” Susan and Nalin became engaged in 1990 and married in July 1991. Nalin continued his education, completing a MBA in 1992, and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology in 1994. He is now the Corporate Director of Supply Chain Management for SSM HealthCare. Susan left her job with the Hayner Public Library in Alton in September 2004, to devote full attention to their children, ten year old daughter Michaela, and five year old son Ryan. Even their wedding has an SIUE connection. The couple exchanged vows in the SIUE Religious Center, where during one of their first visits, Nalin noticed Sri Lanka is at the exact top of the Center. At the time, Nalin told his wife to be, “I came exactly half way around the world to meet you.” Their love has lasted, but Nalin’s English accent hasn’t. Susan says, “I sometimes accuse him of bait and switch.”
Nicole (Niki) Cassiday ’14 & Mason Glick ’09
Mason Glick was pursuing his Master’s degree in 2009 when he was introduced to Niki through mutual friends. Mason inspired Niki to return to school in 2010 to earn her degree. After deciding to return to school, Niki spent two years at Lewis and Clark Community College before transferring to SIUE. Niki graduated from SIUE in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree from the school of business. Mason and Niki were married on August 22, 2014 in Siesta Key, Florida. Mason is a familiar face here on campus as he serves as the assistant athletic director for sales and marketing at SIUE. Niki is currently a project manager for Datix, Inc. The couple currently resides in Edwardsville. Together, they enjoy exploring their city and spending time with their Weimaraner, Apollo.