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XOXO, OXY: Love Stories from the Quad

At least once a month on Saturday, the Marketplace dining area and Branca Patio are cleared out for weddings. The tables are lined with ribbons and roses and the area is closed off to students. The Spanish architecture, bubbling fountains and hard-to-find-in-Southern-California green lawns are characteristic of the perfect wedding venue. They have been the backdrop for hundreds of couples who have passed through Occidental as students, alumni and faculty.

Occidental’s Associate Vice President for Hospitality Services Amy Muñoz estimated that an average of 12–24 campus weddings occur each year. Muñoz, who has worked for Occidental for 33 years, noticed a trend with the couples who get married here.

Courtesy of Naomi Field

“I’d say close to 50 percent [of couples who get married on campus] are alumni,” Muñoz said.

Generations of Occidental students have learned about “the Oxy Statistic,” or the rumor that a large number of Occidental alumni marry other alumni. The estimate is usually set between 50–60 percent of Occidental couples getting married. According to Director of the Occidental Alumni Association Monika Moore, there are 4,856 living Occidental alumni marriages or domestic partnerships, or 2,428 households.

Carl Emge ‘61 and Heather Emge ‘62 remember the first time they heard about “the Oxy Statistic.”

“When we were told of this statistic at freshman orientation, we all looked around and said ‘no way!’ But it was certainly true of our classes, and happily so,” Carl and Heather Emge said via email.

The actual percentage of the statistic may not be as high as people perceive, according to Director of Communications and Community Relations Jim Tranquada.

“In the last four issues of the alumni magazine, we reported 42 alumni marriages; eight of those were alumni who married other alumni — a rate of 19 percent. By way of contrast, in 2001 we reported 65 alumni marriages, 16 of which were ‘Oxy Statistic’ marriages, or 25 percent,” Tranquada said via email.

Regardless of the exact percentage, people are still falling in love while at college. Occidental Sociology professor Lisa Wade, the author of “American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus,” explained that the college dating culture has shifted toward a hookup culture across the country, but that does not mean fewer students are entering relationships.

“We still see a majority of college students entering into committed, monogamous relationships, about two-thirds of students will do that — have a relationship that lasts more than six months by the time they’re a senior,” Wade said. “But those relationships are formed through the process of hooking up.”

Nancy Chin ’89 and Robin Chin ’88

For many couples, including Nancy Chin ‘89 and Robin Chin ‘88, love is more personal than statistics and data can explain.

“I would prefer to believe that my relationship with my husband is more than just an Oxy statistic,” Nancy Chin said via email. “People at UCLA and other universities and colleges get married to each other, too. I wonder if they refer to themselves as a statistic.”

Nancy and Robin Chin’s daughter Lauren Chin (sophomore) said that although she does not think the statistic is as high as 50 percent, she sees love around campus.

“Sometimes I’ll see couples and I’ll look at them and think, ‘I wonder when they’re going to get married like my parents did,’ which is kind of funny,” Lauren Chin said.

How did you two meet? 

Nancy Chin: Robin and I met in physics class. My lab partner and I had great difficulty with physics homework and physics lab work, so we asked Robin for his physics homework and lab write-up several times. Each time that he gave it to us, he gave it without hesitation. Perhaps it was because he got tired of explaining physics to us, or perhaps he just thought we were no threat to the curve.

Do you have any relationship advice for Occidental students?

Nancy Chin: For a couple to stay together in the long run, a woman needs to know that her sweetheart truly loves her, and a man needs to know that she truly loves him. A successful relationship is based on love, truth and faithfulness.

My husband, Robin, cooks and cleans, does the laundry, chauffeurs and does all the grocery shopping. He is involved in girl scouts and is an avid high school band volunteer. I truly appreciate him for teaching unconditional love to his family every day.

Victor and Sylvia Chico

Alongside a large number of alumni couples, Occidental also boasts a handful of faculty staff couples as well. Victor Chico is the postal operations center manager, while Sylvia Chico is the senior program coordinator in the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI).

How did you two meet?

Sylvia Chico: This is a funny story because we met over the phone, actually. Victor was supposed to take my friend out and my friend was at my place, so he was going to pick her up from my place, but then something happened and she had to leave. So he called and I said, “oh no, she left already. You know, I’m sorry,” and I hung up. Then the next day, he called and I said “my friend’s not here” and then he went, “oh no, I called to talk to you.”

How did you know that Sylvia was “the one”?

Victor Chico: I DJ’d back in the days at UCLA and USC and I was used to seeing girls glamoured up for parties, and here she is with her athletic shorts, because she’s basically a sports person, and I was like “okay, I’m attracted to this person” … And every day it feels like we just met, and she wakes me up like “it’s time to go!” I’m lucky.

Mimi Ahn ’87 and Ernesto Leon ’87

Despite being aware of “the Oxy Statistic” since she was young, Inez Leon (first year) explained that the reality of it still surprised her.

It’s really hard to think that my mom met my dad in like sophomore year, and I can’t imagine meeting my soulmate next year,” Inez Leon said.

What was it like to bring your daughter, Inez Leon (first year), to campus?

Ahn: It’s so weird to go back to it and have her surrounded in the space. It’s very bizarre because even though it’s been a while, you still feel close to it. College is very formative years. And that’s also when I met my future husband.

Do you have any advice for finding love at college?

Ahn: College is a great time to make friends or to find your future romantic partner, as well, because you really to get to know them. That’s what I tell Inez, you know, just go out and use this opportunity to observe and get to know a lot of people and find out what they’re like.

What about Occidental do you think makes people fall in love?

Ahn: I think Oxy attracts certain types of people. It’s very progressive, and because it’s a liberal arts college, if you’re there, you already have certain expectations about the world and how you want to live and social and political ideas. Going there, you’ll all already have a lot of common beliefs. So I think that you’re already at a good start.

Leah Branson ’06 and Adam Branson ’06

How did you and Adam get together?

Leah Branson: They used to have these Nextel cell phones that had a walkie-talkie feature so that you didn’t have to call, but you could walkie-talkie. We both randomly had those, so we would walkie-talkie and ask if you wanted to stop by or hang out or whatever and that’s really how we became friends. We started dating at the end of college in May 2006.

Do you think that “the Oxy Statistic” is real?

Leah Branson: I personally think that our class of 2006 and our friends were even higher than the statistic. There’s probably like a dozen couples that are married and a lot of them have kids, multiple kids. We’ve been to a handful of couples-from-Oxy weddings. Now I feel very aware of it and definitely know that it’s a thing.

Courtesy of Naomi Field

Alisa Fishbach ’87 and Tom Kosakowski ’88

Fishbach married Kosakowski in 1990 at the Herrick Interfaith Center and had the wedding reception at the Branca Family Patio. She now works as the assistant director of alumni and parent engagement.

How did you two meet?

Kosakowski: We met when I was acting in a theater department production of “Princess Ida” (a Gilbert & Sullivan musical). Alisa was the stage manager.

Fishbach: We met in 1986, which was my junior year. Tom had not participated in a theater production before at Oxy, but had performed as a hobby in high school productions, so he decided to audition — a testament to Oxy and the diversity of opportunities available to students, no matter their field of study. I’m very thankful for that, as I’m not sure we would have met otherwise.

Where did you go on dates together while students at Occidental?

Kosakowski: We dated for over a year before Alisa graduated. Our first “date” was a late night donut run to Winchell’s across from the Eagle Rock mall (now a Jersey Mike’s).

Fishbach: Glendale and “South Lake” in Pasadena were destinations for restaurants and dates although much of our social time was spent on campus. Tom had a DJ business and was hired to DJ many of the campus dances and events. And we were both resident advisers in our dorms, so we were often tied to campus to be on duty. We also both participated in the Oxy Summer Theater Festival which was a huge, summer-long project each year in The Greek Bowl.

 

Tamara and Amos Himmelstein

Although he does not know exactly why people fall in love at Occidental, Vice President Chief Operating Officer Amos Himmelstein said that it might be something in the water. Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Life Tamara Himmelstein and Amos Himmelstein tied the knot June 2014.

What was your first date like?

Tamara Himmelstein: In July of 2010, I hosted a barbeque and invited faculty, staff and I invited Amos. I was the one who asked Amos out for a date to the Hollywood Bowl, and that’s how it all got started.

Amos Himmelstein: She asked me out to the Hollywood Bowl because I hadn’t ever been there and I wanted to go, so I said: “yes, I’d love to go.” Turns out she did not have tickets.

Tamara Himmelstein: I had to quickly go online and buy tickets. If it was sold out, I would have been really embarrassed. But it wasn’t sold out, so that was good.

Do you have any relationship advice for Occidental students?

Tamara Himmelstein: Don’t assume that you wouldn’t like someone because they come from a different faith, a different political background. Think of those dating profiles, those online dating profiles where you check all the boxes like “oh no, I wouldn’t date someone who’s this or this or this,” and actually he would have been one of those people that I would’ve been checking like, “no, no, no.” If someone would have told him that he going to marry someone who loves Disney, Amos would have been like, “no way.” But I love Disney. Don’t assume that you wouldn’t like someone because of some element of their identity or their interests because things work.

Amos Himmelstein: That’s good advice.

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