Alumni Love Stories
We asked alumni couples to send in their love stories, and we received some fantastic responses. They include chance encounters, memories of college life and one unbelievable reunion. People often say that going to college is a transformational experience. Based on these stories, we’re true believers of that refrain. We hope you enjoy reading these love stories as much as we have.
Jim, ’79, hotel and restaurant management, and Diane Poettgen, ’80, liberal studies
Jim Poettgen arrived at Cal Poly Pomona in the spring of 1975. He was a football recruit from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, where he’d been voted “Gaucho of the Year.” I was a freshman rooming in Montecito Hall with my twin sister, Liz. It didn’t take long for us to meet because, back then, all the athletes ate their meals with the dormitory students in Los Olivos.
Although though Jim was a hotel and restaurant management major and I was a liberal studies student, we ran in the same circle of friends. My sister and I were songleaders on the pep squad and cheered for the Broncos football team, including Jim, the All-American defensive back.
Jim and I married in the summer of 1976 and started a family while still maintaining a full load of classes. When Jim graduated in 1978, he joined the Alumni Association as a lifetime member. His career has included working as a restaurant manager for Jojo’s and the Claim Jumper Restaurants. In 1987, he opened his own sports-themed restaurant, Ball Park Pizza Team in Orange County. The current location in Rancho Santa Margarita opened in 1990, where Jim also coaches high school football and track.
After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, I earned my teaching credential and master’s degree and am now in my 31st year of teaching. I’ve worked in Saddleback Unified School District since 1987.
We have been blessed with four lovely daughters and four adorable grandchildren. This past August, we celebrated our 35th anniversary with a big party that included the original band that played at our 1976 wedding reception.
Cal Poly Pomona has always had a special place in our hearts. We love coming back to the campus and enjoy having occasional dinners at The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. We also attend the annual Angels in the Outfield event at Angel Stadium hosted by The Collins College of Hospitality Management.
Dennis, ’73, marketing management, and Maria (Aspeotis) Thomas
A chance encounter on April 21, 1969, under a tree in the Quad in front of the old library led to a wedding on April 19, 2003.
Dennis Thomas and I both attended Cal Poly Pomona but not at the same time. He entered as a junior in 1967 before he was drafted by the Army and shipped to Vietnam. I started in the fall of 1968 as a freshman and attended through the fall of 1969.
That April, I was sitting on the grass reading a book between classes when I met Dennis, who was on military leave and was scheduled to meet with Professor Art Johnson to receive a letter allowing him a three-month early exit from the military. Dennis had re-upped for an extra year in the Army but now was ready to return to Cal Poly Pomona.
Our eyes met. We smiled at each other and started talking. We dated for the next three weeks while he was on leave. So certain he was “the one,” I told my mother that I was going to marry him after our first date. We wrote about 150 letters to each other while he was stationed in Germany for 15 months from 1969 to 1970. A month after he left, my mother passed away. Life got complicated, and our relationship never quite had the chance to succeed.
Dennis returned to Cal Poly Pomona in the summer of 1970 and received a bachelor’s degree in marketing management two years later. He excelled in his studies and received the “Outstanding Student in Marketing Management Award.” I later graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor’s in sociology.
Thirty-three years later we found each other again. Dennis’ sister, Leoti, sent me a message through Classmates.com. It began: “I don’t know if you remember me, but you dated my brother Dennis Scott Thomas in the 60s.” Of course, I remembered.
This time, the timing was right -- an answer to my prayers. I had lost my husband to cancer three years prior, and Dennis was divorced. I again had to wait for him as he was on a three-week cruise in the South Pacific.
When Dennis returned, we went out and he proposed 10 days later. He still had the letters I wrote to him, and we both had saved photos from our three-week courtship. On our third date, we read the letters and observed how we had matured, but in some ways hadn’t changed at all. We found the calendar I kept of the three weeks we spent together and laughed as we remembered our dates to Disneyland, Griffith Park, movies and dancing. He related to me how he had spoken to my mom before he left for Germany and promised to take care of me. I told him how I had spoken to my mom after our first date and told her that he was the man I was going to marry. All of our promises were finally coming true. We waited five months to plan an outdoor wedding and party with dancing. We both love to dance.
We were married on April 19, 2003, nearly 34 years to the date of our first meeting at Cal Poly Pomona. Our love story doesn’t end there. We both love to travel, and I have visited more than 45 countries and Dennis has visited over 100.
Life is full of surprises. Never underestimate the power of a chance encounter. That day at Cal Poly Pomona changed our lives forever.
James Grafton and Valerie Skinner Randall, ’76, communication
When I graduated in December 1976, I felt as though I had grown wings. Filled with joy and excitement, I knew something very special was waiting for me in the near future. I was right. Within days I met my future husband at Pomona Valley Community Hospital, where we both were working.
After a few dates, we discovered how often our lives had been running parallel before our paths finally crossed. He had attended Cal Poly Pomona years earlier and even roomed at Encinitas Hall, where I lived in 1974. He left to return to the military and completed his degree there. When we met at the hospital, he was just out of the military and preparing to enter law school. I was filling in for another department as I started my job search.
Because of our Cal Poly Pomona connection, we inquired about getting married at Kellogg House Pomona. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available at the time for weddings, so we elected to marry at Padua Hills in Claremont.
Last October, we celebrated 31 years of marriage. We've raised twin sons and led a wonderful life. We are long-time residents of Anaheim Hills. We recently returned to Cal Poly Pomona for the Southern California Tasting & Auction fundraiser and were joined by friends from our college days, another alumni couple who recently celebrated 34 years of marriage. We had all met at Encinitas Hall. It was a lovely day, with much happy reminiscing.
Sopheap, ’92, mechanical engineering and ’02, MBA, and Jennifer Srun
In September 1988 I met my future husband, Sopheap Srun, in a Spanish class. He was a mechanical engineering student, and I was a liberal studies student. I used to pack lunch for us, and we would sit together in the Quad and share lunch.
Fast forward 23 years. Wow, it went so fast. We have been married for 13 years and have four beautiful children ages 11, 7, 5 and 2. Sopheap continued his studies at Cal Poly Pomona after our first son was born and earned his MBA in 2002.
We still enjoy taking a stroll through the beautiful campus, especially the rose garden. We bring the children to pick strawberries each summer and enjoy the Pumpkin Festival every fall. It is a special place for us. We met and became friends at Cal Poly Pomona, and that friendship bloomed into something beautiful. We are so blessed!
If you have an alumni love story, we’d love to read it.
Share it with us by emailing email@example.com.
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