After walking away from campus with a diploma in hand and your future lying ahead, what is it that you remember from college? Maybe it’s late-night CUB runs, cram sessions in the library, or Frisbee on the quad. Maybe it’s as simple as a comforting scent, the shade of a certain tree, or the way the stars shine on clear nights near the creek.
Chances are, the moments you remember most about Ship are thanks to the company with which you shared it. And many of our alums are lucky enough to say they are spending the rest of their lives with the company that made their college experience so special.
Over the years, Ship has played cupid to nearly 8,000 alumni. “When we talk to alumni, many of them talk about their strong connection to Ship, in part because of the relationships they had here,” said Lori Smith ’95–’07m, assistant director of Alumni Relations. “They have great stories about how they met.”
This February, Alumni Relations held its first ShipMates reception and dinner, inviting Ship couples back to campus for a chance to reconnect. Smith hopes the date night becomes an annual event. If the warm, fuzzy feeling Ship couples have when they return to reminisce about those special campus moments is any indication, the ShipMates event is sure to be a success.
From blind dates to on-campus weddings, several alumni couples shared with SU Magazine how their alma mater played a role in their relationship.
Let’s Go for a Ride
There’s some debate on whether the Conards’ first outing was an official date. Kate Conard ’60 didn’t exactly melt when Ron Conard ’59-’65M first asked her out. “He said, ‘Do you want to go for a ride with me to see the stars?’ Doesn’t that just make you want to throw up?,” Kate said, smiling. “I thought he was way too old for me. He was a vet. I was eighteen, and he was going on twenty-three.”
But, Ron insisted, and the two attended the elementary education picnic in Caledonia.
“He was very nice to me,” Kate said.
Unbeknownst to the new couple,they lived only six blocks apart from each other in Harrisburg, so they dated all summer. Upon returning to campus, the two elementary education majors shared classes and most of their free time. They both participated with the Masquers, the drama club that performed in Memorial Hall. “She acted, and we both built sets,” Ron said.
They spent plenty of time socializing and playing cards in Stewart Hall. “We’ll be memorialized in front of Stew Hall as part of the brick project,” Kate said, referring to the personalized Pathway Home Brick Project that will surround the entrance of Stewart as part of its renovations.
Their sprightly personalities led to more unusual memories as well, such as the night Ron dared to chop off her ponytail. “He knocked on a friend’s door and said ‘Get your scissors,’” Kate said, laughing. “That was kind of dumb, wasn’t it?”
“I still have it,” Ron said.
Thankfully, Ron’s persistence on their first outing paid off. The day after he graduated in 1959, they got married. Today, Ship remains a special part of their lives.
“We’ve made all of these wonderful relationships. We love this place,” Ron said. The two still regularly connect with retired faculty, administrators, and classmates and continue giving back to their alma mater.
They’ve volunteered as greeters at the Luhrs Center, worked the Phonathon, hosted campus tours, chaired class reunions, helped at the Shippensburg University Foundation, and loyally cheered on the Red Raiders.
“It’s truly, truly family,” Ron said.
Beautiful Music Together
From small class sizes to its hometown feel, Ship provided a comfort for Scott ’07 and Anita ’06-’10M Hershberger that they didn’t get from larger institutions.
“We knew that Ship would provide us with the opportunity to participate in a variety of clubs and organizations. We were both very social and active during our college days,” Scott said. That campus involvement, particularly with the SU Marching Band, is where the Hershbergers connected.
Scott was in the drumline and Anita performed with the color guard. “We got to know each other out on the field while practicing the drill for the show that we performed at every football game, and eventually started to spend time together outside of practice.”
As the two became better acquainted, they were both impressed by each other’s drive and ambition. An elementary education major with a minor in reading, Anita excelled in the classroom as she prepared for a career as an educator. Anita noticed that Scott, a communication/journalism major with a concentration in electronic media and a minor in psychology, showed plenty of energy and dedication for his schoolwork and activities.
“One of the best things about finding our ‘ShipMate’ in college is that several of our friends were there to witness the evolution of our relationship. Now years later, we can all keep in touch, reminisce, and share stories that all of us experienced together,” Scott said.
A few years after they graduated, the Hershbergers celebrated their favorite moment on campus when they were married at the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center in July 2010. They held their reception in the Orrstown Bank Lobby at the Luhrs Center.
“Sharing that bond with each other is a wonderful feeling,” Scott said. “It makes returning to campus for annual events such as Homecoming weekend much more enjoyable, because we know we will be reunited with people with whom we both have long histories, while also retracing the steps that we walked together years ago.”
Love at First Sight
The Groves managed a feat that few, if any, Ship couples probably achieved. Mary Jo Grove ’69-’70M received special permission from the president at the time to miss her graduation so she could walk down the aisle instead of across the stage.
This love story began the day Mary Jo returned to campus for her sophomore year. She headed to the Raider Room with her new roommate for a soda. A tall, handsome man who knew her roommate sat down next to them. “I was attracted to him,” Mary Jo admitted. “He believed it was love at first sight.”
Gary Grove ’68-’70M soon asked Mary Jo on their first unofficial date—a dance at Stewart Hall and had a dozen long-stemmed roses delivered that weekend for her birthday. “I’d only known him less than a week,” she said.
Later, the car enthusiast invited her to a road rally, a completely foreign concept to Mary Jo. “The passenger gives directions to the driver on where to go, and you had to be on the lookout for clues. We came home with second place,” she said.
As their relationship progressed, Gary proposed to Mary Jo during her junior year. Her mother cautioned her not to get married until after graduation. Mary Jo planned the wedding for what she thought was the following week, but had mixed up the dates, prompting special permission to miss one ceremony for another. “Everything was reserved for the wedding,” she said. “I had to write a letter to the president in 1968. Thankfully, he approved.”
The Groves spent much of their time on campus at Stew Hall. Gary loved music and enjoyed the bands and dances held there. Because of their connection to Ship and Stew Hall, the couple launched a $500,000 challenge through the SU Foundation in 2014 to raise funds for renovations of the historic building, which are set to begin later this year. “My husband wants to be there to knock down the first wall,” Mary Jo said.
They also have donated to scholarships through the SU Foundation to help other students reach their goals. “Gary and I have a successful business. We feel our preparation at Ship was one of the things that helped us to be successful,” she said. “We want to make everyone else aware of the educational opportunities at Ship. ...We just feel we had such a good experience.”
From Blind Date to Marriage
“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision marriage as a result of a blind date,” Brenda Gabler ’77 said.
Brenda’s Harley Hall roommate was unable to attend a Phi Sig party and suggested that Brenda take her place on the date. That night, she thought it a bit strange that no one was waiting for her when she was paged to go down to the residence hall lobby. Her sneaky blind date hid behind the stairs, checking her out.
Steve Gabler ’75 decided he liked what he saw and the two headed to the party.
“Steve had beautiful blue eyes, which I noticed right away,” Brenda said.
Ship was the base for the Gablers’ relationship. They played tennis and ventured into town for milkshakes at the Treat. Brenda said Steve slid “lovely notes” under her dorm door after working the nightshift as an emergency dispatcher. “They were very sweet and touched my heart.”
Brenda majored in elementary education and minored in history, studying hard to remain on the dean’s list. She enjoyed spending time on campus with Steve as they got to know each other and discussed the future.
Graduation was particularly memorable. As class president, Brenda was introduced by then-President Gilmore Seavers to deliver the class speech. Steve hadn’t planned to attend and hadn’t purchased a cap and gown, but Brenda pulled some strings. “I asked dear Gladys Bender in the CUB office if she could help. She took care of it, and his parents and grandparents didn’t know a thing about it.”
Brenda said the life they share is a result of their journey at Ship. “From the first day I stepped on campus, friendships developed that I still hold dear today,” she said.
Now retired after more than thirty-three years of teaching, Brenda volunteers with the SU Alumni Association, Honor Society, and SU Foundation. The Gablers sup- port and attend Luhrs Center events and sporting events. “The SU family from the president to the students are very important to us, and we continue to support and enjoy life on campus.”
ShipMates Play Cupid
Although they didn’t meet on campus, the Ship connection remained strong when the Taylors were introduced by mutual friends. Linda ’68 and Don ’70 Dickinson, also Ship grads, invited Geoff ’71-’74m and Linda ’67-’68m Taylor over for a party, conveniently placing their single friends at the same table. Linda said she was “awe-struck” by the handsome, blond, young man who hung on her every word.
Linda later invited the Dickinsons and Geoff over to her apartment, wowing Steve with her cooking. “The rest is history,” they said. “Shippensburg University was in the background of our meeting, and continually through our marriage.”
Geoff had followed in his father’s foot- steps, attending Ship for business administration and English education. Linda had pursued a career in business education. Even after forty years of marriage, the couple fondly recalls the love of education that Ship instilled in them. Both Geoff and Linda taught for thirty-five years.
They often return to campus to enjoy performances at the Luhrs Center in their favorite seats, having been regulars since the performing arts center opened its doors in 2006. While visiting for Alumni Week- end, they have renewed wedding vows at the Spiritual Center and taken instruction through the skillful cooking demonstrations of Nick Iula.
Crediting Ship with establishing their vocations, comfortable livelihood, education, and rewarding activities in retirement, they are heavily involved at their alma mater. “We have met many wonderful people who work at Ship or have also attended the university,” they said. “And, of course, through fellow ShipMates, we met each other.”
The Best Group Project
Most students dread group projects, but every once in a while, the end result goes beyond expectations.
Toni Marchowsky ’05-’06M and Bobby Sisock ’05-’0M attended Ship as political science majors, meeting their sophomore year in Dr. Ron Tucker’s Introduction to Public Administration class in Shearer Hall. Although the storyline varies, Toni’s seat in the class gradually ended up in front of Bobby’s and the two were assigned a group project. As they got to know each other, Toni said she had played softball with some of Bobby’s high school friends and the two realized they grew up less than thirty minutes apart.
Bobby was smitten with Toni’s laugh, smile, and thoughtful personality. Toni fell for Bobby’s sense of humor, intelligence, and laid back nature. As their college career and relationship progressed, they became active in Student Government, the Political Science Club, and Pi Sigma Alpha.
After dating for several years, their favorite moment on campus came when Bobby took Toni back to the classroom in Shearer where they met, and proposed.
“Had we not decided to go to Ship, we would have never met,” Bobby said. “We have stayed in touch with classmates and professors who have become like family. Some attended our wedding, and Dr. Tucker even officiated our ceremony.
“He said it was the most successful group project he ever assigned.”
Now settled and raising a family in Harrisburg, the two often return to campus to visit their favorite places and see what’s changed. Bobby is a member of the Alumni Board of Directors and is an adjunct professor in the Political Science Department.
Toni delivered the graduate commencement speech in May 2013. Both come back to guest lecture or show classes around the Capitol when they visit Harrisburg.
“Ship has given so much to us, that we feel it is only natural for us to give back to Ship.”