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Credit: Katrina Itona

Who’s your Valentine this year? 

If you don’t have one yet, don’t worry. If all else fails, you can always DM your Penn Marriage Pact 30 years down the line. 

Penn’s prolific hookup culture, rooted in weekends of binge-drinking and weekdays of abundant academic and professional obligations, has discouraged many students from searching for serious relationships. For some, the comfort of low commitment and immediate sexual gratification is ideal and even empowering, but for others, not so much. No matter how you feel, the general consensus is that there is a very specific romantic, or lack thereof, culture on our campus: The default label for relationships is casual.  

This all leads me to wonder: Has dating changed drastically over time? Why do we constantly complain that romance is dead? Has romance really diminished like we believe it has, or, has it always been faithfully constant and just presented in a different way? 

To attempt to answer this question, prop your feet up and let me introduce you to three wonderful alumni couples: Scott and Lauren Kegler (1995 College graduates), Jennifer and Ariel Lechter (Class of 1993), and Larry Miller (1968 Engineering graduate) and Karen Carr (1968 College graduate). 

When Scott met Lauren

We may have missed each other if it weren’t for Senior Week in 1995. While we had a parallel existence all four years on campus — both athletes, unknowingly lived a floor apart in the Quad, members of Friars, hell, my work-study job was in the varsity weight room for years — our paths rarely crossed, and if so, they were very cursory exchanges with little depth.

With all of the activities of Senior Week, we were out and about with our friends [when] we happened to gravitate to each other at each event. Unexpectedly, we just connected. It felt otherworldly, a bit confusing and complicated. There was nothing extraordinary happening other than [the two of us] having the time to have conversations that delved into deeper territory. We found ourselves talking quite a bit at each event. As the week progressed, I found myself excited to see him, but I sat with these feelings for the rest of the week and tried to discard them as ephemeral Senior Week excitement.

After the graduation ceremony, we said goodbye and that we’d stay in touch. We spent a summer apart, but the conversations continued through phone calls and “snail mail” correspondence. Due to our post-graduation work arrangements, we both happened to be in [Philadelphia] in the fall of 1995, so we got together and the conversations and connection we felt continued and flourished. We’ve been married since fall of 1997.

– Lauren and Scott Kegler, Class of 1995 

When Jennifer met Ariel

Of course my last final exam EVER at Penn would be on the last possible day of exams. Everyone was already partying, but I was heading to the library. The library was empty, so it was easy for my girls and I to grab a big table in Rosengarten (the basement of Van Pelt Library). Oh my God! In walks Ariel, a super cute guy from Bogota, who served in the IDF and now plays rugby. This was the story that everyone knew him by, but I didn’t know anything else about him. My interest piqued when I saw him on Halloween for a second, but there were no sightings until this moment. His really cute smile walked right up to our table and sat down. I lost it! My cheeks flushed, and I quickly escaped with the excuse of needing a snack. Later that night, still in the library, we exchanged a few smiles. My heart was definitely racing. 

When senior week started, I was having a blast with my sophomore year roommate at the big event at Maui Beach Club, a perfectly cheesy bar on the river. I turned to say hi to some friends, but when I came back to [my roommate], my eyes met with Ariel’s. [My roommate and Ariel] were about to do a shot. I said, not shy anymore, “I’ll do a shot!” Ariel then responded, “You! The beautiful girl from the library.” And that was it. 27 years married to the love of my life because I decided to study for my last exam!

– Jennifer and Ariel Lechter, Class of 1993 

When Larry met Karen

Karen and Larry didn’t know each other at Penn. Larry claims he didn’t know any women at Penn, hah! Karen first saw Larry at dinner on the Friday night of Homecoming in 2018. She thought he was quite good-looking (as did other classmates that night), but he had no interest in meeting her or anyone else at the time. 

Fast forward to 2022: Karen was tapped to produce a documentary film for the 55th class reunion in May 2023. The documentary’s theme was to highlight key members of the class’s accomplishments since turning 70 and/or since the 50th reunion. Highlights were included for those classmates who changed their lives and focus after retirement and followed their passions; whether it be travel, another business, or not-for-profit endeavors. Larry was one of her chosen subjects for the film, “Class Of 1968 Not Done Yet,” to be screened at the 55th reunion Oscar party. He claims she targeted him for a bit more than that, to which she did reluctantly admit. But alas, during the interview weekend at Homecoming in 2022, he again indicated no interest in getting to know her. But he did take a few photos of the interview at the Class of 1968 Garden, and a few weeks later, he sent them to her. She responded with a thank you note. He called her when he received it and wrote her a song: "Sitting On The Beach In Delray" to the works of "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay." She invited him to her home in Florida that January. The rest is history. 

– Karen Whitestone Carr and Louis (Larry) Miller, Class of 1968

Scott and Lauren, Jennifer and Ariel, and Karen and Larry are three charming examples of rom-com worthy meet-cutes right here on campus. They also serve as proof that dating has changed over the years. Instead of picking flowers for a bouquet like we did in the past, we pay clubs, sororities, and fraternities to deliver roses, often for a charitable cause! Instead of storybook meet-cutes, two in three Penn students resort to online dating. However, this doesn’t mean romance is dead. There is a beauty to this evolution, as getting to know different kinds of people is more accessible now than ever before. Penn’s hookup culture has always been prominent — The New York Times covered the topic 11 years ago — but somehow all three of these couples found their lifelong partners right on our campus. 

Although the environment has shifted, the foundation of romance still stands. So, don’t lose hope. Maybe the love of your life is the guy sitting three rows down from you in your 200-person lecture hall that you’ve never spoken to. Maybe it’s the pretty girl you matched with on Hinge that you saw in a sweaty frat basement. Maybe it’s the person you had a 15-minute coffee chat with at Stommons. No matter who it is, I believe the stories from our alumni pointed out that love really does exist everywhere around us, albeit more silently now, right on this campus. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Quakers!

CHLOE CHEN is a College first year from Vancouver, Canada. Her email is