This Valentine’s Day, the Office of Alumni Engagement is sharing the stories of alumni who fell for each other while they were students at Pratt.

Read about the couples’ magical moments, their favorite date spots, and relationship advice they have for Pratt students today.

Do you know of other Pratt pairs and partners? The Office of Alumni Engagement would love to hear from you. Please share your stories by emailing alumni@pratt.edu.


PAUL GILDERSLEEVE AND SUZIE HO GILDERSLEEVE

How and where did you first meet?

Since we both transferred to Pratt as sophomores, we had to take Mary Buckley’s Foundation Color class. Suzie sat next to me so that she could correct my spelling of Seurat. Glad she did. The first of a lifetime of corrections.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

After a long class field trip day at MoMA, we’ve been inseparable ever since. Also passing the Mitzvah Tank on Willoughby and driving home to Long Island every weekend, and eating my ramen and hot dog dinners and the home-cooked meals that Suzie’s mother made for her.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

Junior’s on Dekalb and Flatbush. Great pickles and cheesecake. Never tried the schmaltz. Paul had a car on campus so it was safe to get there and back in the mid-1970s.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Give each other a lot of room and understanding, because we’re polar opposites. It’s truly a gift to be married to someone with similar skills and worldviews.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We’ve been married for almost 42 years and have lived in five states and finally retired in the Palm Springs, California, area. 18 years of corporate jobs and 25 years of consulting led to travel to three continents and one sub-continent. We have a son and three granddaughters, including one who is beginning to exhibit great drawing skills.


CAIT OPPERMAN AND YAEL MALKA

How and where did you first meet?

We first met in 2009 when we ended up in the same Photo 2 class.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Halfway through our senior year, we were best friends and living as roommates. When we finally got together, we were in the midst of working on our thesis shows and spent a lot of time hanging out in the ARC printing, talking through the work, and staying at school until midnight when the labs closed. It was so exciting to experience such a formative time for both of us at school and at home and we always look back on that last six months of school as one of the most special times of our lives.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We didn't have a lot of time during our senior year to go on dates, so that would usually consist of grabbing dinner before or after working on our thesis shows. Back then, we would go to Tepango or Brooklyn Public House on Dekalb. We went to Tepango so often that we didn’t even need to order, they saw us walk in and started cooking. 

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Find someone who encourages you, supports you, and wants to see you succeed. Art school can often be a competitive place, but it’s so important to seek out friends and relationships with people who make you feel like the best version of yourself. 

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Personally, we still live ten minutes from Pratt, which we love. Professionally, Yael continues to make her own fine artwork and is working on a book that will be published in March. In the last few years, she’s had a solo show and a show at Leslie-Lohman Museum with the art collective she co-founded, Memory Foam. She recently won the 30, which is a nomination-based award given to 30 photographers yearly worldwide. She also works in the editorial world, shooting stories for magazines, which are often influenced by her own work. Cait is a photographer and director working in the editorial and commercial spheres. She has shot stories and campaigns in the United States, Asia, Africa, and Europe while continuing to make her own work each year.


STORÄE MICHELE AND JÉ HOOPER

How and where did you first meet?

storäe and Jé met while teaching in our nation’s capital three years after graduating with their degrees. Most likely they crossed paths in the halls but never noticed each other—even while learning in such close proximity. They were either too focused on studying and/or remaining true to their passion for art. But like most masterpieces, their relationship took time to develop and reveal a newly cultivated love-ethic.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Their favorite Pratt memory is storäe’s premiere of their first film, [the listening heart], which took place on April 6, 2017, at Pratt Institute in Memorial Hall. Together, they welcomed an over 300-member audience to a ritual of love and community. This production was led by their joint company, Frequency House, and propelled them into a future in film and performance.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Being utterly honest and authentic with one another has grounded their journey as best friends, lovers, and artists.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Jé is currently a PhD candidate at Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts receiving their degree in Interdisciplinary Arts, and storäe is completing their MFA in Performance and Performance Studies at Pratt Institute this spring. They will celebrate their 11th year anniversary this February 17, 2021.


MARY PETRAS AND FRANK PETRAS

How and where did you first meet?

It’s complicated. Frank approached me in the Pratt Library where I had a part-time job. He wanted to know if I could help him with some math problems. Soon after, he was drafted and opted to sign up with the Air Force. I didn’t have contact with him again until I was in graduate school at the University of Connecticut and home for the holidays when mutual friends of ours (also Pratt alumni) asked me to come ice skating. Frank was with them and had expressed interest in meeting me again. It was love at first sight. I came home and told my parents I met the guy I was going to marry. Six months later, he proposed and the next morning he got orders for Vietnam. We spent a year apart and married shortly after he returned from Vietnam.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Our favorite Pratt memories were going back to Pratt for our reunions and seeing the beauty and all of the improvements on the Pratt campus and hoping to reconnect with friends. We especially marveled at the changes in the PI Shop.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We used to go to Lin’s Garden in Chinatown frequently, but this was after we married.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Respect is important and so we always try to respect each other.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We are happily retired. My last job was in database technology at IBM where I traveled all over the globe providing technical expertise to our valued customers and co-authored six technical books. Frank worked in process control engineering in initial design to the final startup of chemical and pharmaceutical plants. We also just recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary!


RICHARD POLLACK AND SANDY POLLACK

How and where did you first meet?

We met in 1972 at the Willoughby residence hall through a mutual Pratt friend when Sandy came to explore Pratt while still in high school in Detroit.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

One of our first dates was going to watch the movie Pink Flamingos on campus, perhaps an odd choice by Richard. We also were collaborative from the start. Richard would help Sandy with writing assignments, and Sandy would draw the figures on Rich’s architectural elevations.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We really loved going to Manhattan for museums, movies, Broadway, and fun. We’d usually drive back to Brooklyn with a stop at Dave’s (located at Canal and Broadway) for an egg cream. It was our tradition.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Yes: get out of your room, away from your screens, meet people, and have relationships!

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We married in 1976, went to California on our honeymoon, and on the flight home said to each other, “Why are we living in Brooklyn when we could be in San Francisco?” In 1979, Richard was offered a job at a firm in San Francisco. Sandy continued with her self-employed graphic design consulting and our new adventure began in April of that year.

Richard started his own firm in 1985—Pollack Architecture—and sold the firm through an ESOP to the employees in 2012. Sandy Popovich Graphic Design officially closed in January 2020. 

We have retired to Sonoma and are lucky to have our children and grandchildren in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pratt’s excellence in design education made it possible for us to have long, rewarding careers, for which we are very grateful. We have honored our partnership with Pratt by establishing an endowed scholarship that alternates between students in the School of Architecture and the School of Art.


GUNNAR HAND, AICP AND ASHLEY Z. HAND, AIA

How and where did you first meet?

We met in a shared studio space in Higgins Hall where Gunnar (grungy skater dude) was taking an urban design studio and Ashley (preppy do-gooder) was taking an architecture studio.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Ashley served for two years as the graduate student trustee on the Pratt Board of Trustees and together Ashley and Gunnar attended the Legends gala in November 2005. It was the first time we would clean up and get out of studio gear to present ourselves as “grown-ups.” During the gala, Gunnar sold his first sketch in the silent auction—one of our earliest efforts to support each other and an organization we loved. It was one of the many moments where we realized how we could accomplish so much more together.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

Our “first” date was Chez Oskar (at the time it was on Dekalb) where we had a glass of wine and talked about pretty much everything.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Finding someone who understands and shares your values, your worldview, your ambition, and can fully support not just the work you are undertaking today but where you might go in the future starts with understanding yourself first.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Personally: we are raising three children (which is so much harder than studio), renovating a 100+-year-old home, and planning our next collaboration. Professionally, Gunnar landed his dream job last spring as a director of planning and urban design where he is applying his philosophy for regenerative cities daily. After nearly five years as an entrepreneur, Ashley, a licensed architect, is returning to the public sector and will be working within the same organization as Gunnar to transform how we connect with our civic institutions for a more equitable future. Since graduating 15 years ago, Ashley and Gunnar have launched a nonprofit, developed several exhibitions, and keep dreaming bigger dreams. 


WENDY POPP-SIMMONS AND BILL SIMMONS

 

How and where did you first meet?

We met on Washington Avenue shortly before graduation. Bill was under his motorcycle. As it turned out, he was heading cross-country on his bike with his girlfriend and I was going on a backpacking trip to Europe with my boyfriend within weeks that summer. So we became friends and attended a few Pratt events together: a Japanese tea ceremony in the ARC building, an anti-nuclear rally on campus. By summer’s end, we had both come home from our respective trips realizing that neither of us really wanted to commit to their former relationships. It wasn’t until about six months later that we began dating more seriously.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Working in Wendy’s studio on an architectural competition together: the Vietnam Memorial for the Waters Street site in Manhattan. Way out of our league at the time, but fun and the first collaboration we would work on together.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

Cafe Ambrosia in Soho, making the decision to elope in Florence, then coming home from Italy to our postnuptial reception at the Caroline Ladd Pratt House with some family and about 30 friends. A handmade party by creative friends—no real regrets. Wonderful!

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Nothing is more attractive than someone who is personally and consistently motivated to meet challenges in their own life. Maintain a sense of humor. Gratitude is key.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We still live in a home that we renovated and have lived in since 1984. We still create professionally. Wendy is working on a series of books in collaboration with King-In Culture Publishing Beijing and author Doug Wood. She has been teaching at the college level at Parsons for 30 years. Bill is a partner of Lothrop Associates LLP and has begun a division of his own: Aquatectonic Architects. Our first child will soon receive her doctorate in neuro-biochemistry and is newly engaged. Our son is on sabbatical from college, sailing and experimenting with musical arrangements.


DAWN DIAMANTOPOULOS AND EMMANUEL DIAMANTOPOULOS

How and where did you first meet?

We met at Willco, a fine art print shop in Brooklyn. It was a summer job for me after my sophomore year. Who wants to go home for summer break when you live in NYC? Many had already graduated and I was working there full time. The recession had already started.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Not so much a specific memory, but a feeling of freedom and a life full of possibilities. 

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We loved going to the Omonia in Astoria. Manny introduced me to Greek coffee and pastries and we often picked them up to go and would eat at Socrates Sculpture Park. We got my roommates and friends hooked on them and would take orders for an Omonia run.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

A basis in friendship will carry you far. You need to actually like the other person. And a sense of humor. You will need to be able to laugh at a lot of things through the years if you’re going to make it last.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Manny works at the Architect’s Project in Chicago and Dawn is an award-winning artist and a wellness advocate. We live in the Chicago suburbs in Northwest Indiana.


JASHAR AWAN AND EMILY L. EIBEL

How and where did you first meet?

We both lived in Stabile freshman year (fall 2000). We got to know each other better while studying for art history exams.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Working on projects in each other’s rooms. We’ve had a bit of a return to that while working from home under the quarantine.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We did a lot of wandering around the city—usually below 14th Street. We’d take the L into Union Square and dig through books at the Strand, check out records at Kim’s Video, and grab a bite at Luigi’s or Zaytoons on the way back to campus.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Make time to have fun together. Make each other laugh. Be authentic—don’t put up a facade. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

After a few years of carrying a stroller up and down subway stairs, we decided to move to Emily’s home state of Ohio with our son Max. We’ve been living outside of Cleveland since 2017.

Emily was a senior designer for Martha Stewart Crafts and currently works as a product designer for Joann Fabrics and Craft Stores.

Jashar is an author and illustrator. His debut book, What a Lucky Day! was published by Norton Young Readers in 2020. His next book, Only Ants for Andy, will be out this fall.


RAY RING AND ISABEL RING
 

How and where did you first meet?

We actually met at a special summer art class for New York City high school students two years before coming to Pratt.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

We knew each other from the summer art class and were surprised to meet each other again at Pratt. We began dating at the end of our junior year. We were in Professor John Payne’s English class together. After assigning us to read Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, he had us write poems about the play. We had to present our poems to the class. Ray’s was first, followed by Isabel’s. The poems were complete opposites. When Isabel finished, Mr. Payne announced to the entire class that we were obviously meant for each other. We got married a year after graduation. Several years later we ran into Mr. Payne in a coffee shop and told him that we had gotten married.  He was very happy to hear that, but not in the least surprised.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

Our favorite date was dancing at the DOM on St. Marks Place. The DOM was a Polish social club where Andy Warhol ran his Exploding Plastic Inevitable with music by the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed and Nico. The Dom later became Warhol’s Electric Circus.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Marry a friend and keep going out on dates together.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Isabel and Ray live in Manhattan. After graduating from Columbia, Isabel became an art teacher. She retired after 49 years of teaching art to deaf children.  After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Ray became the director of building design and exhibitions for the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he still works. He has designed exhibition installations for several other institutions. He also created an artwork for the MTA Arts for Transit program at the Clark Street station in Brooklyn Heights. We both continue to create art.


DONALD SCLARE AND LIISA SCLARE

How and where did you first meet?

We met in our second year at Pratt. Don was a sophomore, living on campus, and Liisa was a transfer student, commuting. We were both in the undergraduate architecture program.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Liisa’s car was always breaking down and Don had to help drive it back to Long Island.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We ate at Schrafft’s Restaurant and went to the Paris movie theater near the Plaza Hotel.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Have a sense of humor—disregard negative comments from design critics. This was difficult because Liisa’s father, Sidney Katz, was a design critic at Pratt.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We got married the day after graduation, (BArch ’68). We are still working together as Donald & Liisa Sclare Architects in Port Washington. We had our office in Manhattan until COVID-19 forced us to close it.


JENNIFER PANEPINTO AND ROBERT PANEPINTO

How and where did you first meet?

We met in Ramsey, New Jersey, at a Teen Night at Jimmy Reids, a local bar/club. It was Summer 1992. We both were wearing argyle socks and Doc Martens (we were not the fist-pumping Jersey types); it was perfect. We dated through high school and both decided to attend Pratt.  

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

We used to go to Mike’s Diner quite often and have breakfast for dinner. Or treat ourselves to Sprinkles for some roti on Myrtle Avenue.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

Treat each other with kindness. Which is good advice for any relationship anywhere.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

Rob is a professional glassblower, working at various studios in the New York City area. I run a graphic design firm based in Northern New Jersey specializing in branding and packaging. We are both getting into crypto art in our spare time. We live with our son, Bobby (14), and dog, Zelda, in New Jersey near where we first met. We spend our summers on the coast of Maine. 


VINCE CALIO AND DOROTHY CALIO

How and where did you first meet?

We first met as freshmen in our Foundation-A class in September 1954.

What is your favorite Pratt memory as a couple?

Being together! Having literally identical class schedules for four years as Advertising Design students provided us with a wealth of shared friendships and experiences, culminating with our graduation together in May of 1958. It was always great fun to get together with fellow students at the PI Shop between or after class and our weekly Tuesday pizza lunches at Cino’s.

What is your favorite date story or date spot in New York?

It wasn’t until our sophomore year that I found the courage to ask Dorothy if she would like to go with me to Pratt’s annual spring dance April Showers, our first date! We enjoyed romantic walks through Central Park on our way to ice skating at the Wollman Rink and then a stop at the Mayflower Hotel for great hot chocolate.

Do you have any relationship advice for current students?

A shared sense of humor, initially a key quality in fostering our mutual attraction, goes a long way to encourage and support relationships, as does a shared faith belief that has enriched our lives over these many years.

Where are you now personally and professionally?

We are looking forward to celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary in May. Our four children have blessed us with 12 grandchildren. Vince enjoyed a 55-year career planning and directing corporate marketing and brand identity programs for Fortune 500 firms, private organizations, and emerging companies. After spending several years at Manhattan ad agencies as a graphic designer, Dorothy transitioned to teaching art in Westchester, New York, schools and subsequently served as a painting instructor on luxury cruise lines. Currently, Dorothy is an active member of the Washington Art Association in our home state of Connecticut. Her oil paintings have been exhibited in New York and Connecticut.


Read about more Pratt Pairs from 2020, 2019, and 2018.