Montclair State Sweethearts (Part 2)

Each year around Valentine's Day, we like to catch up with alumni who met their significant others here at Montclair State. Get to know this year's featured couples through their stories below. These alumni have a special connection to their alma mater. It's not just where they got a great education, but it's where they found love!

James ‘Jim’ Bratek ’94 and Tara Malooly Bratek ’93 met while waiting on line at a popular college bar in West Orange, just a few miles away from campus. Each with their group of friends, a simple ‘hi’ set their love story in motion.

“Tara thought I looked handsome, but we didn't see each other again for some time after that night,” says Jim.

The two didn’t see each other again until a fateful night at the Clove Road apartments. While hanging out around the apartments, Tara and her friends were making plans for the evening. Jim and his friends just happened to be walking by, and were invited along for the night.

The couple admits that there was a ‘silent love connection’ between them, and credit goes to Tara’s roommate at the time for setting things into motion. After the weekend at the Clove Road apartments, Jim spoke to Tara’s roommate, who then ran home to tell Tara. From there, they went on their first date at the Montclair State Carnival that was held in the Clove Road parking lot at the time.

The two married in 1994 and will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this June. The couple has a son, Dylan, who is 6 years old.

George Cowan ’05 and Vita Marlena Palmeri Cowan ’09 met in Mythology class in September 2001. It was Vita’s first year, and George’s second. George courted her, by walking her to her car after class and making her laugh – sometimes so much that she got in a bit of trouble!

The couple dated throughout school, but when George had surgery due to a lacrosse injury, the two spent some time apart. Eventually, they moved closer to one another, and ultimately moved in together in 2006. On September 28, 2008, George proposed…exactly seven years after first date!

The following September they were married, and now have two little boys, and a third on the way!

Robert Peschel ’77 and Susan Ewart Peschel ’77 met in Dr. Frank Kelland’s cartography (map making) class, which was notorious for its rigorous attention to detail and low tolerance for mistakes.  “The lab for the class took many hours a week to complete the assignments, so we were together quite a bit in the Cartography Lab,” Susan recalls. 

After frequent needs to start over, surrounded by crumpled piles of vellum containing more map making mistakes than allowed, the two decided to team up, with Susan (a geography major) doing the hand lettering using old-fashioned pen and ink methods and Robert, an earth science major who was better skilled at drawing curved lines, completing the projects using the now antiquated drafting instruments on hand. Their time spent creating cartographic masterpieces on blank vellum forged a friendship and a lasting relationship. “Sadly, modern map making is now all computer-based technology, eliminating such romantic encounters,” Susan says with a smile. 

The Peschels have now been happily married for over 35 years. Susan continued in the geography field, earning her MLS in Library Science and working as a photo curator with the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is now visual resources librarian and senior academic librarian for the organization. Robert is an environmental engineer with a consulting firm specializing in Brownfield redevelopment of urban properties.  The couple has two grown children, Alison and Kyle, both engineering graduates from the University of Wisconsin. 

Terrence ’63 and Margaret Mc Laughlin Larney 63 72 MA started out at Montclair State as friends with a lot in common. Both of Irish ancestry, they also were both health and physical education majors. “Terry and I shared many classes together, but Mr. Fisher’s Anatomy Lab was most memorable as we struggled to dissect our pigs,” she remembers. They also spent a lot of time together after class. “The natural setting of the amphitheater was our favorite meeting place to talk,” she recalls with a smile.

The couple’s first date was on St. Patrick’s Day during their sophomore year. Margaret and Terrence dated on and off, but both dated others. After graduation their paths diverged but they stayed in touch. Margaret was a stewardess for Pan Am and Terry taught school. A year or so after graduation they started seeing each other again, but Terrence was planning to start graduate school at Northwestern and Margaret was moving to Alaska. But on her way Margaret stopped off in Colorado, where Terrence was camping with his good friend George Storm ’63. Margaret and Terry realized they were meant for each other and got engaged. Their family later grew to include daughters Kathleen and Jacqueline. 

“Our shared love of the outdoors was realized when we moved to a very old farmhouse in northern Vermont,” adds Margaret. Now happily retired in Vermont, where their daughters live less than five miles away, the couple also enjoys spending time on Jekyll Island, GA. Still great friends, they remain active, playing tennis and participating in the Senior Games. 

Margaret’s brother John Joseph McLaughlin ’50, her brother-in-law Richard Keenan ’66, and her niece Patricia McLaughlin ’12 are also Montclair State alumni. She stays in touch with friends Nancy O’Brien Leoncavallo ’63 and Judy MacDonald Wood ’63.

 “We were a real power couple,” Ron Botelho ’06 says of himself and Anthony Guttilla ’07 during their student careers. Along with their busy academic careers, Ron served as the Vice President of the Student Government Association and Anthony became its Attorney General after he joined during his freshman year at Montclair State. 

The couple first met at Anthony’s freshman orientation, where Ron was hosting the event. “As Anthony tells the story, he liked me immediately,” recalls Ron. After Anthony joined the Student Government Association, they continued to be very involved on campus. One particularly fond memory they share is their Homecoming King campaigns. “We both had a lot of fun running for homecoming king, in different years, of course,” says Ron. “Anthony received lots of votes for his stunning good looks, and me for my outgoing personality. Blended together, we were the perfect candidate.” 

After graduation, both went on to earn graduate degrees from Seton Hall University. Today, Ron is a Law Clerk to a New Jersey Superior Court judge. Anthony works as a corporate event planner for the Sireno Group, a business services company. 

The two were joined in a civil union in 2012, and then married in 2013.

When Gina Lamanna Scardino ’98 and Anthony Scardino ’97 first met through Anthony’s sister, Anny, they found out they had a lot in common. They were both adult undergrads that were returning to Montclair State to finish their degrees. They were both from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, but didn't know each other personally because they had gone to different schools. In addition to these similarities, they have the same birth date! 

According to Gina, Anny “thought we would be the “perfect couple” and she set us up to meet one evening.” After they realized all they had in common, “we immediately hit it off,” she says. 

Gina majored in Business Administration and Anthony majored in Political Science. After he graduated, Anthony went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Policy from Pepperdine University. Years later, he went on to earn a PhD from Antioch University.

“We reunited and married on November 11, 2000, and have two daughters, along with my son from a previous marriage, and now, a beautiful granddaughter,” Gina says.

Did you meet your significant other at Montclair State? Let us know! Consider making a donation to the University that brought you together. Your contribution to The Fund for Montclair State can transform the lives of students by helping to fund scholarships and build state-of-the-art facilities on our campus.