Your UC Love Stories

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“We just celebrated 17 years of marriage. We have two teenagers and an incredible, loving, hilarious family life—all thanks to Utica College.”

Sure, it’s not uncommon for love to blossom on a college campus. Yet somehow, the tales of Pioneers locking eyes during orientation, falling in love over pancakes in the Caf, or popping the question outside White Hall never seem to get old. We took to social media and asked alumni to share their Utica College love stories. Here are some of our favorites:

Mom Knows Best

UC Love Stories - Griffin and Allison Reid

"I met my husband, Griffin Reid ’07, at Utica College orientation in 2003, when he was my orientation leader. It was actually my mom who met Griffin first. At the time, I was dating someone else, but after meeting Griffin as part of the parents’ group, my mom pointed him out and told me “now that’s the kind of guy you should be dating!”

Later that day we got to talking and exchanged numbers. We stayed in touch over the summer and started dating officially when I arrived on campus in September 2003. We graduated and got engaged in 2007, and were married in July 2009. In 2012, we welcomed our son, James, and in 2014, our daughter, Finley. We recently celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary!"

Allison Brown Reid ‘07
Fort Mill, S.C.
 

Online Dating

UC Love Stories - Brian and Jessica Cooley

"I first encountered my future husband, Brian Cooley G’17, in the fall of 2017. We were both earning our MBAs in UC’s online program, and we were placed into the same group in our marketing management class, which we attended virtually.

After meeting in the online classroom, we would video chat after class and exchange emails, eventually agreeing to meet in person. Our first in-person meeting was lunch at Grande’s in Rome. I brought one of my friends with me for safety reasons. I was nervous and didn’t talk much, but there was definitely a connection between Brian and me.  We got engaged May 2018 and even took our engagement photos on campus!

We were married in May 2019."

Jessica Inserra Cooley ’16
Utica, N.Y.
 

A Great Catch

"If it weren’t for an arm injury in high school, I wouldn’t have ended up at Utica College or met my wife. As a high-school athlete, my plan was to go to a D1 school to play baseball. Instead, UC baseball coach Don Guido welcomed me to his team in the fall of 1991. Carrie Offinger and I met as freshmen on the first day of classes. It was truly love at first sight. Carrie and I have been married 24 years ago, and we have two children: Kaitlyn, age 23, and Tyler, 18."

Matt Dennison ‘95
 

Running to the Altar 

UC Love Stories - Jamie and Ashton Villaneuve

"My fiancé, Jamie McNamara ’15, G‘16, and I met my first week at UC in 2012. My freshman year, I decided to join the cross-country team. (I didn’t run cross-country in high-school, and I had barely run more than five miles in my life.) My first day on the team just so happened to be picture day.

So after rushing to the mall to find shorts that would match the rest of the team, I ran I to the gym to meet up with everyone else for our photo. I noticed Jamie talking with a teammate and asked a friend what his name was. After being introduced a few nights later, we hit it off and have been together ever since. After almost seven years together, we got engaged on July 5th, 2019, surrounded by friends and family, many of whom went to UC. We now live in Albany with our pug, Morty, and we will be married in July 2020."

Ashton Villeneuve ’16, G‘18
Albany, NY
 

A Teaching Moment

UC Love Stories - Douglas and Shauna Seitz

"My husband, Douglas Seitz ’17, and I met when we sat next to each other on the first day of our Interpersonal Communication class in January 2014. We talked a little bit, and then happened to see each other out that weekend.

About three weeks into the class, he got the nerve to ask for my phone number—right in front of Professor Doug Croft. I will never forget how awkward I felt with our professor (who was teaching us how to communicate) getting a front-row seat!

Five years later, we are happily married and have one “fur baby,” a goldendoodle named Zola."

Shauna Beller Seitz ’16, G’17
Lowville, NY
 

Good Sports

UC Love Stories - Steve and Julie Crawford

"It was love at first sight when Steve Crawford ‘01 and I met during our freshman year in 1997. Steve played basketball at UC, and I was on the soccer and swim teams.

We met through a mutual friend, and it was an instant connection. Our first date was at a bar called Albie’s on November 3, 1997. We’ve been together ever since, and just celebrated 17 years of marriage.

We have two teenagers and an incredible, loving, hilarious family life and marriage—all thanks to Utica College."

Julie Mosch Crawford ‘01
Cottage Grove, WI
 

Love on Ice 

UC Love Stories - Adam and Caitlyn Graff

"My husband, Adam Graff ’14, and I met at Freshmen Orientation in the summer of 2010. He was a recruit for Gary Heenan and the UC men’s ice hockey program, and I, a recruit of Dave Clausen's on the UC women's ice hockey team. After meeting that summer, we became fast friends, and it was not long after school started that we began dating. Throughout our whole college career we both wore the #10 jersey on our respective teams. Adam did very well at UC, racking up on points at center, while I racked up minutes in the penalty box as a defenseman! 

We both graduated from UC in May 2014 and then moved to Adam's home in Delaware with our bulldog, Margaux. Adam began working while I went on to obtain my master’s at Arcadia University. The weekend of my graduate ceremony, Adam proposed in front of all of our friends and family—a graduation party turned surprise engagement party! We were married on September 29, 2017, and shared our wedding day with many of our UC teammates including: Steve Zappia ’14, Lindsay Norton ’13, Vanessa Maines ’14, Meredith Tice ‘14, and Megan Myers ’14.

I am so thankful that Utica College brought us together, but also for an absolutely unforgettable experience at UC."

Caitlyn Moccaldi Graff ‘14
Middletown, DE
 

Piano Man 

UC Love Stories - Kimberly and Mark Gavagan

"I’ve always had a “thing” for soccer players, and in the first semester of my freshman year at Utica College in 1987, I noticed a cute freshman on the men’s team. He had long legs, a shock of dark brown hair, and gray eyes. I thought he was adorable, but our paths didn’t cross until February of second semester when I was walking with a friend through the Library Concourse. We cut through en route to lunch to avoid the bitter Utica winds and there was the cute soccer player, sitting in the Concourse playing the piano.

My friend knew him (they both worked in the admissions office) and stopped to chat. Later I told her I thought he was cute, so with her help, we arranged for a group of his friends to meet a group of my friends at a local dance club that Saturday night. We hit it off, and the night ended with a kiss. From there, Mark Gavagan ’91 and I were always together. We attended several fraternity (Tau Kappa Epsilon) and sorority (Chi Beta Sigma) formals. He made me laugh every day with his good sense of humor, but it was really his kindness toward me and others that stole my heart for good.

We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We have two beautiful daughters, and still laugh together every day."

Kimberly Gorman Gavagan ’91
Mendham, NJ
 

North Hall Love

UC Love Stories - Ryan and Elaine Harrigan

"I met my husband, Ryan Harrigan ’14, at our freshman orientation in July 2011. We dated throughout undergrad (fun fact: we were both RAs as upperclassmen and were both assigned to North Hall, so for three of our four years at UC, we lived in North!). We were married on August 2, 2019, with several alumni in our bridal party and joining us as guests."

Elaine Paravati Harrigan ‘15
Marcy, NY
 

A Fateful Introduction 

UC Love Stories - Rich and Melissa Racioppa

"Our UC love story is 28 years in the making. I was the student coordinator for new-student orientation during the summer of 1991. During one of the summer sessions, an orientation leader approached me with a new student and said, “This is Melissa. She’s a swimmer and a lifeguard. Talk to her.” We spent time talking that day, and played pool in the basement of North Hall for about three hours that night. 

When orientation finished, I resumed my job working on the Face Book. (“Social media” in the early ‘90s was a book of pictures of incoming students, along with their hometowns and interests.) I found Melissa’s picture and decided to call her. I made up a reason to call, and we spoke for about ten minutes. It was the most nerve-wracking call I had ever made.

When she arrived on campus the next month, I was there to greet her, meet her parents, and help her move into her room in North Hall. We spent most of the opening weekend together, going to campus events, eating lunch, and working at the pool. It took me about three weeks to get up the nerve to ask her out. When I finally did, she agreed. That was September 20, 1991. Melissa Racioppa ’95, G’16 and I have been together ever since.  

As young alumni and a newly married couple, we attended summer orientation dinners with the parents of incoming students. Melissa was always quick to point out that I was her orientation leader, which always seemed to elicit nervous laughter from the families. 

Later, with our own children, we attended several alumni weekend celebrations and sporting events. My daughter learned to play roulette (and be pretty successful) as a 6-year old at homecoming casino nights. My son still talks about the time he wore his orange Morph suit and high-fived President Hutton while circling the Aud after goal at a hockey game. On the anniversary of our first date, Father Drobin renewed our vows in a private ceremony in Newman Center with our three children by our sides. We have participated in Convocation and Commencement ceremonies together, watching the next generation of Pioneers arrive and depart UC ready to take on whatever is next for them. 

Utica College has always played a very prominent role in our lives. I returned to UC in 2006 after receiving my degree in public relations and have been working with student success and retention since then. Melissa joined the faculty in 2016 after working as a child-life specialist for over 20 years. 

Utica College has been a consistent backdrop for several of the milestones in our family’s life, and I am confident the college, campus, and people (both past and present) will continue to contribute to many memorable events in our future."

Rich Racioppa ’93, Director of Student Athlete Success
Utica, NY
 

Love is On the Air

UC Love Stories - Malik Gayle and Marissa Verdon

Malik Gayle ’18 and I met my first day at UC in 2017 in the WPNR practicum class.

As many first introductions go, I didn't think much of it. Later that day, he asked me to join the radio station as their promotions director, and as we spent more time together, we realized we liked the same bands and had a similar sense of humor.

We just celebrated our two-year anniversary and adopted our cat, Flynn. As we transition out of college and into the world, we'll never forget the place that brought us together."

Marissa Verdon '19
Utica, NY


 

A Match Made on Halloween

UC Love Stories - Nicole Bruno and Keith Taylor

"I met Nicole Bruno ’00 at a Halloween party in the Strebel Student Center in 1997. I remember seeing her around campus but we never formerly met or had any meaningful communications.

That night my friends dragged me to the party, and Nicole was there with her roommate and a group of friends. I did the bare minimum to be considered in costume.  (I think it involved face painting, if I remember correctly.) I showed up looking like I took an elbow to the face on bar night. I pleaded with everyone to cut me some slack considering this was my first Halloween party. I think Nicole was either a cat or a bunny—I remember cute ears and a tail. We casually talked among our friends but as the night went on, we had more one-on-one conversations. At the end of the night Nicole and a friend walked me back to my room at Burrstone House. I guess they didn’t want me to get another black eye. 

A few days later we bumped into each other in North Hall. She was reluctantly cleaning her roommate’s turtle tank and asked if I would help. The only thing I knew about turtles were that they loved pizza and are awesome ninjas. She didn't get the joke back then (she still doesn't get it) but I didn't hold it against her. I didn't mind getting dirty, and it gave me the opportunity to hang out with her again. I must have aced the turtle-tank cleaning because she invited me to come to her next movie night with her friends.

On movie night I joined her and three or four other friends in her room. I was the new guy in their little group but they were all pretty easygoing, and it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. Back in 1998 we didn't need Rotten Tomatoes to point us to the perfect movie so we ended up watching Wild Things starring the immortal Kevin Bacon. (Fun fact: Rotten Tomatoes was founded two months earlier.) After the movie, her friends said their goodbyes and I ended up staying and talking with her until the sun came up. Talking to her was so easy and natural. She told me about everything from growing up in Queens, being on the bowling team in high school, and her love for Zebbs chocolate-chip cookies. I told her about my family's journey from Jamaica to Brooklyn, and my love of all things Tom Jones. When movie night officially ended the next morning I realized two things: One, I was going to sleep for the rest of the day. And two, I had just found my soul mate and future wife.

A few weeks later, we were in between classes and I popped in to the Pioneer Cafe to grab a bite to eat before my next class. When she approached me for a hug I caught her off guard and went in for the kiss. My sneak attack led to her looking around sheepishly and almost immediately asking for our relationship status update. It was a real fight or flight moment, but with no second thoughts I made the decision that would change my life forever. We have been together ever since.

We both graduated in 2000 and then did the long-distance thing for two and a half years. Nicole was working in NYC and getting her graduate degree at Columbia University, and I studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. I proposed to her in my final year of my MFA program, and we got married in the summer of 2004. We have two daughters. November 18, 2019 will mark 21 years since that first public kiss."

Keith C. Taylor ’00
Brooklyn, NY

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