On Wednesday, Oct. 20, the University will again celebrate International Pronouns Day (IPD), a global initiative established in 2018 that seeks to make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns a common occurrence. Referring to people by the pronouns they…
Stories of Orange Love
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’re capturing the stories of #OrangeLove. Meet six couples who found true love thanks to Syracuse University, then submit your own #OrangeLove story.
Jennifer Brody ’90 and Jeffrey Kohn ’92
Brody and Kohn met on campus through Jeff’s sister Rikki ’89, but there was a roadblock to a relationship: Jenn already had a boyfriend. While both later admitted there was an initial attraction, they never acted on it as undergraduates.
Soon after Kohn graduated, he attended the Culinary Institute of America and moved back to New York City, where he frequently found himself running into Brody in the most random of locations.
After the third chance encounter, in the fall of 1994, Brody invited Kohn to a Halloween party and the romance bloomed from there.
When it came time to propose, Kohn devised a unique plan. Knowing Brody loved cats, he put the ring in their litter box. He knew her first task when she returned home from work would be cleaning it out.
She found the ring and immediately accepted. From there, the couple was on to their next challenge: opening a bread bakery, the Kneaded Bread, in Port Chester, New York. Five months after the bakery opened, on Oct. 31, 1998, the couple wed as part of an orange-clad affair.
“Syracuse is a strong part of who we are, and we live it. We’re very different people, but that’s good. Jeff has never balanced a checkbook in his life; I do all of that. I’m the good cop and Jeff is the bad cop,” she says.
After 18 years of marriage, the couple is now raising two boys together. They also own the Q Restaurant and Bar, where everything is orange—from the chairs and benches to the awning, signage and paint on the walls.
“Orange is the dominant color in our restaurant and it was a no-brainer. We go up to campus all the time and I’m thankful for our time at SU. Syracuse sets you up for success. The people there are motivated, and they network and help each other out. It’s an unbelievable bond,” he adds.
Katie Garton ’10 and Mike Desir ’10
Garton and Desir met with only two weeks remaining in their junior year, and they met by coincidence. Katie was working on her final photography class project and was following around one of Mike’s friends, Jemar Souza ’09, for a week when the two future lovebirds met for the first time.
While Garton was busy photographing Souza’s life on campus, she caught Desir’s eye, and the two got to know each other. At Souza’s graduation party, they realized there was a mutual attraction and exchanged phone numbers.
The upcoming summer vacation provided a challenge. Garton was heading back to Iowa and Desir to New Jersey. To combat the distance, the two spoke daily on the phone, and the conversations were so fun and natural that they decided to start dating.
But there was another roadblock: Desir was planning on studying abroad in Italy the first semester of 2009. After realizing “We didn’t want anyone else to have the other person,” Garton says, she started looking for internships in New York City and eventually landed one.
“That was the best summer, the summer of love in New York,” Garton says.
The new couple Skyped frequently while Desir was in Italy, and when he returned to Syracuse, Garton found him an apartment on Sumner Avenue, across the street from her apartment.
After graduation, they moved three times: first to Harlem, then back to Des Moines, Iowa, then finally to Chicago, where they were engaged in May of 2012.
The couple wed in Chicago on Sept. 28, 2013, in a predominantly orange wedding, complete with orange lanterns, orange tables and an orange backdrop behind the newlyweds’ table. Even the lighting in the room was tinted orange. Her high heels were bright orange, His socks were orange, the bridesmaids had bouquets made of orange brooches and the groomsmen wore orange socks and had orange in their ties.
They currently live in Chicago and are raising a young son, Rufus. The couple nearly made their son’s middle name Otto, but instead decorated his nursery in all orange.
“We always say if it weren’t for Syracuse we probably wouldn’t have met. I wouldn’t have had that photography project where I stalked his friend for a week, which meant I probably wouldn’t have met Mike,” she says. “We still wear our orange #AllOrangeEverything T-shirts that Jemar made for us when we were undergraduates. Syracuse always has held a special place in our lives.”
Jessica Cain ’06 and Kevin Kopko ’06
Cain was raised by Syracuse University graduates—Ron ’85 and Karen Cain ’77, who have been married for 36 years. Now she is married to her Syracuse sweetheart.
While she met her future husband when the two were freshmen living in Shaw Hall, it wasn’t until the Orange were gearing up for their historic run to the men’s basketball national championship game in March of 2003 that the two really hit it off.
They watched Carmelo Anthony and company claim SU basketball’s first-ever national championship with an 81-78 win over Kansas, bonding over basketball at Tully’s restaurant on Erie Boulevard.
A walk-on member of the football team, Kopko taught Cain about football. Cain, who grew up in nearby Camillus, introduced Kopko, a Philadelphia native, to the restaurants of Syracuse. Following one of Kopko’s spring football scrimmages inside the Carrier Dome, he invited her onto the turf field, where the pair took their first official photo as a couple.
After they started dating, Kopko and Cain both joined University 100 as student ambassadors for SU. Occasionally they would give tours together and would casually wink at each other whenever the tour passed by the kissing bench, since that was where Kopko first told Cain he loved her.
Kopko also kissed her on the bench and, true to the legend that couples who kiss on the bench are destined for marriage, the couple wed on Sept. 7, 2013. Their engagement photos were taken on campus, and the wedding party gathered at the iconic front walkway at the Hall of Languages for photos after the ceremony.
“SU holds a really important place for both of us and we have many great memories of our campus,” she says. She and her husband are raising a young daughter.
“It’s a great school academically and personally. It’s also the place I met my soulmate. Anytime someone brings up college, it fills me with such happiness, and we still bleed orange to this day. SU gave us the foundation for a great family,” she continues.
Lisa Savioli ’98 and Phil Olshanski ’96
On the day that Savioli was to graduate from the University with a degree in broadcast journalism, her mind was racing thinking about her bright future, and celebrating her graduation with family, friends and her boyfriend, Olshanski.
The two had been dating since November 1995, when Olshanski was a resident advisor in Brewster/Boland—the residence hall where Savioli lived.
Their first date, a screening of the James Bond film “GoldenEye,” presented a unique challenge for Olshanski, who got lost driving Savioli back from what was then known as Carousel Mall.
“I had made that drive so many times, and here I am on a first date and I get lost. I wanted to make a good impression on her, and I got a little flustered,” Olshanski recalls. “But Lisa said ‘Oh, this is great, I love getting lost and driving around,’ and instead of ruining the night, she was able to disarm me in a way that no one had ever really been able to. In that moment, I told myself I would one day marry this girl.”
The two started dating and Olshanski made a habit of walking with Savioli to her classes inside the Hall of Languages.
The relationship quickly blossomed. Despite spending 18 months apart—between Olshanski graduating and landing a job in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Savioli still studying at SU—Olshanski would plan romantic surprises, like the time he drove seven hours in a driving snowstorm to surprise his sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.
The biggest surprise came following Savioli’s commencement.
“After graduation, I had arranged to meet my parents, my brother and my grandmother outside of Gate E, and there was Phil waiting for me,” she remembers. “He walked up to me, got down on one knee and proposed. I was stunned because he had never wanted to talk about marriage before that point. No one was expecting it and we didn’t have anyone to take our photo. It was such a great surprise!”
Proving he really hadn’t planned the proposal far in advance, Olshanski laughs when he recalls purchasing the engagement ring the day before graduation.
“That ring was burning a hole in my pocket that day. I always told Lisa we wouldn’t discuss marriage until she was out of school, so I waited until the day she graduated to ask her to marry me,” he adds. “The ultimate payoff was surprising the heck out of her on graduation day.”
Cindy Felzer ’70 and Robert Leitzell ’70
Felzer and Leitzell started as rivals in a race for a seat on the student senate.
What began as a political competition actually offered the perfect chance to get to know each other, as the two would spend a lot of time campaigning in the residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses.
Both were elected to serve on the student senate, and following each senate meeting the couple would go out to a bar—The Country Club—as friends. After a year spent getting to know each other, Felzer and Leitzell began dating in 1969.
The couple wed in 1972 and raised two boys, Stephen and Kevin. Kevin graduated from SU in 2000. The basement of their Philadelphia home is a shrine to SU athletics.
“One hundred percent of the credit for our relationship goes to Syracuse. We loved our time at SU and we both received great educations,” Felzer says. “We were from entirely different backgrounds, as Bob was from a small town in Western New York and I am from Philadelphia. Our paths never would have crossed without Syracuse.”
Corey Straetmans ’99 and Brian McIsaac ’99
Straetmans met her husband, McIsaac, at a new student send-off event in Birmingham, Michigan, but they did not see each other regularly on campus during that first year at SU.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving break of their sophomore year that the two spent any real time together. Realizing there weren’t many Michigan natives on campus, Straetmans offered McIsaac a ride home for break. He had already purchased a plane ticket back to Michigan for the following day, but he accepted her ride offer and the relationship took off from there.
“The entire time we were in the car (six to seven hours) we never turned on the radio once: we were talking the whole time,” she remembers. “When I got home, I told my mother that I’d met the guy I was going to marry. We fell for each other pretty hard and pretty fast, spent Christmas with each other’s families, and we fell in love soon after.”
During her senior year on campus, Straetmans started working for WSTM, the NBC affiliate in Syracuse, and often had her hands full balancing classes and a full-time job. She remembers McIsaac bringing her dinner on long days.
McIsaac proposed in August of 1999 and the couple married one year later. They are raising three children together: Dolan Patrick (12), Finn Michael (10) and Maggie (9).
“We’re both people of faith and we both feel like God brought us together through Syracuse to make our family whole,” Straetmans says. “It was in God’s hands for us to meet at Syracuse.”
Share Your Story
Do you have an #OrangeLove story to share? We’d love to hear it! Visit orangelove.syr.edu.
View photos and read stories of other Syracuse couples in our #OrangeLove Facebook album.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Syracuse sweethearts!