Once upon a Wheaton wedding…

It turns out that the “ring by spring” culture we know so well has historical roots here at Wheaton. According the the Wheaton Alumni and Parent Engagement Association, there are a total of 44,595 living undergraduate and graduate school alumni and out of that number, 5,319 are alumni couples.

The Record reached out to some of these Wheaton alumni couples who dated at Wheaton College and are still together. Like you might expect, the list of these couples is extensive, and that’s a good thing — we unearthed an abundance of heart-warming stories of these couples and their relationships. We asked a few couples to share their stories from Wheaton College and the beginning of their relationship as they know it. These heartstring-tugging accounts of stolen glances and first run-ins are visually recreated by The Record’s assistant photo editor, freshman Sarah Holcomb.

 

Isaac and Sarah Smoak ‘14:

They met their first week of freshman year in the most romantic of all Fischer locales: the basement laundry room. Isaac was doing his laundry, and Sarah was getting ready for a trip to Massachusetts for her brother’s wedding. Lo and behold, they stayed up until 3 a.m. talking — a conversation that budded into a dating relationship later that year.

Unfortunately, they ran into a rough patch during the fall semester of their sophomore year and broke up because they wanted to focus more on faith, friends and school. It might have ended there, but God drew them back together.

While they weren’t seeing each other, they both spent their summer in Prague, Czech Republic, as a part of Wheaton’s Youth Hostel Mission. In the magical city of bridges, ancient cathedrals and golden towers, they found themselves staying up together until the wee hours, and their small talk rekindled the old flame suppressed by the worries and cares of a college student.

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Over the twisting rivers and historical bridges of Prague, the late nights and clandestine conversation transformed into a “DTR” — they needed to “define the relationship.” Instead of tumbling socks and rumbling washers accompanying their talk, the water of the Vltava river under the Charles Bridge, glittering in the sunrise, was the backdrop to their “something new.”

Both lived in Terrace apartments for their junior year, but separated again when Isaac chose to participate in a HNGR internship his senior year. After making it through those hard six months apart, they knew they wanted to be together but avoided rushing into anything else before graduating. Isaac popped the question on Oct. 30, 2014 — the same day he asked Sarah to be his girlfriend freshman year. They tied the knot in Pittsburgh, Sarah’s hometown, on June 27, 2015, and they currently live in Pilsen on the west side of Chicago.

 

Brady and Liz Wright ‘11:

Early in their time at Wheaton, Brady and Liz served as YoungLife leaders and shared a common circle of friends. Just about every weekend you could find them playing games in a dorm lobby with their group of friends. Despite exuding energy in their group interactions, Brady still needed some time to muster up the courage to ask Liz on a date. Eventually, though, their comfort in groups evolved into a more personal dating relationship February of their sophomore year. Their relationship was a natural fit, and they found themselves enjoying the time they spent apart from the rest of their friend group.

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Being the ideal Wheaton students that they were, most of their days were booked with studying for their demanding courses, so they found a natural activity to do together.

Studying at local parks like Seven Gables was always their top choice. But Seven Gables was way more than a study spot — this grove of trees a few minutes off campus is where Brady proposed to Liz on an unseasonably warm day in March of their senior year. Brady and Liz still live in Wheaton and continue to lead YoungLife together at Wheaton Warrenville South.

 

Pete and June Wilson ‘50:

June Coray is a Wheaton native who attended wrestling matches with her father, Ed Coray ’23 — for whom Coray Gymnasium is named — throughout high school. When Pete and June were both seniors at the same high school, they attended a match to watch Pete’s brother wrestle. June’s dad pointed Pete out as a recruit and mentioned that he hoped that Pete would start on the wrestling team the following year — the same year that June would be a freshman at Wheaton.

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Pete and June Willson ’50 return to King Arena. Photo credit courtesy Sarah Holcomb.

They met during the wrestling season of their freshman year and started seeing more of each other. Before long, Pete’s life revolved around wrestling and June. In fact, most of their social life as a couple revolved around wrestling. At least half of the wrestling team was married while in college — can I hear it for the “ring by spring” culture? — so that was the environment that they socialized in.

Their biggest dates were the four wrestling banquets that Pete brought June to. Pete wrestled for Wheaton all four years and later spent 27 years as the team’s wrestling coach.

 

Chris ‘75 and Carlene Ellis Ellerman ‘77:

Christopher, from Vancouver, British Columbia and Carlene, from Brooklyn, New York, met at Wheaton just outside of Fischer dorm, a brief interaction that needed room to flourish. That room was provided in their mutual membership of the International Students Club, where their insignificant meet cute grew into a meaningful friendship and beyond. They started dating in January 1974, a year after they met. As an interracial couple, their relationship was not typical for Wheaton. Most of their classmates accepted and encouraged their relationship, Carlene shared, but there were some students who accused them of living in sin because they were dating. Chris and Carlene’s commitment to enriching diversity saw them through the hardships and only strengthened their love for each other and the kingdom of God. They dated at Wheaton for two and a half years and married in the fall of 1976.

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Chris ’75 and Carlene Ellis Ellerman ’77 in the Fischer Hall lobby. Photo credit courtesy Andrew Graber.

Responding to a clear call from God to serve in home missions, Chris and Carlene seized the opportunity to re-establish a faith based mission for troubled youth in Wheaton — Wheaton Youth Outreach. After graduate school and a year of marriage, they opened the outreach as a group foster care home. They continued to served in this home for five years. As their family grew to include four of their own children, they welcomed as many foster children and young adults as they could fit into their home. Chris and Carlene reflected, “We feel blessed and honored to have been a part of the Wheaton family … We are amazed on a daily basis of all the resources God has available through this family to do his work both locally and throughout the world. For Christ and His Kingdom.”

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