From the day Baker opened its doors, love has been in the air.
Called the “match factory,” by the mid-century era of alumni, more than 1,000 couples have found their lifelong partners at Baker, often becoming engaged in the grape arbor, at a Greek house or in Osborne Chapel.
It all began with Baker’s very first graduating class. Dolly Willey and James Crooks Hall, two of only three members of the Class of 1866, found true love at the fledgling University.
The following are five such stories of classmate courtship.
Cecil Miller, 1953, & Carol Lee Turk, 1955
Growing up in Baldwin City with several family members already attending or alumni of Baker, the University was a natural destination for Cecil Miller in the early 1950s. He had seen Carol Lee Turk, of Belton, Mo., on campus after Christmas in 1953 and decided to give her a call. They began their courtship and eventually married on July 1, 1956.
“The Greek system helped us meet and was a big part of the Baker family tradition,” said Cecil, who was in Delta Tau Delta while Carol was a Phi Mu.
Cecil remembers the time fondly.
“We would go to Lawrence to a movie, eat out or go to Ottawa to an ice cream place for banana splits,” Cecil said.
Cecil and Carol Lee are both retired in Overland Park after careers as an accountant and teacher, respectively.
The two enjoy traveling and recently returned from an African safari with a church group from Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway, where they are active members.
Manny Mendoza, 1954, & Margot De Leon, 1956
Baker University has been a central part in the life of the Mendozas for more than half a century.
“Baker gave us each other,” said Margot Mendoza.
Margot remembers when she met her future husband.
It was early in her freshman year — Sept. 20, 1952, to be exact. Manny was in his first year on the Baldwin City campus after transferring from a junior college.
“Someone else had wanted to meet me, but he didn’t want to come over to the house by himself so he conned Manny into joining him,” Margot recalled. “I was called downstairs by the housemother, and the girls stood over the railing to see who it might be. It was very exciting.”
The potential suitor never got around to asking Margot out, but Manny didn’t pass up the opportunity. He returned to Jolliffe Hall and called her for a movie date to see “King Kong” in Ottawa. The two were engaged a year later on Oct. 12, 1953, on the Taft Bridge. They celebrated their 51st anniversary on June 2.
With Manny a business major and Margot majoring in sociology and Spanish, the two young Baker students didn’t enroll in many classes together but shared a common interest in the fine arts and enjoyed seeing photos of faraway places.
“We would carry on conversations on what we had done in class and we would see these wonderful slides on Venice and Rome and how we would like to go there some day,” Margot said. “And fortunately we eventually were able to travel to these cities.”
The Mendoza’s Baker legacy continued with their three children — Noelle, 1979, Lisa, 1981, and Marcos, 1986, who all graduated from Baker.
Steve Ferrell, 1974, & Cheryl Gleason, 1974
Cheryl Gleason came to the Baldwin City campus from nearby Leawood, and Steve Ferrell arrived from faraway Cherry Hill, N.J. The two now live in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The couple met on a blind date in September 1970, their first semester at Baker, and went to a restaurant in Lawrence. They were engaged three years later at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house and married in 1974 in Overland Park. Their common interests included Greek life and working together on class projects. Some of their special favorite Baker memories were Alpha Chi barn parties, Sig Ep Fish Fry parties, serenades, intramurals, formals, interterms and “The Big Streak on campus in 1974.”
Baker continues to play a vital role in their lives, Cheryl said.
“All four of our children (Lindsay, ’03, Ryan, ’06, Brett, ’08 and Kyle, ’o9) have been in school with children of friends we knew from Baker. It’s the Baker tradition that connects all of us.”
Ryan Kuhn, ’06, & Emilee Merry, ’06
Osborne Chapel will always have special place in the memories of Ryan and Emilee Kuhn.
Now living and working in Chicago, the two recent Baker graduates were engaged in the chapel on Nov. 17, 2005, after dating more than a year.
“Emilee came to the chapel thinking that she was going to be helping a friend set up a romantic evening for his girlfriend,” Ryan recalled. “She helped her friend light candles all over the room. Then her friend left the room and a video that I had made for her started playing. At the end of the video, I came out of the back room, got down on one knee and proposed.”
The two business majors from area Kansas high schools had several classes together. Ryan credits Emilee for much of his academic success.
“Emilee was very helpful in getting me and some fellow Kappa Sigs through our economy and math classes,” said Ryan, who grew up in Lenexa, while Emily was raised in Burlington.
Their common interests focused on campus involvement, including Student Activities Council and Greek life.
Ryan and Emilee married a couple of months after graduation at Baldwin City United Methodist Church with campus minister Ira DeSpain, 1970, officiating.
“We both really loved our time at Baker,” Ryan said. “Our whole college experience was a very fond memory, especially all of the great friendships we made, being involved in our Greek houses, date parties and nights at the Lodge and the Mine.”