Not as flashy and commercial as Valentine’s Day, National Spouses Day (January 26) boasts of a deeper meaning. It’s a holiday set aside for married couples to acknowledge their significant others and reflect on their relationship. The focus is less on gifts and more on time spent expressing gratitude to one another for the journey together. All the sentiment, perhaps, with less chocolate.
Lehigh University has produced plenty of marriages between alumni, some of them even taking place in the hallowed halls of Packer Chapel. Here are just a few of the many Lehigh love stories that led to “I do.”
A never-ending adventure
Susan (Bregstein) ’80 and Mark Hembarsky ’80 met as sophomores in 1977 at a residence hall party, but Susan put Mark in the “not impressive” category, and Mark … well, he had such a good time he remembers nothing about the event. Besides, both were in serious relationships at the time and busy with extracurricular activities: Marching 97 for Susan and fraternity, intramurals, and engineering society activities for Mark.
But eventually, after running with the same social group for a while, they had their first date. “It was on a fateful evening before graduation day,” Mark recalls. “We sat on the north side of Bethlehem, looking across the river to take in the beauty of the Lehigh campus.”
That date still didn’t “seal the deal,” Mark says, and the two went their separate ways after Commencement. It wasn’t until Susan began attending Lehigh alumni parties at the house in New Jersey that Mark and three other Class of ’80 friends shared that they figured out they might indeed have a future together.
Susan followed Mark to a new position in Los Angeles, but when his job called for an expatriate assignment in the Netherlands, “she had to think hard about the future,” Mark says. “I proposed and promised her that I would make sure she was never bored. She couldn’t turn the offer down.”
The couple eloped in 1983 and married in the historic town hall of Noordwijk, Netherlands, riding to the ceremony in a traditional Dutch horse and carriage with onlookers cheering along the way. “Forty years and 10 months later, Mark has kept his promise, and I’ve never been bored,” Susan says.
The Hembarskys, who renewed their vows in Packer Chapel at their 30th Class Reunion, have two daughters, Morgan Nielsen ’13 and Rebecca, who is married to Ralph Missimer ’12.
“Ultimately, we are soulmates — but often great things take time to be achieved,” Mark says. Susan adds, “Our love has been a never-ending adventure.
From best friends to soulmates
Jason ’98 ’00G and Ali ’98 ’00G (Sferlazza) Erk met at a peer educator meeting in University Center in 1994. “We were paired together in an activity to write our stresses on a red balloon and pop it,” Ali says. “We became instant friends, closer as the years went by. We always got along very well and enjoyed spending time together. By our junior year, people thought we were secretly dating, but we were just close friends.”
That all changed after they were each other’s dates to a Greek life social event in their senior year, and the couple has been together ever since. “We got engaged on Mountaintop Campus our first year of graduate school. We were married in Packer Chapel in 1999,” Ali says. “Over 24 years and four kids later, we still love spending time together!”
If music be the food of love, play on!
They may have first met in a history class called Romantic Music in 1996, but it wasn’t until Travis ’98 and Christine ’99 (Galli) LaBerge encountered each other again during his Presidential Scholar year that the two started dating.
“It was like lightning had struck,” Travis recalls. “So much so that after only four months, in January 1999, I proposed to Christine on the stage of Baker Hall,” which was closed between performances of A Little Night Music. “Professor [Paul] Salerni helped me gain access to the hall, complete with a single spotlight shining on a Steinway, a dozen roses, and a bottle of champagne,” Travis says.
Christine said yes, and after she graduated that spring, the couple moved to Colorado and married in the mountains there. Two near-college-age kids and 23 years later, they’re still making beautiful music together.
“Christine and I were lucky enough to be part of the music program when it was in both Lamberton and then Zoellner. We are forever grateful to the music faculty and Lehigh for bringing us together.”
A match made in M&M
Faith Roncoroni ’10 and Jake Cutrufello ’11 met during move-in at McClintic-Marshall (M&M), where they both lived freshman year. “My roommate and I decided to introduce ourselves to everyone in the building. Jake lived on the floor above us, and we asked him to come with us to a carnival,” Faith remembers.
The two were in the same orientation group and English I class. They bonded the first week of school, playing air hockey at the Owl’s Nest. By October, they were dating.
“I remember him as being supportive — helping me hang posters for class office elections, walking to class with me, making sure our friends made it home safely from parties. When I realized how genuine and compassionate he was, that's when I knew I loved him,” Faith says.
Faith proposed to Jake in front of M&M, and they were married in Disney World in 2018. And just like that night at the Owl’s Nest, they still occasionally enjoy a competitive game of air hockey.
Inseparable: Best friends and in love from the very start
Alexandra (Neumann) ’11 and Sebastian Grant ’11 met at a Lehigh house party in October of their junior year, shortly after Alex transferred to Lehigh. Cliché as it may sound, it was love at first sight.
“Sebastian walked into my friend’s party, and I noticed him immediately,” Alex says. “Later, after a couple of encouraging smiles from me, he worked up the courage to talk to me. His opening line was, ‘Hey, I know where you live!’ Which had me slightly concerned — why did this guy know where I lived?”
“For the record, I was not stalking her,” Sebastian laughs. “I had noticed her coming and going from Campus Square because she was clearly new to campus. I had never had the opportunity to talk to her before that party.”
Despite the inauspicious beginning, the two connected over mutual friends, and the night continued with dancing and pizza at Sotto Santi’s. “And the rest is history!” Alex says.
While they didn’t marry at Packer Chapel, the couple did bring many Lehigh friends with them to their 2017 wedding at a chateau in Burgundy, France.
A great story for our future kids
Ali Hyman ’14 and Kevin Melone ’15 ’15G began their love story at Lehigh in November 2013 on Kevin’s birthday. After an off-campus fraternity party, Kevin, who was friends with one of Ali’s roommates, spent the night on their couch. “The next day, I woke up to a note that said, ‘Sorry, and thank you,’ accompanied by a gift because he thought he had ruined our couch,” Ali remembers. “We became fast friends after that generous gesture.”
The two were friends who spent time together in groups for the rest of their time at Lehigh. Ali graduated and moved back to New York, while Kevin studied abroad. Once he came back, though, “he asked me out on a date, and the rest was history,” Ali says.
They were married in 2023 in Montauk, New York, where they’ve spent many summers together over the years.