There is no agreement about the origin of Valentine’s Day as we celebrate it in the United States, but it’s generally traced back to one of three roots. There is the Saint Valentine, of course, recognized by the Catholic Church. There is also the Roman priest Valentine who was executed by Emperor Claudius II because Valentine continued to marry Roman soldiers to their sweethearts after Claudius, who believed unmarried young men made better soldiers, had outlawed weddings. And then there’s the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales fame, whose poem “Parlement of Foules” tied courtly love to St. Valentine’s feast day on February 14, a connection that doesn’t seem to have existed before the poem became widely known.
But just as Valentine’s Day has more than one origin story, love can be expressed multiple ways. Here, we have collected a few alumni stories that demonstrate just a few of the ways people love. We’d love to hear yours, too!
Let us know how you show your love for LSA on social media by tagging @umichlsa. We’ll be sharing #UmichLove stories all Valentine’s week.
If you live in Michigan, you’ve surely seen the personalized license plates that celebrate the University of Michigan by proclaiming Go Blue! But Alumnus Andrew Kaminsky (A.B., 1990) didn’t let the fact that he no longer lives in Michigan stop him from personalizing his ride with U-M pride.
In December, 2018, Kaminsky persuaded New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicles to create a U-M plate. If you live in New York, you can show your U-M love with a Go Blue plate too!
Most lawyers don’t have photographs of football heroes hanging in their offices, but alumna Micky Yamatani (A.B. 1986) does.
As an undergrad, Yamatani cheered for Jim Harbaugh in the Big House. She continued to cheer for all of the quarterbacks that followed, but she’s never stopped cheering for Tom Brady because, she says, he showed his heart. “After the Patriots lost to the Giants in the Superbowl,” she recalls, “he was very gracious in his defeat. He didn’t make any excuses, gave credit to the Giants, and also congratulated his teammates on their hard-fought battle. His grace in defeat is what I remember most.”
Later, when the the Patriots prevailed against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 Superbowl, and Brady jumped with joy, she celebrated right along with him. “He experienced his loss and his victory with all his heart and soul,” she says.
Now, Yamatani is a divorce lawyer, and Brady inspires her work. Every year her office throws a big Valentine’s Day party called Heal the Hearts on Valentine’s Day. Each February, Heal the Hearts and the Superbowl give her two big occasions to think about the ways one can be both overjoyed and crushed without losing one’s grace.
LSA’s favorite prehistoric couple—the mastodons in U-M’s Museum of Natural History—were the audience for a moment of modern love, when Jonathan Fox (A.B. ’10) proposed to Lauren Samet (A.B. ’11) right in front of them. The human couple was in town for Fox’s father’s retirement party, and they were visiting some of their favorite places on campus. Samet might not have known what she’d find in the new U-M Museum of Natural History, but her family – and Fox’s – did. They all arrived early and were able to witness the historic event.
The story has a happy ending: She said yes.
The summer between her sophomore and junior year, freelance writer Lisa Awrey (A.B. 1980) was a student in a poetry class taught by the acclaimed poet and longtime U-M professor Robert Hayden, who revealed his love for poetry in a way that surprised and moved her as he read e.e. cummings’ poem “In Just” to the class. “He was wearing a wool blazer and a bow tie, and sweat was pouring down his forehead,” she recalls. “When he came to the line, ‘the queer / old balloon man whistles / far || and || wee,’ he paused between the words, his voice floating over the final words.
“I remember his voice cracked and he stopped to wipe away tears behind his signature coke-bottle lens glasses,” she says. “It was the first time I ever experienced a teacher, an artist, being so vulnerable she says. “I never forgot it.”
Every first-year student learns the lore at orientation. Spin the cube for luck. If you step on the M in the Diag, you’ll fail your first blue-book exam. Walk through the Ingalls Mall fountain to symbolize you’ve begun your life as a Wolverine. If you kiss someone under the West Engineering Arch, that will be the person you marry.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Lisa Newton-Klucevek (A.B. 1988). On a frozen January night in 1985, she and her new beau, Doug Klucevek (U-M 1988, 1994) found themselves approaching the West Engineering Arch and remembered the story from orientation. “When we arrived at the middle, we just stopped and looked at each other,” she recalls, and “we shared a brief kiss.” The couple married in 1995.
Now in 2019, Newton Klucevek says, “we are still married, love U-M, and return annually. During a visit a few years ago, we reenacted the kiss for our teenage daughters. They cringed and quickly walked away, so embarrassed!
“Oh well, it is a wonderful memory,” she says. “Forever Go Blue!”