Winter, spring, summer, or fall
February 14, 2018

Whether it is spring, summer, autumn, or winter, Culver has proven to be a special place for couples. For Valentine’s Day, a few couples share how they met.

The Rudnickis on their wedding day (above) and today.

Shannon Bush Rudnicki W’88 and Michael Edward Rudnicki W’88, ’92

Married: August 9, 1997. Two Children. Married in the Memorial Chapel. Knew each other as Woodcrafters.

Michael tells their story:

We first met as Woodcrafters, back in 1986 as 11-year olds. We became friends and got to know each other better – as we had such a great group of friends that were 1988 Woodcraft graduates that year (many of us are still friends today – 30 years later).

Following Woodcraft graduation, we met at Cardinal Bridge to say goodbye… and I gave her my overseas cap.

Over the next several years of high school, we kept in touch. We wrote letters (yes, letters). I went on to Culver. Shannon went to her hometown high school. We both graduated in 1992. We would hear bits and pieces through mutual friends about one another…

In the summer of 1994, we both found ourselves back at Culver again as Woodcraft counselors. Not long after meeting again, we started hanging out with our group of friends that were also counselors… and then went out on a date… One of those dates included all of Shannon’s family (and Shannon’s brother Rob – another D&B Woodcraft and Naval Bandsmen Summer School grad) – meeting at Papa’s for pizza.

What makes your love story unique and special?

When we we started dating, Shannon let it be known that she kept the overseas cap from after our Woodcraft graduation – along with the letters we wrote each other.

Many of the friends that were either in or attended our wedding, were friends from Woodcraft, winter school, Shannon’s hometown of Waverly, Ohio, as well as those friends we became close to that were a part of other Culver graduating classes.

As a gift at our wedding, our friends had a special painting commissioned by The Painter and the Poet of Cardinal Bridge. It hangs as a centerpiece of other Painter and Poet watercolor prints in our home today. It’s a one of a kind!

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

While we grew up in other places (Illinois, Florida, and Ohio), Culver has become our hometown. We have had a few families adopt us on Lake Max during the past several summers. We love being on the lake in the summertime.

The proposal happened at Cardinal Bridge. We were married in the Culver Chapel by Tom Steffen with music by John Gouwens and Maj. Bill Browne. The rehearsal dinner was in Plymouth at the Hayloft. The groomsmen gathered at The Corner Tavern before the wedding. Our first child, Emma Beatrice, was baptized in the Culver Chapel.

Had it not been for Culver, I’m pretty certain we would never have met.

Maryruth and Kenneth Malloy

Maryruth Gafill Malloy ’80 and Kenneth James Malloy ’80

Married: March 28, 2014. Met and dated while at Culver.

Maryruth tells their story:

We met on the steps of Argonne girls’ dorm when I was a new Culver student as a Junior in 1978. We were each other’s first love at 16, and had a magical time together that year. But as many 16 year olds do, we broke up and moved on. However, we remained good friends throughout our time at Culver and beyond.

What makes your love story unique and special?

We went our separate ways after leaving Culver in 1980, but there was always a thread connecting us through the mini-reunions we had every few years with close Culver friends, and we never lost touch. In those days, without social media, it took effort to stay in touch, and I once had to write every “Ken Malloy” in Tennessee to make sure we did not lose touch. After a quarter century of bi-coastal friendship which saw me get married and lose my husband to cancer in California, and Ken get married and divorced young in Tennessee, we were both single and working in Northern California. We became even better friends, and one day in 2005 had a conversation that sounded a lot like “So, what do you think would have happened if we had gotten together as grown-ups instead of kids?” The next thing you know, we were in love, buying a house and starting a new life together. In 2014, we were married! Our wedding party included my father, J.B. Gafill III, Class of ’56, my sister, Elizabeth Gafill Dominello, Class of ’85, Elizabeth Willkie Tew, Class of ’81, and David England, Class of 80.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Well, of course we met and fell in love the first time at Culver as high school sweethearts, going to Fall Formal, enjoying sporting events, Christmas Vespers in Chapel, and all that Culver has to offer young people. Culver was always in our lives once we graduated. My grandfather, J.B. Gafill Jr, Class of ’28, and my dad, cherished their Culver friendships and so did Ken and I. Our closest friends then and now are people we went to Culver with, and they were in our wedding. So keeping those friendships up, including attending some reunions on campus and visiting with our close friends through the years, kept us close as we found our way back to each other. Culver is in our lives now, as we recently spent my father’s 80th birthday weekend at Culver with our family and toured and enjoyed campus life, and all wore our Culver rings, including my grandfather’s Class of ’28 one. Culver brought us together and our continuing relationship with Culver enriches our relationship through our shared pride and family n friend connections. Ken’s and my nephew, C.J. Dominello, we certainly hope, will be in the Culver Class of 2028, exactly 100 years after his great grandfather graduated in 1928. And we’ll be there!

Regina and Will Lee

Regina (Solis) Lee ’02 and William Lee ’03

Married: March 28, 2009. Two children with one on the way (all boys) and two dogs. Met and dated while students at Culver.

Regina tells their story:

Back when we were there (no cell phones), and not sure if you still do this, but each student had a Culver e-mail which everyone used to communicate with other students. It was really easy because you just wrote the last name of the person plus their first initial and that was it. Long story short, my roommate as a joke sent Will a blank e-mail from my account because she knew I thought he was cute. The next day, Will had responded letting me know that the e-mail I sent was blank and he was curious to know what it said. I got really nervous and said sorry, that my roommate was being silly. In the next couple of days after the e-mail he asked me out on a “date” (dinner at the dining hall). Again, not sure how it’s done nowadays, but that was a real date back then.

What makes your love story unique and special?

Me being from (Culiacan, Sinaloa) Mexico, and Will from Atlanta, we never thought we would go further than our relationship at Culver. Both of us thought we’d be a high school couple and that’s it. But towards the end of my senior year we realized we wanted to give it a shot. We ended up dating long distance for seven years before we got married and I moved to Atlanta. We would visit each other as much as we could, and Will did a year of exchange student program in college from UGA to the city where I went to college (Monterrey, Mexico), so we had one out of those seven years living in the same city. As soon as I graduated college we got engaged. This March it will be nine years of happy marriage!

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

If it weren’t for Culver there is no chance we would have ever met or crossed paths. We’re very grateful for our time at Culver.

Linda and Michael Tinsley

Linda White Tinsley ’92 and Michael Tinsley ’90

Married: June 8, 1996. Two children. Married in Memorial Chapel. Met and dated at Culver.

Linda tells their story:

I was a shy new sophomore. A senior in my dorm invited me to hang out with some of her friends on the front steps of Argonne Atrium. Michael was a first classman, the sort that a “new girl” wasn’t comfortable saying hello to. Michael didn’t miss a beat and leaned forward, gave me a big smile and introduced himself. I blushed, but had no idea why.

What makes your love story unique and special?

We became such great friends that I didn’t see it coming when he asked me out. He invited me to a hockey game, what he thought would be our first official date, but to his disappointment I showed up with a group of friends. They figured it out before I did! Once we started dating, we were inseparable. It seemed as if the hall phone would ring within minutes of saying goodbye to him outside the dorm. Keep in mind we didn’t have cell phones back then. In fact, Michael made it a point to visit me every month during my remaining two years at Culver, all the way from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Culver has been at the heart of it all for us. Our love started at Culver and remains there today. Just days before Michael walked through the Iron Gate, he took me to the steps of Memorial Chapel and gave me a promise ring and his class ring. He said he was going to come back and marry me. I must admit, I laughed at him. Five years later, he took me back to the same spot and proposed to me during his reunion weekend. We were married a year later in the Chapel. After the ceremony, we walked from the Chapel through Sally Port and across campus, as we did countless times before. It was a precious stolen moment alone on our special day. Now our legacy continues with our two children living their own Culver journeys where it all began.


John and Shawna Akalaonu

John Akalaonu ’98 and Shawna (Dickey) Akalaonu ’98

Married August 1, 2003. Three children.

John tells their story:  

We met in ceramics class at Culver our senior year. We were both four-year seniors who had never met until our last semester and quickly became close friends. Our first “date” was Senior Dinner Dance where we went together as friends only. Eight months after graduating from Culver, we were dating. It started as a long distance relationship for the first year until Shawna transferred to Purdue with me.

Now as we get ready to celebrate the 19-year anniversary of when we first started dating, we are also making plans for our 20-year Culver reunion. In our 19 years together, 15 years married, we have lived in four states, been separated by war when I deployed to Iraq with the USMC, and had three children (one of whom will hopefully start as a freshman at CGA in 2020 and will be followed by her little brothers). Through it all, Culver has been a key part of our lives.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

We would have never met without Culver. Being Culver kids gave us the ability to be able to maintain close long distance relationships (in the time before social media and texting). Our first year together was long distance and would have likely failed if we weren’t both conditioned to have good long distance relationships by Culver.

Willie and Marin Strong

Marin (Barnes) Strong ’12 and Willie Strong ’12

Married August 12, 2017. Married in Memorial Chapel. Met and dated while students at Culver.

Marin tells their story:

We met during the block party one of the first nights freshman year during sports week!

What makes your love story unique and special?

Willie and I were best friends freshman-junior year. Then finally started dating at the end of our junior year at Culver. Everyone said that they saw it coming. After Culver, we had to do four years of long distance. But we were able to make it through! Following college we moved to Indianapolis to start our lives together and were married one year after graduation.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Culver is my home, I was born and raised there. And because of that it has become a home to Willie too. Culver will forever be the place we fell in love, had our first kiss, and began as husband and wife. We can’t wait to send our kids to Culver one day, and hopefully they find someone special there, just as we did.

Donovan and Jennifer Garrett

Donovan Garrett W’81, NB’84 and Jennifer Epley Garrett

Married in Memorial Chapel on December 18, 1993. One child. Met as Woodcraft Camp counselors in 1988.

How did you first meet?

We met on Woodcraft Staff in the summer of 1988. Donovan was a Cub counselor for Division 6. Jennifer was a Butterfly counselor for Wing 2.

What makes your love story unique and special?

There are many camp romances. Some last. Some don’t. Ours took a while to get going. Our friends can attest, we were on again-off again depending on the summer. But in the end . . . it worked out. This year we celebrate 25 years of marriage!

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Culver is a special place to us not only because of its great program, but for its special memories. It is where we met, where we got engaged, and where we were married. We worked there, played there, and sent our son to summer school there. It is family. It is home.

Sally and Roger Meridith

Sally Jeskewich Meridith SS’74 and Roger Meridith H’68

Married August 7, 1982. One child. Met during camp in 1980.

Sally tells their story:  

We met in the summer of 1980, when Roger was working in the Woodcraft Indian Lore Department, and I was an Upper School Water Ski Instructor. I had gone to Summer School with Roger’s younger brother, Tracy, and lived in the same dorm that his parents did in 1978, so I knew his family before I met him.

What makes your love story unique and special?

I always admired him in 1978, even though I didn’t know him, because he came and visited his parents every weekend, and I would see him sitting down the end of our hall. I always thought he must be a nice guy if he was coming to see his parents weekly.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Everything! We wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t both worked at Culver in the summers! Roger was a new teacher, so he had summers off, and I was still in college, so it was my summer job. His parents, Jo and Bill Meridith, worked there for 60 years in the summer, and they are a wonderful role model for us.

The Ray family

Lindsay Ray ’95 and Kevin Ray ’93

Married June 19, 2004 in Memorial Chapel. Three children.

Lindsay tells the story on how they first met.

Kevin and I first met in May, 2001, while Kevin was visiting Indianapolis for the Indy 500 Mini Marathon. We had connected months earlier through AOL Instant Messenger as a result of Kevin finding my email address on the Culver Alumni page.

What makes your love story unique and special?

I remember seeing Kevin come out of the Culver Academy post office in 1993 and thinking he was pretty cute. I was so excited years later when he contacted me while I was in school in Indianapolis and he was in the United States Marine Corps.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Culver continues to be a special place for our family! As a result of our relationship, our children now get to experience Culver Woodcraft Camp, and hopefully CMA/CGA!

The Hazens

Donna Carter Hazen ’92 and Trevor D. Hazen ’89

Married May 6, 1995. Three children. Met and dated while at Culver.

Donna tells their story:  

Walking back from getting fitted for uniforms I saw Trevor walking towards the quad as a group of us were walking back to Benson. I asked who the guy in red was. The girls told me he was a four-year senior with rank. No way would he talk to a new girl much less a freshmen. I asked his name again . . . they said Trevor Hazen but you don’t stand a chance. Battery A was living in the hotels at the time. A few days later Trevor was walking by my window and I said ‘Hi Trevor’ as he walked by. He stopped and talked to me with his golf bag slung over his shoulder. He ended up dating another girl in my dorm who was a new girl – but a junior. I dated someone else as well . . . but we always made sure to hey hello to one another. I mean who can walk across campus and not say hello to people. Right?

What makes your love story unique and special?

After a few post office meet-ups (maybe or maybe not accidental) Trev said we should grab lunch sometime. A month went by and no follow up. I finally called him on the unit phone and said are we ever going to lunch? We had lunch and dinner that day and the rest is history. Trevor graduated and went on to U.S. Air Force Academy Prep and then on to the Air Force Academy. We agreed to date other people and would stay in touch. I am certain Trevor’s family wished cell phones were around back then. Three years of phone card calls were expensive. We talked every night and wrote letters. Chris Sheppard worked in the Post Office then as well. She would always get excited to tell me I got a letter from you know who or a package. She was there for all the little notes we sent each other so we would have mail in our mailboxes when we first started flirting. In a way she was our cupid.

What role, if any, did Culver play in your relationship?

Without Culver we would have never met. Back in the day dances were every Saturday night. We went to the dance together and while ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure was playing we had our first little peck kiss as we shuffled past each other. It was like we had dance together a thousand times before… Culver Dances along with Chris Sheppard in the Post Office played a huge role in our relationship. Culver gave us a shared bond that time and distance could not break. Trevor and I became best friends at Culver. And we all know Culver friendships never end.

If you are a Culver couple, we’d like to hear your story. Tell us more at

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