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From the Archives: Notre dating — a chronicle of campus romance

, , and | Monday, April 19, 2021

Diane Park | The Observer

“I got a 99% match!”

After the Marriage Pact’s release of ideal pairings, campus has been buzzing as students who participated in the survey decide whether or not to reach out to their matches. With over 2,400 participants, the Notre Dame Marriage Pact was clearly a sensation, adding suspense and excitement to the lives of students. Whether it was the prospect of a new friendship or (dare I say) love, students found the Marriage Pact intriguing enough to answer 60 personal questions in hopes of finding a compatible match.  

Characteristic of a Catholic university, many upperclassmen know a classmate or two who are already engaged. With the looming narrative of “ring by spring,” many students feel the pressure to find their future spouse here at Notre Dame. This week’s edition of From the Archives explores the dating scene at Notre Dame, examining the romance culture that perpetuates “ring by spring” in the minds and hearts of students today.  

The inception of online dating at Notre Dame

Feb. 22, 1989 | Paige Smoron | Researched by Chris Russo

The recent Marriage Pact survey was quietly and effectively disseminated throughout the student body via email and social media. In 1989, the internet was also buzzing as personal computers began to proliferate. Notre Dame’s Student Union Board waded into uncharted territory by hosting the campus’ first computer dating survey. The Observer’s Paige Smoron (‘92) covered the project, calling it “an answer to the dim social life at Notre Dame.”

Observer archives, Feb. 22, 1989

Students that took the survey were promised an “evening of intrigue and, possibly, tenderness.” Smoron targeted common obstacles for those seeking new connections, both platonic and romantic, calling out the “lovelorn” students who spent Valentine’s Day “sniveling under a quilt in bed, comforting themselves with the one Valentine they received, a Hallmark from their mother.” 

The 1989 dating service differed significantly from the Marriage Pact survey, including only five questions. The questionnaire posed basic questions, such as your favorite sport, music, subject, weekend activity and ideal vacation spot. The Marriage Pact included more specific and probing questions, asking about race, sexuality and political views.  

Interestingly, the student body asked for the service, wanting “any social activity that would provide ways to meet new people.” Lisa Mackett, the former SUB campus entertainment chairperson, shared her optimism about the service, believing that “you can’t lose” regardless of the outcome. 

The dating service was especially timely in light of a campus-wide SYR dance scheduled for the coming Friday. Respondents were notified of their matches via phone call on Thursday, the day before the SYR. Smoron imagined students picking up the phone with nervous excitement, equating it to the process of “those teen talk lines.” During the 1980s, kids across the country dialed numbers like 550-TEEN to access party lines and talk with strangers their age. Although this trend has faded, it is yet another example of the way technology has intermingled with dating and social interaction. 

The article did not include the survey’s outcome, but it did capture its significance to the campus. Smoron and the student body perpetuated the notion that the campus’ social scene needed something to spark new life. Similarly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened some aspects of campus life, but the Marriage Pact slowly amassed a buzz that is nostalgic of more normal times. 

“Ring by spring” couples discuss tri-campus love and commitment

Nov. 6, 2009 | Molly Madden | Researched by Jim Moster

In 2009, news writer Molly Madden interviewed three tri-campus couples who took “ring by spring” literally. While engagement in college is terrifying for some, it is a natural and beautiful development of a relationship for others.

For tri-campus couples, the physical spaces of campus are often deeply tied to their relationships. Notre Dame seniors Elysia Kramer (‘10) and Andrew Crecelius (‘10) got engaged in October of 2009. Crecelius, a resident of Zahm House, proposed to Kramer, a resident of Cavanaugh Hall, choosing a spot in between the two halls to honor the special place that Notre Dame would have for them for the rest of their lives. 

A Holy Cross senior, Patrick Mac Carthaigh (‘10), proposed to his Notre Dame girlfriend Colleen Minta (‘10) at Saint Mary’s Lake because “her dad went to Notre Dame and her mom went to Saint Mary’s … I thought it would be special to propose to her [t]here.” Another couple, Notre Dame senior Mike Brickl (‘10) and Saint Mary’s senior Kelsey Robertson (‘10), planned to get married at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s. 

As important as student life is for these couples, it also presents challenges. “Ring by spring” couples cannot spend their days dreaming about walking down the church steps as the band plays the Notre Dame victory march — they must continue meeting their academic obligations in between honeymoon brainstorming sessions. 

“I haven’t had a lot of time to enjoy being engaged,” Kramer said. “I’m happy but I need to focus on school.”

Nonetheless, the couples see engagement as a source of joy. Even though none of them had official wedding plans or a date on the calendar, it felt like an important development. For Minta, “[engagement] was more about being ready for the next official step … it was never about getting a ring before graduation.” Similarly, Mac Carthaigh expressed that an “official commitment” was more important than setting definite plans. 

One has to admire the love and dedication that inspires such a commitment, even if it is not a step everyone is ready to take.

Married students describe college experience

Sept. 27, 2005 | Mary Kate Malone | Researched by Spencer Kelly

For students thinking about turning their Marriage Pact into an actual marriage, Mary Kate Malone (‘08) gives an idea of how that might impact one’s college experience.

Notre Dame senior Mary Elizabeth Steffan (‘06) found marriage to be a welcome relief from the stressful college social scene, allowing her to enjoy campus life without worrying about dating.

“I have a different perspective on social life and activities,” Steffan said. “I don’t have the added stress of the dating scene. I feel a whole lot more laid back.”

Steffan also appreciated how marriage gave her a solidified plan, alleviating the stress of discerning a post-graduation path.

“There’s a concrete future for me, namely a husband,” Steffan said. “For many of my peers, they just haven’t figured out anything concrete yet.”

Because she got engaged as a senior, and since her fiance lived in Maine, Steffan was allowed to stay in the dorms. But for non-seniors, it is important to note Notre Dame’s policy that married students cannot live in a dorm.

However, the University offers special residences for couples. Jessica Guo lived in University Village with her graduate student husband and their one­-year-old son. Guo said she was happy with their arrangements.

“I am happy to live here and raise my child,” Guo said.

Another option is moving into an off-campus house. This is where sophomore Andrea Dreyfuss (‘08) and her graduate student husband Andrew (M.S. ‘09) lived at the time. 

Observer archives, Sept. 27, 2005
Andrea Dreyfuss, right, and her husband Andrew were married in August 2005. In their first month of marriage, they worked to balance schoolwork and marital life.

For Andrea, marriage had been positive so far, though at the time she had only been married a month.

“It’s so nice to have someone to share everything with,” she said. “It’s made me feel very happy.”

However, wedded students should prepare for some incredulous reactions from peers upon hearing about their marital status.

“I tell people my name and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re the girl [who got married],’” Dreyfuss said. “It doesn’t come out in class. Sometimes I prefer not to say [that I’m married]. I’m afraid people will say that I’m immature.”

Ultimately, Dreyfuss was proud of her decision to marry.

“Hey it’s my life,” Dreyfuss said. “I should be able to make my own decisions.” 

As more and more people meet their matches set up by the Marriage Pact, it will be interesting to see just how many of them will end up in the marital bliss of these couples.

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About Uyen Le

Uyen is a junior at Notre Dame, studying English and Gender Studies. She is currently serving as the Leader of the From the Archives Project.

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About Chris Russo

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About Spencer Kelly

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