A year ago, our issue also dropped on Valentine’s Day, with eight married couples who all met in McConaughy Hall in 1980 on the cover. But the love depicted in the story wasn’t just romantic. At its core, it was a story about lasting friendship. It inspired many of you to share with us the special bonds you formed on campus and have maintained in the years — often decades — since.
Full disclosure: growing up as the daughter and niece of Huskies, I had great examples of the types of lifelong friendships a person can make at UConn and went on to form my own legendary friend group. I’ve included in this spotlight the story of my own group of UConn besties, as well as those of my mom, Mary (McCarthy) Stagis ’84 (SFS), and my aunt, Peggy McCarthy Berman ’72 (CLAS).
Enjoy the stories and photos below, and keep them coming! Post your story in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Julie Bartucca '10 (BUS, CLAS), '19 MBA
Kevin Freeman ’06 (CLAS) and Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton
After meeting at a basketball camp for the top high school players in the county, Kevin Freeman ’06 (CLAS) and Richard “Rip” Hamilton really got to know each other when they started playing for Coach Jim Calhoun at UConn in 1996. They became roommates during the 1997-98 season and then were “pretty much inseparable until he left to go professional,” Freeman says.
They’ve had a lot to celebrate over three decades: Winning UConn’s first men’s basketball NCAA tournament with their 1999 team. Accolades including Most Outstanding Player and Player of the Year. Professional basketball careers. Marriages and children. Last November, Hamilton’s induction into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame (pictured).
Not every memory they share is so monumental – like many friends who met in college, they have more ordinary memories, too.
“Obviously, the championship,” Freeman says when asked about some favorite moments. “But I also remember the night before the championship game. We were so excited to play in the game the next day, when the assistant coach came to do bed checks, he found us sleeping in our uniforms. In the morning, they could just hand us our jersey tops because we’re ready to play in the national championship.”
Sometimes when they weren’t playing and practicing, they pooled money with other friends to gas up Hamilton’s “1970s beater of a Buick” for trips to the East Brook Mall, several miles from campus, to see movies. “We couldn’t have cars on campus, so we had these bikes – you’d see Richard Hamilton riding around on a broken ten-speed bike,” Freeman recalls.
Freeman and championship teammate Jake Voskhul ’00 (BUS) were proud to support Hamilton at November’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“We’ve always supported each other. He’s helped me navigate my career on and off the court,” says Freeman, who spent time as an assistant coach at UConn and is now executive director of the UConn Athletics National C Club. “Our relationship has gone through the test of time for the past 25 years, whether it’s me attending his games with the Detroit Pistons or our kids spending time together. His extended family has become my family.”
Freeman and Hamilton pose after Hamilton’s induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri, last November.
The starting line-up for the team that won UConn’s first men’s basketball national championship during the Huskies of Honor ceremony on Feb. 23, 2014, in Gampel Pavilion. From left, Head Coach Jim Calhoun, Freeman, Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Ricky Moore ’99 (CLAS), and Voskuhl.
Christine (Berry) Walker ’73 (ED), Leslie (Cohen) Ziegler ’73 (ED), the late Louise (Cuddihee) Muzin ’72 (ED), Maureen (Kenney) Mancini ’74 (ED), Cathy (Lucier) Doughtie ’73 (ED), Linda (Partesano) Salek ’74 (CLAS), Patricia (Robustelli) Weber ’73 (CLAS), Susan (Ruckes) Augusto ’72 (Home Ec.), Sharon (Sellarole) Bartlett ’73 (ED), and Mary Ellen (Wallace) Kerr ’73 (CLAS)
The group kicking it in UConn gear in 2003.
From left to right: Berry Walker, Partesano Salek, Ruckes Augusto, Robustelli Weber, Cohen Ziegler, Kenney Mancini, Lucier Doughtie, Sellarole Bartlett, Cuddihee Muzin, Wallace Kerr.
Most summers in the 50 years since they left UConn, a group of 10 women who met in 1969 and 1970 has gotten together to reminisce.
“We all went on to have successful careers and families, but when we get together it feels like we’re still back in the dorms,” says Christine (Berry) Walker ’73 (ED).
Christine Berry, Leslie Cohen, Louise Cuddihee, Maureen Kenney, Cathy Lucier, Linda Partesano, Patricia Robustelli, Susan Ruckes, Sharon Sellarole, and Mary Ellen Wallace met as freshman and sophomores living in Beard B and The Jungle.
“During our yearly friendship gatherings, we reminisce and joke about those times: riding down the Jungle snowy hill on lunch trays while wearing our pajamas, a snowball fight with the frats, sunbathing in the cemetery, our house mother patrolling the floors, hitching to the Dairy Bar, listening to songs like ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’ or ‘Bridge over Troubled Water,’ and on and on,” Walker recalls. “We try to forget the time we made a turkey feast for many of us living at Willington Oaks, only to realize later that a Band-Aid was somewhere in the stuffing.”
“We formed a very strong bond,” Robustelli (now Weber) wrote to Walker in a text message before our interview. “I think that’s why when I walk into a room at our summer get togethers I feel like I’m 18 again.”
What is it about college that forges these deep friendships?
“I think just because you’re at that age where you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to go with your life, you have your first taste of independence, you’re confused about your future and what it’s going to hold, you just connect with people on that level,” Walker says. “That uncertainty gives you that support. You’re leaving your families behind, but you still need another kind of family.”
The ladies having a slumber party with friends in 1971.
’Twas about 50 years ago and all through the campus,
Students were moving in, causing a ruckus!
Ten girls arrived at UConn to learn and to care.
They met and became friends and started to share.
They talked about classes and parents and men.
Of jobs and of futures and places they'd been.
As the years passed, they would still often meet.
With spouses and children – sometimes quite a feat!
And now those girls are older and some have some gray.
They're retiring, volunteering and starting to fray!
But they continue to laugh and to still get together.
Merry Christmas to all – Huskies forever!
Maureen (Kenney) Mancini ’74
Barbara (Barich) Wuchiski ’69 (HDFS), Alberta (Cianciulli) Hultman ’69 (ED), Antoinette (Dantino) Carey ’69 (ED), Mary (Piasecki) Speltz ’69 (BUS)
Antoinette (Dantino) Carey ’69 (ED), Barbara (Barich) Wuchiski ’69 (HDFS), Alberta (Cianciulli) Hultman ’69 (ED), and Mary (Piasecki) Speltz ’69 (BUS) celebrated their 55 years of friendship and their 75th birthdays together in Sonoma and Napa last September.
The women began their UConn careers at what were then known as “branch” campuses, with Carey and Hultman spending two years at Waterbury and Speltz and Wuchiski at Stamford. All four pledged ADPi and met during their first month at Storrs in 1967.
“Everybody in the sorority house took care of each other, it was wonderful,” Hultman said. “We were juniors, and … we were really ready to be on our own and having fun.”
The women would go to dances, ice skate on the pond, get ice cream at the Dairy Bar, ski on UConn’s own slopes near Horsebarn Hill, and travel to Amherst, Massachusetts, to attend fraternity parties. Carey and Hultman, who have known each other since kindergarten, roomed together. Speltz and Wuchiski lived across the hall.
“We had a natural synergy that brought us together,” says Hultman. Each woman got married within a year of graduation – they attended each other’s weddings, of course – and spread out, with Hultman moving to California, Speltz eventually landing in Houston, and Carey and Wuchiski staying in Connecticut. They kept in touch over the years, and Carey, Hultman, and Speltz started traveling together frequently after all three divorced (they went to Scotland and Ireland last June). The group decided it would be a great idea to celebrate their milestone birthdays together, and all pitched in to research and plan the trip to wine country.
They hope to make it a tradition with another trip this year.
At Arista Winery in Sonoma, California.
Clockwise, from left: Piasecki Speltz, Barich Wuchiski, Cianciulli Hultman, and Dantino Carey.
The Sonova Beach Club
Ralph Abato ’80 (BUS); Larry Brodsky ’82 (ENG); Halbert Glidden (attended 1976-78); Brian Hannafey ’81 (BUS); David Lasnick ’81 (CLAS); Paul Liberty ’81 (PHARM); Marty Lubinsky ’82 (ENG); Joe Marcantonio ’82 (BUS); Jim Murray ’80 (ED); Marc Sadinsky ’82 (BUS); Tom Shaughnessey ’82 (BUS); Blaise Smyth ’85 (BUS); Glen Smyth ’81 (PHARM); Michael Tarricone ’81 (ENG); Peter Visgilio ’82 (CLAS), ’84 DPT; Richard Walton ’80 (CLAS); Tim Woodruff ’09 (CLAS)
In 1978, Tim Woodruff ’09 (CLAS), Richard Walton ’80 (CLAS), and Glen Smyth ’81 (PHARM) dubbed their Watson Hall room, where they threw “legendary” late-night parties, the “Sonova Beach Club” (a play on “Son of a” … you know). The following year, Ralph Abato ’80 (BUS), Joe Marcantonio ’82 (BUS), Jim Murray ’80 (ED), Marc Sadinsky ’82 (BUS) and Michael Tarricone ’81 (ENG) moved onto the floor and eventually the club moved into the third-floor lounge. The nickname began to describe the group itself, which expanded to include other friends and family who attended UConn, many of whom worked at Huskies Bar.
After having a blast at a 1987 bachelor party involving a golf game, the Club decided to make a fall golf weekend an annual affair. Usually between 12 and 16 men make the trip a priority each year, says Tarricone, with members only missing it for big life events. They considered canceling after 9/11 but thought better of it; when Hurricane Irene wrecked central Vermont they soldiered on. What started as “a long drunken weekend on the golf course” where they’d play 36 holes (and walk!) has evolved into “a long weekend of good eating, exceptional cocktails, conversation, and social commentary with occasional golf in the Green Mountains.”
Rather than reliving their glory days, or even laser-focusing on the game, Tarricone says, the weekend has become centered on sharing life with old friends. Every year, the opening ceremony includes a recognition of significant events of the prior year: births, deaths, weddings, illnesses, graduations, career changes.
“This is what holds us together. We support each other through all this and keep the ties fresh,” Tarricone says. “Sharing life every year in Vermont all started at UConn.”
Members of the Sonova Beach Club pose in a car at their off-campus house in Coventry (“Sonova Acres”) in early 1981.
From left: Glen Smyth, Jerry Modugno. Back, from left: Tarricone, Brodsky, Lasnick.
Paul Liberty ’81 (PHARM) holds the trophy he won during the 2021 tournament.
From left: Blaise Smyth, Glidden, Lasnick, Hannafey, Sadinsky, Brodsky, Walton, Liberty, Visgilio, Tarricone, Woodruff.
The Husky Cup
Jerry Bellizzi ’85 (BUS); Tucker Campbell ’86 (ENG, CLAS); Patty (Cauley) Campbell ’87 (NUR); Sal Giuliano ’85 (BUS); Ken Gould ’85 (BUS), ’95 MBA; Sharon (Akins) Gould ’86 (BUS); Joe Pelehach ’86 (CLAS); Steve Stickel ’86 (CLAS); Linda (Mokulis) Stickel ’89 (BUS); Rich Zovich ’86 (BUS)
In other golf traditions, seven UConn alums and one “honorary Husky” have played an annual golf tournament, “affectionately named The Husky Cup,” for the past 31 years. The eight men, who golfed together in Willimantic while undergrads at UConn, committed to taking an annual golf trip after graduation. The tournaments, which have taken the guys and their families to locales including Ireland, Mt. Snow in Vermont; Pinehurst, North Carolina; Texas, and several courses in Florida for each three-day event, have become a cherished tradition, says Sharon (Akins) Gould ’86 (BUS), wife of Ken Gould ’85 (BUS).
The Goulds and Jerry Bellizzi ’85 (BUS), Tucker Campbell ’86 (ENG, CLAS), Patty (Cauley) Campbell ’87 (NUR), Sal Giuliano ’85 (BUS), Joe Pelehach ’86 (CLAS), Steve Stickel ’86 (CLAS), Linda (Mokulis) Stickel ’89 (BUS), and Rich Zovich ’86 (BUS) met when all except Akins Gould lived in Crandall B in the old South Campus residences, says Akins Gould. Their friendships grew after graduation when they all worked in the Hartford area, many living together as roommates.
“Our relationships continued to strengthen after college. We’ve been best friends ever since,” she writes.
The couples brought their children along on the annual golf trips for many years, and now the second generation has formed its own tournament and has committed to joining the trip every other year. The 2023 Husky Cup (and the kids’ tourney) will be in Connecticut in July. The 2022 Husky Cup took place in Scotland in May.
At the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, U.K. after the final round of golf.
From left: Zovich, Gould, Stickel, Pine, Pelehach, Campbell, Giuliano, Bellizzi.
On the bridge at the University of St. Andrews.
Front row, from left: Cauley Campbell, Laura Bellizzi. Second row: Perreault, Amy Giuliano, Akins Gould, Sal Giuliano, Mokulis Stickel, Pine. Third row: Jerry Bellizzi, Amy Pelehach, Campbell. Back row, from left: Gould, Stickel, Zovich, Joe Pelehach.
The Husky Cup has long been a family affair, with kids tagging along for many years. The group’s children have now formed their own tournament.
The Puerto Rican Student Movement
Students involved in the Puerto Rican Student Movement gathered for a 50th reunion in June 2022.
Front row (seated), from left: Norma Acevedo, Brunilda Gutierrez ’74 (CLAS), Ana Isabel Lopez ’75 (CLAS), Isnoel Rios ’71 (CLAS), Zoilo Garcia ’78 MA, Ruben Acosta ’75 (CLAS), ’83 JD. Back row, from left: Luz Marcano ’01 MSW; Manny Diaz ’75 (CLAS); Luis Rivera; Juanita (Brockett) Rodriguez ’78 (CLAS); Frank Delgado ’74 (CLAS); Marilyn Diaz ’78 (CLAS); Julio Jordan ’76 (BUS); Yvonne (Rosa) Jordan ’77 (CLAS); Gary Mena ’74 (CLAS), ’77 JD; Andres Vazquez ’73 (CLAS); Harmin Linares ’75 (CLAS); Amador Mojica ’78 MA, ’82 6th Year; Fred Hernandez ’77 (ED); Marilyn Alverio ’76 (CLAS); Nerida Mora ’78 (CLAS).
In the fall of 1970, Isnoel Rios ’71 (CLAS), Carmen Castro ’73 (CLAS), and Ana Isabel Lopez ’75 (CLAS) organized the small group of Puerto Rican students at UConn with the primary goal of fighting for increased Puerto Rican student enrollment. At the time, Puerto Ricans comprised 1.3% of the total state population, while the 23 Puerto Rican students at the University represented just .2% of the total student population.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of the group, by then known as the Puerto Rican Student Movement (PRSM), UConn’s total Puerto Rican student population had increased to 67 students by fall 1971. Activists Ruben Acosta ’75 (CLAS); Arturo Diaz; Brunilda Gutierrez ’74 (CLAS); Harmin Linares ’75 (CLAS); Gary Mena ’74 (CLAS), ’77 JD; Alfredo Rodriguez ’74 (CLAS); Pedro Sanchez ’76 (CLAS); and Andres Vazquez ’73 (CLAS) joined and helped form “the unshakable core of the PRSM,” says Lopez.
PRSM hit the ground running, pushing for increased admitted-student slots for Puerto Rican students, organizing a Puerto Rican High School Orientation Day in February 1971, putting on its first Puerto Rican History Week for the campus community in May, and celebrating the opening of La Casa Borinqueña, later changed to the Puerto Rican Center and now known as the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC), that December.
“None of our many achievements came easily. It took countless letters, phone calls, meetings, sit-ins, and, at one point, a takeover of the provost’s office to achieve our goals,” Lopez says. “Despite the struggle, we created inerasable memories of friendships forged through common goals and pride in our cultural identity. The PRSM was started by blazing luminaries who took great risks in bringing about change.”
In the years since, PRSM members kept in touch primarily through phone calls and letters, and many reconnected with the advent of social media. In 1985, they held an on-campus reunion during Puerto Rican History Week, and in June 2022, nearly all the original PRSM members came to campus again, this time to celebrate 50 years since the founding of the Puerto Rican Center.
“Seeing each other again after so many years was almost surreal. Some of us hadn’t seen each other since we left UConn 50 years ago,” says Lopez. “Learning about each other’s journeys, families, seeing photos of children and grandchildren, but most importantly, reminiscing about our adventures at UConn were the most precious moments. Trying to make out name tags through myopic eyes and realizing you’re face-to-face with a now-unrecognizable, long-lost friend was a bit awkward but, oh, what joy!”
A group of PRSM students visiting campus in 1985.
Front row, from left: Ana Isabel Lopez ’75 (CLAS), Digna Bermudez, Andres Vazquez ’73 (CLAS), Evelyn Gratacos ’05 (CLAS), Nancy (Gratacos) Atterberry. Middle row, from left: Alma Maldonado-Cordner ’ 76 (SFA); Isnoel Rios ’71 (CLAS); Nerida Mora ’78 (CLAS); Ruben Acosta ’75 (CLAS), ’83 JD; Ana Reyes ’76 (CLAS) (laughing black dress). Back row, from left: Marilyn Alverio ’76 (CLAS), Brunilda Gutierrez ’74 (CLAS).
Gutierrez and Lopez in front of the Puerto Rican Center in 1985.
From Old Crawford A to European river cruising
Donna DeRose Manz ’69 (CLAS) and Linda Begley Soroff ’68 (NUR), who met as freshmen in the old Crawford A dorm, have become riverboat travel buddies since reconnecting on Facebook several years ago. Their most recent sail took them down the Main and Rhine rivers from Nuremberg to Amsterdam in October.
“On this river cruise, we were awed by the magnificence of the Nuremberg cathedral as well as the ordinary moments in the quaint fairytale towns in Germany, such as Bamberg, and the imperial splendor of the Wurtzberg palace,” Soroff says. “Above all, we savored the spectacular vistas of hillside vineyards and medieval castles and being privy to the rituals of daily life.”
So far, Soroff, a nurse educator at Danbury Hospital, and Manz have taken seven bespoke European river tours together with Uniworld River Cruises. Manz, who has a travel company, serves as a hostess and travel advisor for Uniworld, supervising local cultural and culinary adventures. She also writes travel articles for magazines.
Another recent trip took them down the Po River, ending with a long stay in Venice. However, Soroff says most of their tours have been through Germany because of its rich history, which is highlighted by expert local guides. —Grace Merritt
Soroff, left, and DeRose Manz on a riverboat cruise.
Benjamin Buehler ’10 (ENG); Jessica (Cavalieri) Varrone ’10 (NUR); Jeffrey Fisco ’10 (CLAS); Amy Thees ’10 (CAHNR); Sonal (Mehta) Fisco ’10 (CAHNR); Sonia (Patel) Bourgelas ’10 (CAHNR); Jason Quint ’10 (PHARM), ’12 Pharm.D.; Krista (Sumski) Linder ’10 (CLAS); Callie-Jean Tuthill ’11 (NUR); John Varrone ’10 (ED)
Assigned to Windham Hall in North Campus their freshman year, Sonal Mehta ’10 (CAHNR); Sonia Patel ’10 (CAHNR); Krista Sumski ’10 (CLAS); and Amy Thees ’10 (CAHNR), ’19 MBA, ’21 Ph.D. swiftly bonded during their first weekend at college. They soon met roommates Jeffrey Fisco ’10 (CLAS) and Benjamin Buehler ’10 (ENG), who claimed to have the “biggest room” in the dorm.
The six began to hang out in that room, where they later met Jessica (Cavalieri) Varrone ’10 (NUR) and John Varrone ’10 (ED). The group formed a strong bond, and brought other friends in from sports and clubs. “They all joined together, creating a large friend circle,” says Mehta, now Fisco.
Starting in 2013, the broader circle of friends has met every November for a Friendsgiving meal. The group has also celebrated many UConn weddings over the years, including Buehler and Callie-Jean Tuthill ’11 (NUR) in 2013, the Varrones in 2014, the Fiscos in 2015, and Thees and Jason Quint ’10 (PHARM), ’12 Pharm.D. in 2021.
“Despite not being able to see each other as often as we would like, when we do get together it feels like no time has ever passed. That is when you know you’ve found your truest friends," Sonal Fisco says. “We support each other and can count on each other regardless of the distance and busy schedules. When people say these are the friends that turned family, this group truly is, and I could not be more grateful for that.”
Front row, from left, Shivani Shah ’10 (CLAS), Mehta Fisco, Patel Bourgelas, Thees. Second row: Ravi, Sam Linder, Sumski Linder, Julia (Altshul) D'Agostino ’10 (ENG) Third row: John Varrone, Jessica Varrone, Eric Bourgelas, Tuthill, Buehler, Derek D'Agostino ’10, Jay Basile, Erin (McKinney) Basile ’10 (CLAS) Back: Quint, Fisco.
From left: Sumski Linder, Patel Bourgelas, Mehta Fisco, and Thees at the Bourgelas’ 2017 wedding.
Debbie Goodnough ’72 (CDFR); Kathy Majeske Bence ’70 (CLAS); Peggy McCarthy Berman ’72 (CLAS); Hyla Rubin ’71 (CLAS), ’84 Ph.D.; Nancy Sendecke Kotchko ’72 (CLAS)
The Munchkins took a trip to St. Thomas to visit friend Pam Roth ’71 (ED), while she student-taught there through a UConn program.
Top photo, from left: Roth, McCarthy Berman, Goodnough. Bottom photo, from left: McCarthy Berman, Roth, Sendecke Kotchko.
“The Munchkins” nickname was chosen for Debbie Goodnough ’72 (CDFR); Kathy Majeske ’70 (CLAS); Peggy McCarthy ’72 (CLAS); Hyla Rubin ’71 (CLAS), ’84 Ph.D.; and Nancy Sendecke ’72 (CLAS) “because we talked so much and at a high pitch,” McCarthy, now Berman, recalls.
The women started talking in fall 1968 and haven’t stopped since. The Munchkins and their spouses have remained close friends over the decades, continuing to get together frequently for shopping trips or dinners or to celebrate happy occasions.
“When the COVID pandemic hit, we started to do Wednesday afternoon Zoom calls to keep in touch and to discuss lots of topics — COVID and our isolation, politics, TV shows, books, our families, UConn basketball (we also do a lot of texting during UConn women’s basketball games). The calls were a great lifeline to get us through such weird times and we have continued them even though we have been getting together again in person,” writes Berman. “We laugh a lot and there’s always lots to talk about. We never run out of conversation or topics.”
Back at UConn in the late ‘60s, Berman and Goodnough’s dorm room on the third floor of Merritt A in South Campus became the group’s “living room,” complete with a coffee table made by Goodnough’s stepfather, where they “kept the hot plate for our not-so gourmet weekend meals, usually from cans. There was no weekend meal plan then,” Berman says.
Various combinations of the five women and other friends took trips, to West Palm Beach and Daytona, Florida, and St. Thomas; and even in yellow school buses full of UConn students to Washington, D.C., to join the March on Washington in protest of the Vietnam War. They hitchhiked, as was de rigueur in those days, to shop at The Hoot in Willimantic, G. Fox in Hartford, and Kenmore Square in Boston. They studied together at the Wilbur Cross Library on Thursday nights, met up regularly in the Student Union cafeteria at 3:30 after their classes ended, and often visited the beloved eatery Kathy John’s, which was located at the intersection of routes 44 and 195 and closed in 2009, for ice cream.
Majeske was the first to marry, a fellow Husky named Gene Bence '71 (CLAS) who she met in her hometown of Enfield. “We sang ‘Sadie, Sadie Married Lady’ from ‘Funny Girl’ to Kathy at her wedding reception,” Berman recalls. “Kathy graduated with a math degree and got a job in Hartford. Gene, who we call Benny, was still at UConn. They had a son named Christopher, called C.J. The Munchkins and other friends shuttled back and forth to Willington Oaks apartments between their classes to babysit for C.J. while Benny went to his classes.”
Berman met her husband, Barry ’72 (CLAS), when she was a reporter and co-news editor of the Connecticut Daily Campus and he had a talk show on WHUS and wrote columns for the paper. Steve Kotchko ’70 (CLAS) was news director of WHUS and he got to know Nancy Sendecke through Peggy Berman. Kotchko and Barry Berman worked together for more than 40 years at Connecticut Radio Network and CRN International, and Nancy and Steve started dating after attending the Bermans’ parties and held their wedding reception in a tent in the Bermans’ backyard.
Says Peggy Berman: “Nancy is involved in the Women and Philanthropy initiative at the UConn Foundation. When she meets with the group’s scholarship recipients, she advises them that the friendships they make at UConn can last a lifetime — just like ours.”
From left: Goodnough, Majeske Bence, McCarthy Berman, Rubin, and Sendecke Kotchko at a bridal shower for Rubin’s daughter in 2018.
Julia (Altshul) D'Agostino '10 (ENG); Mary (Bailey) O'Leary '10 (NUR); Christine (Barile) Melita '10 (ED), '11 MA, '16 (6th Year); Ashley DeSantis '10 (BUS); Kameron Escajeda '10 (NUR); Lindsey (Fink) Wilcox '10 (ENG); Deidre (Schelin) Salisbury '10 (CLAS); Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS); Emily (Volz) Lupi '10 (CLAS); Jessica (Wilson) Horn '10 (NUR); Ashley Yalof '10 (CLAS)
As I wrote in the editor’s note, while there are many things I love about the University of Connecticut, the first thing I think of when anyone asks about my time as an undergrad is my amazing group of girlfriends.
Right before I came to UConn in fall 2006, I started worrying about making friends. I was a social person in high school, but I had met my core group of four closest friends in kindergarten and first grade. I had made many friends as I went through school, sure, but I hadn’t needed to put myself out there in over a decade.
I shouldn’t have worried. Once I settled into Shippee Hall, I quickly connected with Emily Volz ’10 (CLAS), who I had first met at Orientation. We walked clear across campus with others from the dorm to parties our first weekend, and ran into others who lived in our hall.
Before I knew it, a group of us were always getting dinner together (always right at 5 p.m., walking up a small dirt shortcut to Buckley dining hall because how dare we walk all the way down the sidewalk), dressing up for dances and theme parties held in a big old cafeteria in Shippee’s basement, taking what we thought at the time were thrilling trips for Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffees when someone was lucky enough to have their car for the weekend, and sunbathing on our dorm’s front patio.
Like many of the friend groups who came before us, we went sledding on Horsebarn Hill using lunch trays, cheered for the Huskies, danced the night away at Huskies Bar and fraternity parties, traveled together for Spring Break, shared countless meals together, and reveled in the beauty of living just footsteps away from all your best friends.
Over the years, we finagled living arrangements that would keep us all together and dug our claws into exactly one new friend after freshman year: Jessica Wilson ’10 (NUR), who came along one weekend sophomore year to hang out in what’s now Busby Suites with her fellow nursing students Kami Escajeda ’10 (NUR) and Mary Bailey ’10 (NUR).
At UConn our highs and lows revolved around exams and dating and parties; since then we’ve celebrated weddings and supported each other through divorces, cuddled new babies and comforted each other as some of us have battled infertility to have them. We’ve never lost touch thanks to text messaging – on any given day, our group chat discussions might range from parenting mishaps to the latest celebrity gossip to peppering each other with sincere compliments when one of us has had a tough day. And though we live in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and California, we see each other as much as possible, though less frequently than we did the first few years post-grad, and now often through Zoom or in smaller groups.
All of the cliched sentiments about old friends are true; there’s really nothing like the connections you have with those you’ve shared your life with – especially, as mine and these other groups prove, if your lives together started in Storrs.
From left: Schelin Salisbury, DeSantis, Barile Melita, Yalof, Stagis Bartucca, Volz Lupi, and Fink Wilcox before heading to Huskies Bar to watch UConn men's basketball play in the 2011 Final Four game.
Schelin Salisbury’s wedding.
From left: Yalof, DeSantis, Bailey O’Leary, Wilson Horn, Barile Melita, Volz Lupi, Schelin Salisbury, Fink Wilcox, Altshul D’Agostino, Stagis Bartucca, and Escajeda.
It Started in Fairfield Hall
Lori (Avedis) Toner; Maura (Bennett) Wittstein; Scott Blois ’84 (BUS); Nancy (Carney) McMahon ’83 (CLAS), ’85 MA; Cindy Cormier ’82 (BUS); Jim Cousineau; Kelli (Dakin) Hermsen ’84 (BUS); Laurie Dellaero; Kevin Ginnerty ’84 (ENG); Lisa (Gray) Roland ’84 (ED); Burt Hilton; Al Johnson; Kathy (Kallert) Caliendo ’84 (BUS); Leslie (Knox) Cousineau; Dave Lindsey; Elizabeth (McCabe) Moore; Mary (McCarthy) Stagis ’85 (SFS); John McMahon ’84 (BUS); Larry Novacco; Steve O’Brien; Amy (O’Connor) Dean; Chris (Paré) Kenney ’84 (ENG); Gretchen (Poellein) Ginnerty '84 (SFS); Bob Roland ’82 (BUS); Jim Smith; Steve Spalla ’84 (CLAS); Tom Stagis; Billie Sweeney; Jeff Weston ’85 (BUS); Leah (Witherspoon) Droof; Bob Wittstein; Jeff Weston ’85 (BUS); Leslie (Wohlhueter) Forte ’85 (SAH); Jack Wynne
In summer 2022, 21 alumni who graduated in the 1980s came together for a party.
The friends, who all met living in Fairfield Hall in the Jungle as students, had kept in touch over the years since they left UConn, but frequent get-togethers gave way to Christmas cards and phone calls, which gave way to occasional small-group get-togethers or checking in via LinkedIn or Facebook.
As pandemic restrictions started to let up, Mary (McCarthy) Stagis ’85 (SFS) and Kelli (Dakin) Hermsen '84 (BUS) decided to change that and began collecting contact information for their college buddies. They held a reunion in November 2021 at Hermsen’s Simsbury home (in the garage to keep it pandemic safe), and followed up with a bigger summer 2022 party at the home of Bob '82 (BUS) and Lisa (Gray) Roland '84 (ED).
“Now that most of our kids are out of college, we’ve reconnected,” says Stagis.
At UConn, the “tightknit” group held floor parties and fancier cocktail parties at the Student Union or in rented spaces near campus, sometimes hiring a band. They cooked dinner together on weekends when there was no weekend meal plan, or pooled their money for pizza from Pisaro’s. The group often traveled in a pack, Stagis remembers, whether just going to eat at the cafeteria or traversing campus.
They went to see the Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones, cheered on the UConn basketball teams, hung out on “Fairfield Beach” (the strip of grass between their hall and the cemetery) or in the quad, and made sure to get to Ted’s early enough to push a bunch of tables together to fit everyone.
“We just were a very tightknit group and a lot of us have remained friends since we were at UConn, celebrating weddings, births of babies, milestone birthdays, and even going through tough times together,” Stagis says. “We always pick up like no time has elapsed since we’ve seen each other.”
From left: Gray Roland, Poellein Ginnerty, Kallert Caliendo, Dellaero, McCarthy Stagis, Dakin Hermsen, Carney McMahon, Wohlhueter Forte.
The group at a 2022 reunion at the Roland’s home. Front row, from left: Cormier, Ginnerty (kneeling), Carney McMahon, Dakin Hermsen, Paré Kenney, McCarthy Stagis, Spalla. Second row, from left: Lindsay, Kallert Caliendo, Wohlhueter Forte, Blois, Poellein Ginnerty, Novacco, Cousineau, Knox Cousineau, Witherspoon Drooff, Weston, Gray Roland. Third row, from left: McMahon, Sweeney, Roland.
70 Years Strong
Louise Brooks ’55, Alden Holdridge ’55, Patricia Henson ’57, Herman Weingart ’56, Jayne Grandchamp ’57, Dick Faucett ’56, Peggy Ball, Henry Haalck ’53 or ’54, Ruth Klaus, Bill Neumann ’53, Ellie Goodenough ’56, Whit Carpenter ’55, Janet (Holdridge) Barnett ’55 (ED), Phil Barnett ’55
Janet Holdridge Barnett ’55 (ED) says our cover story last Valentine’s Day about eight couples who met at UConn, married, and stayed best friends made her smile, because she was one of seven girls who lived at the same dorm and met their husbands-to-be at UConn.
“The guys all lived in Grange Hall and the girls were in Holcomb,” she says. “We probably met in the cafeteria eating together — we all ate in Whitney.” A lot of the guys were agriculture students so there was lots of sledding down Horsebarn Hill and lots of square dancing.
All seven couples married in the mid-fifties, and have remained friends for 70 years. “We have gathered for weddings, birthday parties, funerals and still, (even thru COVID) meet several times each year to laugh, reminisce, support one another and enjoy this very special friendship.” Barnett says. In fact, she had just returned from lunch at the house of Dick Faucett ’56 and Jayne Grandchamp ’57. They played a guessing game in which Jayne played ‘50s music on her organ and they got a points for recognizing the title, another for singing the first two lines. “It was so much fun.”
Their bonds are very special, says Barnett “because we knew each other from childhood. And then, get-togethers over the years — a lot of picnics when we were young with our kids, then 50th, 60th birthday parties, retirement parties.” The members of the group who still can gather five or six times a year.
“We can cry together, laugh together,” she says.
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