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Matchbox Mates

Cupid's arrows fly thick and fast on Swarthmore's campus through the generations

Love Weaves an Intricate and Tangled Web

—Claude and Mary Roberts Smith, Class of 1914, Richard Smith ’41 and June Corey Smith ’43, David Heider ’64 and Ann Mueller Heider ’65, Daniel Heider ’96 and Rebecca Smith Heider ’96 (as told by Rebecca)

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Richard Smith ‘41 and June Corey Smith ‘43 with baby Corey.

Family legend has it that when my grandfather Dick Smith ’41 was a junior at Swarthmore, his father sat him down for a serious talk. “Son,” said Claude, Class of 1914, “it is time to get thee a wife. I found thy mother (Mary Roberts Smith, Class of 1914) at Swarthmore, and that is where thee should find thy wife as well.” So Dick paid close attention to the entering class, setting his heart on the bright and beautiful June Corey. They married at the Swarthmore Meeting while June was still a junior. She told me that she was among the first students to be allowed to marry and live off campus, as many young men, including my grandfather, were heading off to the war in Europe. By the time June graduated in 1943, she was pregnant with my father, Corey Smith ’65.

I didn’t take as long as my grandfather to find my match. I met Dan Heider ’96 on my first day at Swarthmore, although we didn’t start dating for a few more years. He was assigned to a room in Hallowell directly across the hall. I remember our eager and nervous conversation as we crossed the campus on our way to our first meal at Sharples, when I discovered that he, too, was a product of a matchbox union (David Heider ’64 and Ann Mueller Heider ’65) and that our parents had been at Swarthmore together. Just a month into our first year at school, when we were both still involved with high school relationships, I pictured growing old with Dan. His limitless curiosity, intelligence, and engagement with the world made me certain we would never run out of things to talk about. We were married at the Swarthmore Meeting in 1999 and celebrate our 15th anniversary this year.

Our three children have a legacy of four generations of matchbox marriages behind them (no pressure!).

They Lingered in the Library

—John ’39 and Jane Martin Roberts ’39

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John Roberts ’39 and Jane Martin Roberts ‘39

Jane (Prech—my name for her) passed away April 17, 2010. She sat in front of me in accounting class sophomore year. We were engaged minutes after graduation from Swarthmore.

While studying together in Swarthmore’s library one afternoon, we discussed what was important to us—our beliefs, our positions on politics, sex, religion, and even tennis, golf, and dancing.  Of all our interests, there were only two we didn’t share. I enjoyed tennis, and Jane enjoyed golf. There we were in the basement of the library. After two hours of discussion, we embraced, and we knew then, without a proposal, that God meant us for each other. Not married, not engaged, not joined even by a fraternity pin, we knew we were destined for the perfect, ultimate life together.

In 1937, I took her to the movie Nothing Sacred, during which she proposed to me. I took off my fraternity pin, the Phi Delta Theta sword and shield, and pinned it on her blouse. The College didn’t allow students to become engaged (one would have had to drop out), so she couldn’t have worn the Bailey Banks and Biddle diamond we later picked out until I put it on her finger at the Crum Creek a few minutes after graduation.

Jane wore her pin with pride. We ate meals and studied together except when we were in separate classes. We were just together, a model example of the Quaker matchbox.

Through the hallowed halls of Parrish and tree-lined paths of the arboretum that are implanted in our memories, we know that Swarthmore won’t leave us. Experiences with our friends continued to influence and shape our lives as we set out into the world. We like to think that the impact the College had on our lives and the impact our lives will have on the world make up a “Swarthmore effect” with truly awesome repercussions.

They “Benched” Each Other

—Julie Lange Hall ’55 and Parker Hall ’55

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ulie Lange Hall ’55 and Parker Hall ‘55

Parker and I came to Swarthmore as sophomores in 1952 and met at a gathering for transfer students. As Parker noted in his autobiography, I thought I’d “really like to know that tall, handsome guy from Chicago.” For his part, “I walked her back to the dorm after the meeting and asked her for a date right then.” We only knew each other superficially and dated others until the next December, when I had a Christmas party at my family’s house in Swarthmore on Cedar Lane. I played carols on the piano, while Parker sat on the bench beside me. Later, when I found out that he was an accomplished jazz pianist and his band, Hall’s Heavenly Half Dozen, was playing at DU parties, I sat on the bench beside him.

We were inseparable. The months are “mostly a blur in our minds.” We went sledding in Crum Woods, fell off the sled in the snow, but “we don’t remember being cold.” By spring, on a warm sunny day when we were studying in the grassy field in front of Martin, “circled by fragrant crabapple trees in bloom,” Parker asked me to marry him. He knew what my answer would be.

With another year of college, two of business school for Parker, plus two more in the Army if he was drafted, we told only our parents until the day before we graduated in 1955. A year later, we were married in the Friends Meeting House on campus. (We couldn’t wait five years.) Life magazine, putting together a book on the world’s great religions, asked the Meeting if there was a wedding they could photograph for the book, but we didn’t know that it would also appear in Life magazine—until friends told us they’d seen it.

We had 55 years of a wonderful life together until Parker’s death in 2011, but his spirit is always with me, and our children and grandchildren sustain me, as do my many happy memories.

Roses and a Kiss in the Moonlight

—Mike ’65 and Barbara Weber Mather ’65

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Michael ’65 and Barbara Weber Mather ’65

We met sophomore year in Chuck Gilbert’s Constitutional Law class. Long delays in her responding to letters that summer dampened his enthusiasm. Junior year, we were both back early from Christmas to finish seminar papers. The spark reignited. Roses for Valentine’s Day suggested he was serious. Our first kiss was in the moonlight on the top of the hill on the walk from the Meetinghouse to the president’s house. Dean Lange called Barbara in to warn her that she was jeopardizing her honors exams by spending so much time with “that boy.” Sitting on a branch of the magnolia tree by the old library, we discussed our married life. We were married among our friends the afternoon of graduation day. Our reception was at the Meetinghouse. We headed off to law school together in Chicago at the end of the summer. The matchbox continued to the next generation, with two of our children marrying fellow students.

Face Cream, Curlers, and Smiles

—Angela Mercer ’73 and Reginald Corinaldi ’75

When Angela met Regi

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Reginald Corinaldi ’75 and Angela Mercer ’73

After a slow summer, I’d decided to return to school a little early to enjoy the lovely campus before school began. I also wanted to be one of the first sophomore students back to school to carry on the tradition of checking out the new freshmen.

One night, after completing my nightly ritual of applying facial creams and curlers, I decided to visit my friend down the hall.

Two young men were with her. One had a wonderful smile, and I became instantly curious about him. My visit was cut short when I became aware of my appearance, so I returned to my room to look for his picture in the new Cygnet.

When Regi met Angela

It was my first day at Swarthmore. Although a little melancholy about leaving old friends, I anticipated exciting things ahead. A new friend Bill Collins ’74 (and we’re still friends today) and I went over to Willets Hall to visit a girl from our class we’d met at orientation. There was a knock at the door, and in walked my future bride. Not expecting to see men in the room, she wore her robe, had cream on her face, and her hair was braided for the night. “Wow, she is beautiful,” I thought. “What a smile.” She stayed only briefly but made a lasting impression on me. Next day, she came to lunch at Sharples. I was smitten. She had the most beautiful Afro (we called it a bush) I had ever seen. But it turned out she had a boyfriend. Ugh! The following year, the boyfriend told me that they were breaking up, so I asked if he minded if I took her out. The rest is a beautiful love story that continues to this day.

From Ghana in Swarthmore to Swarthmore in Ghana

—Kofi ’90 and Ruth Wade Kwakwa ’91

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Ruth Wade Kwakwa ‘91 (left) and Kofi Kwakwa ‘90 (second from right) with their three children

Two international students from Ghana and Jamaica stumbled upon Swarthmore in 1986 and 1987 despite the reputation for Ivy League colleges in their home countries. Welcomed warmly and generously supported by Swarthmore, we became an international matchbox couple, far from home, yet at home with other students in Danawell, the dining room, on the sports field, in campus jobs, and on Parrish Lawn, during the long summers and holidays.

Despite coming from homes literally an ocean apart, our similar backgrounds drew us together—school systems with British colonial pasts, similar families and values, and familiar language patterns, nuances, and a sense of humor that characterized our conversation and accents. However, it was Swarthmore’s trees and cozy “smallness”, the library, student-staff/faculty friendships, international club meetings, Black Cultural Center dance parties, soccer team activities, the semester-in-Spain program (graciously extended to even financially strapped international students), late nights in the computer lab, and Renato’s cheese steaks with jalapeños for the occasional treat that kept us grounded and happy.

Now at home in Ghana, we put our matchbox support behind Ashesi University, whose founder, Patrick Awuah ’89, we used to linger with on the lawn of Parrish. With Kofi as chairman of the local Ashesi board and Ruth as dean of student and community affairs, we express our gratitude to Swarthmore by supporting Ashesi’s vision of affording a liberal arts education to African students who deserve even more than we received from Swarthmore. Nothing is more heartwarming than sharing the memory of Swarthmore while building a Swarthmore-like experience for others. Together giving back what Swarthmore graciously gave to us is the essence of our matchbox story.

Love is a Chocolate Chip Cookie

—Sachie Uchimaru ’03 and Aman Pradhan ’03

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achie Uchimaru and Aman Pradhan ‘03 with their children and cat

Living on the same hall in Wharton during our freshman year, Aman and I met during orientation. He offered me some chocolate chip cookies his brother had baked for him as a send-off gift. We started to date a few months later and married the week we graduated from our respective graduate schools eight years later. At our wedding his brother baked the same chocolate chip cookies as favors for our guests, in hopes that they would also bring our guests as much happiness as they had brought the two of us.

Only in the small and tight-knit community of Swarthmore would our relationship even have started. We initially thought we were too different from each other to even become friends: I was an international student from Japan who loved pop music and figure skating, and he was from India, cringed at Britney [Spears], and always wore a leather jacket. Forced to get over our initial judgments of each other in the close quarters of our hall, we became good friends over meals at Sharples, chatting in the Wharton AB lounge, and late-night study sessions in McCabe.

We thanked Myrt Westphal, then dean of student life, in our wedding program for giving us the opportunity to meet in Wharton. Now we hope our two awesome boys will become Swatties and meet their future life partners there as well!

A Happy Turn of the Screw

—Karen Berk Kushner ’08 and Jeffrey Kushner ’09

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Karen Berk Kushner ’08 and Jeffrey Kushner ’09

February 2007. Swarthmore’s campus buzzed in anticipation of the annual Screw Your Roommate event—just a few weeks away. I was a junior; he was a sophomore. We were fall athletes with many mutual friends, but somehow in two years on campus, a face-to-face conversation had never occurred. I always viewed Screw as a fun evening without promise for a lasting relationship, but this year’s event seemed like an opportunity to finally meet the guy I admired from afar.

Traditionally, one’s roommate must arrange the date, but since I lived in a single room in Mertz, a friend of mine offered to ask his roommate to help. A match was made, and plans were in progress. My date remained oblivious, even as we passed on campus. Finally my impatience got the better of me; I sent him a message online revealing the surprise and suggesting that we get to know each other before Screw. He replied quickly, suggesting that I join him in Clothier at Massage Club. I agreed, albeit a little nervous about the physical contact I might have with someone I’d never really met.

When I arrived, I found him to be the only member without a partner (a strategic move I later found out). To my relief and satisfaction, the night was not as awkward as I had feared. We hit it off! That week, we had our first date, walking to nearby Blockbuster and watching The Illusionist back on campus. We became inseparable and, by the time Screw came around, were already dating. Five years later, we were engaged, returning to campus for our engagement photo shoot. Our wedding was Aug. 31, 2013, and we’re preparing to move to Florida for his medical residency. 

One Response to “Matchbox Mates”

  1. Wendell Williams, a transfer junior year from Deep Springs College, came to audition for the Hamburg Show, hoping to meet a beautiful junior, Pat Edwards (later our class’s May Queen and still later the wife of Jim Weston ’50). Unfortunately for Wendell, John McIntire had scheduled auditions alphabetically and Pat was long gone. The last two on the list were myself, Dot Watt, and Wendell Williams. So he walked me home—I lived in Pitt and he in Mary Lyon. We both got into the show—and the rest is history. Later, Wendell directed “HMS Pinafore” in 1950 and “Trial by Jury” and “Ruddigore” in 1951.
    I think 1949 was the year I reprised my freshman year solo, “I Want a Platonic Relationship,” which brought down the house, not because of me but because of a classmate who sat on stage calmly eating a phonograph record while I sang. Classmate Polly Pinsker followed me, singing “I Want a Sardonic Relationship.” Polly and I reprised our hit song at our 50th Reunion dinner. And Wendell conducted a “Mini-Pinafore” for his 50th reunion in 2001.
    Incidentally, Pat Weston is now my neighbor and friend in Sarasota. I’m glad she could make it to the anniversary reunion. She is still very beautiful. She and I are both widows now.
    —Dorothy Watt Williams ’50

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