Ariana Howard ‘20
For many students at Davidson, the question of “Is my partner the one?” feels just as important as “What do I want to do with my life?” While some students are solely focused on establishing a career, others are equally focused on establishing a life with their partner. Building a life with one’s partner post-graduation can mean searching for jobs in the same city, developing a plan for long-distance or, for some, getting engaged.
On October 27th, 2019, Josh Betts ’20 got on one knee and proposed to Olivia TenHuisen ‘20. The two will be married in July. For Betts and TenHuisen, marriage was the logical next step in their relationship. “We kind of realized we were making plans after graduation,” said Betts.
Betts explained that in addition to being ready for a more serious commitment, he and TenHuisen decided to get married because “we wanted our families to be more comfortable with us living together [after graduating].” Both families are fully supportive of the marriage. In fact, both Betts’ and TenHuisen’s parents got married the year after graduating college as well and are both still happily married. “We have seen the benefits of getting married right after college,” asserted TenHuisen.
While Betts and TenHuisen’s family are supportive of the marriage, the responses from their friends at Davidson have been mixed. According to the couple, a common question amongst their friends who “are more focused on their career” has been, ‘Have you thought this through?’ “I think people are looking for something different after graduation [than we are],” explained TenHuisen.
Although getting engaged while still at Davidson is fairly uncommon, remaining a couple post-graduation is somewhat standard. According to the Alumni Office, fourteen percent of alumni are in a relationship with a fellow Davidson alumnus. “There’s such a tradition of people marrying other Davidson people. My church in Charlotte is like half Davidson couples,” affirmed AC Keesler ’20.
While Davidson produces many serious couples, it also fosters an active hookup culture. Hannah Maltzan ’20 commented, “I think that the dating culture at Davidson is an interesting mix. You have the hookup culture of college, but also people who are in serious, committed relationships who are talking about marriage.”
“I don’t know anyone who just goes on dates,” stated Lauren Wolfe ‘20.
Many students see Davidson as a place for serious relationships or hookups, but not for much in between. In fact, this polarizing culture doesn’t seem to be anything new. Heather McKee ’87 explains that when she was at Davidson, “There wasn’t a whole lot of just dating people. A lot of coupling up and hooking up, but not a lot of dating.”
McKee also described a pressure to get married right after graduating from Davidson. Although now there is less societal pressure to get engaged post-graduation, some students still feel a pressure to couple up. Lexi Wombwell ’20, who became engaged to Josh Sawyer ’17 in fall of 2018, asserted that many students seem to worry about not finding a match while at Davidson. “The idea of finding your partner while at Davidson or being forever alone is problematic.”
The pressure to get married caused McKee an extra level of stress, because she was a gay woman at Davidson who had yet to come out. Even though McKee knew she was gay, she dated men while at Davidson because “the pressure to not be perceived as gay was so powerful back then.” For that reason, McKee considered getting married to the man she was dating senior year. “That would have been disastrous for me. I’m so glad I waited for the right person to come back into my life.”
McKee and her wife, Jane Campbell ’87, started dating at their 25th Davidson reunion in 2012. The two were teammates on the golf team while at Davidson. Neither woman knew the other one was gay until Campbell called up McKee before their 25th Davidson reunion and asked if she wanted to play golf that weekend. On the golf course they came out to each other. “We were out there for four hours,” stated McKee.
McKee and Campbell eloped in Hawaii that next year. “No one got down on one knee,” explained McKee. “It was almost this mutual ‘this is really working. I feel good about this. Let’s do this’ kind of thing.”
Although McKee explained she does not think there is any formula for knowing when to get married, she is very glad she waited to find Campbell. “For me at 46, the things that I wanted in a partner were thankfully very different than what I may have been looking for at 21-22.”
McKee and Campbell currently live in Davidson, where they have been able to witness the changes in student life compared to when they attended Davidson back in the 1980s. One of the biggest changes McKee has seen is the difference in acceptance towards LGBTQ+ students on campus. “They actually date on campus. That just blows my mind.”
While most of McKee’s Davidson friends who are now married started dating in college, McKee didn’t think it was uncommon for Davidson alumni to find each other later in life like she and her wife had.
Many students and alumni believe it is the values that Davidson fosters that bonds Davidson students even after graduating.“I think Davidson attracts people who are committed to their schoolwork and people who want to learn with integrity and honor, so it’s not surprising that these character traits would translate into relationships,” stated Keesler.
Due to this lasting Davidson bond, McKee asserted, “If you are single, go to your college reunion because you never know what might happen.”