To Mark Valentine’s Day, Married Pairs Share How They Met
UMD grads from the last four decades share how they met their sweethearts.
Couple photos courtesy of the Alumni Association; collage by Emma Howells
Terp “how we met” stories are a lot like the chocolates in a Russell Stover heart-shaped sampler box. All of them are sweet—and you don’t even have to watch out for the hidden coconut one.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the University of Maryland Alumni Association this month collected true tales from a handful of the (at least!) 16,643 Terp married couples out there.
Whether they met on the first day on campus or reconnected a decade-plus after graduation, they share uniquely Terp memories of tailgating, studying in the McKeldin stacks or even cheering each other on in Maryland Stadium.
Starting Off on the Right Note
As a UMD tour guide, Dan Zawacki ’13 made it a point to share with visitors that the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish filmed its “Only Wanna Be With You” music video at Reckord Armory.
Shadowing his tours was trainee Brooke Parker ’14. When it came time for Brooke to give her tryout tour, she burst into an enthusiastic rendition of the song.
The song’s title, it turned out, rang prophetic. Dan wrote six words on his card reviewing her performance: “I want to marry this girl.” And he did, in December 2019, after an eight-year courtship.
“We’re both extroverted people, so that’s what got his attention,” Brooke said. “We are equally confident, loud, positive and joyful, and we both look at the bright side of things. It all worked out pretty perfectly for us.”—AF
Pacing the Race for the Long Term
Track and field team alums Ambur (Ballew) Davenport ’17 and John Davenport ’14 felt the first sparks of romance … in the team’s weight room.
It was around Halloween, when she recalled him “goofing around, acting pretty funny and as a freshman, I go to my friends, ‘Oh my God, John is so cute.’”
John, then in his fifth year on the team, recalled her stopping to talk to him at the exit. “She put her hand on my chest and said something. It was real subtle, and I didn’t even recognize it until after she left, like, what just happened?”
They remained just friends, though, until Ambur, along with one of her business coaches, approached John with a business opportunity. That progressed to dating, and he proposed to Ambur at Great Falls Park in Maryland, where he’d invited friends and family to gather (quietly!) behind a rock and then help celebrate. The couple wed last May.
“This is going to be our first married Valentine’s Day, so I’m excited to see what he has planned,” Ambur said.—FD
Dave and Dara Feldman ’84 live as if every day is Valentine’s Day. They’ve built their professional lives on spreading the language of love. The Kensington, Md., couple run the nonprofit Virtues Matter, which works with individuals and organizations—educators, social workers and entrepreneurs, among them—to “cultivate virtue” in their daily lives.
They first met on campus when Dave, a marketing major, was visiting Dara’s roommate—who had romantic designs on him. He and Dara, an elementary education major, didn’t meet again for 13 years, during a chance encounter at a Rockville gym, where Dave remembered her by the wrong name.
Dara shrugged off the gaffe: “In 10 minutes, I knew I was going to marry him. There was something in my heart that was attracted to him.”
A month later, the two had their first date, at DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., where they ate pizza, took in a movie, and browsed the titles at Kramers bookstore.
The parents of two, who will celebrate 23 years of marriage in March, say they work hard to practice what they preach.
“We try to bring the essence of who we are into all that we do,” Dave said. “It’s about enjoying every moment of each other’s company.”—AF
Love by the Book
Pramod Raheja ’91 was studying in UMD’s engineering library when peals of laughter rolled from the stacks. He ignored it at first, but heard that same laughter again many times in the weeks that followed. Frustrated, he decided to find the source.
That’s when Pramod came face-to-face with Preeti Raheja ’92, a fellow engineering major. “I was, like, ‘Oh, she’s got a nice smile,’” he remembers.
They soon set a date for pizza at Ratsie’s and went miniature golfing.
Today, Pramod is co-founder and CEO of Airgility, an artificial intelligence and robotics company in UMD’s Discovery District. Preeti spent more than two decades in the telecommunications industry and is now a functional health coach.
After 26 years of marriage and raising two sons, Preeti still calls her husband “a very persistent person.”
“When he wants something, he will go after it and not take no for an answer. He came into my life at the right time.”—AF
Fashioning a Love Story
Joe Danczuk ’15 was enrolled at UMD for one day when he met Christina Germano Danczuk ’15 at a dinner their roommates organized at their adjacent off-campus apartments. Christina had an intellectual air and was friendly. Joe created an altogether different impression.
“The joke is that Christina appreciated my style: a Nike T-shirt and shorts,” Joe says. “I was not a good dresser back then.”
After a decade of dating, the Hoboken, N.J., pair wed in September. Five days later, Joe, a captain in the New York Army National Guard, started his second year at Columbia Law School that Wednesday.
Christina, a public relations manager for Amazon Web Services, says that while they didn’t have time for a proper honeymoon, “We still find ways to celebrate and spend quality time with each other, whether that’s carving out time for a date night, going to a Broadway show or just making sure we have dinner together every night.”—AF
Recipe for Affection
Betty Wang ’96 and Hsuan Ou ’97 are fond of giving Cupid a taste of the Asian American experience.
“Since Valentine’s Day falls close to the Lunar New Year, we can be found in the kitchen making homemade dumplings, scallion pancakes, and other Chinese favorites,” Betty says. “We usually celebrate with extended family dressed in red, and we hand out red lucky envelopes with money to the kids.”
The couple met as seniors in UMD’s Asian American Student Union during its successful push for the adoption of an Asian American studies program on campus. The couple planned and attended rallies, made posters and distributed fliers, and marched on then-President William “Brit” Kirwan’s office.
Today, Betty is a primary care physician while Hsuan is a cybersecurity expert with the National Institutes of Health. The couple, who live in Howard County, still has a vested interest in UMD: The older child, Kayla, is a freshman. Betty and Hsuan will celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.
“Our best advice is to look past the self-pride and individual need and to work toward core respect and understanding,” Hsuan says.—AF