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Alumni couples reflect on meeting at Drake

Photo courtesy of Jeff Gitchell | Flickr

Valentine’s Day means love is in the air, but for many Drake alumni the campus was romantic year-round. Here are snapshots of several Bulldog love stories spanning 50 years.

John and Phyllis Jensen: 

John and Phyllis Jensen remember Drake from another era. They attended the University when Meredith Hall was the newest building on campus.

“We ate breakfast together virtually every morning our freshman year,” said John Jensen, a 1968 actuarial science graduate. He said he had to wear a suit and tie to Sunday brunch at Hubbell.

Phyllis Jensen, a 1967 music education major, said her future husband waited outside her dorm every morning because men were only allowed in the women’s dorms on certain occasions. The couple recalls when the freshman dorms were all female and Goodwin-Kirk, Jewett and Morehouse were occupied by male students.

The Jensens said they met during the first week of classes, introduced by a mutual friend. “Our families had been friends for a long time,” John Jensen said. He said their friends walked away after the introduction. “And there we were…”

“Stuck,” Phyllis Jensen said.

Stuck they were. A relationship that began with a Coca-Cola date 58 years ago led to lavaliering — a Greek relationship tradition — and marriage the summer after they graduated.

“We were so lucky. We had so many common interests,” John Jensen said.

The Jensens come back to Drake every spring to attend Drake Relays and catch up with John’s Theta Chi fraternity brothers. They also went on a cruise in 2017 with other Drake alumni.

The couple now resides in Overland Park, Kansas. Their family has expanded to two daughters, six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. Now retired, the Jensens look back fondly on their college years.

“We had a good time [at Drake]. It was so fun,” Phyllis Jensen said.

John and Jill Farmer: 

“We met in the Office of Admissions,” John Farmer said. He graduated from Drake in 1992 with a degree in international relations.

John Farmer said he called his future wife on a Saturday night to see if she had plans. She did, but she still invited him to join her at a party hosted by the tennis team. “We didn’t meet each other until basically my last semester of college,” said Jill Farmer, a 1991 Broadcast News graduate.

It didn’t take long for the Farmers to know they had found the one.

“Valentine’s Day of my senior year is when we got engaged,” John Farmer said. The couple said they got married the following October.

“So many of our Drake friends were in our wedding [and] came to our wedding,” Jill Farmer said. She said that many of their professors were also in attendance.

In May 1993, the couple moved to St. Louis, Missouri, but they still maintain strong ties to their alma mater.

“Our daughter Peyton is a 2019 [graduate] from Drake,” Jill Farmer said. She said their eldest daughter also met her boyfriend, a 2015 Drake graduate, in the Admissions Office.

“Jane is a senior right now [at Drake],” John Farmer said. He said she is involved with the Adams Leadership Institute.

The Farmers also stay in touch by serving in positions with the National Alumni Board and regional chapters. They recently participated in a virtual Table for Ten, hosted by the Student Alumni Association.

“There’s a lot of folks we run into on campus who are there doing a tour with their kids, or their kids are already [at Drake],” John Farmer said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Tom and Sarah Florian: 

Tom and Sarah Florian credit their time in the Drake choir for beginning their relationship.

“She handed me music, and we didn’t think twice about it,” said Tom Florian, a 2014 marketing graduate. His exploration into music business during his sophomore year helped him get to know his future wife, a 2012 music business graduate herself.

“Choir is always part of the story,” Sarah Florian said. The couple said they “made it official” around the time they went on tour with the Drake choir to Ireland, England, and Wales in 2012.

“I proposed to her on Drake’s campus in front of Old Main,” Tom Florian said. He said the spot was special to the couple dating back to the beginning of their relationship.

The Florians now live in West Des Moines with their cats Lily and Paper, the latter named in honor of the traditional first wedding anniversary gift. She works for the Iowa Arts Council, and he works for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.

The couple keep in touch with Drake by serving on alumni and arts committees and coming back for Relays and basketball games. Tom Florian said they hope to return to the alumni community choir in the future.

“So many of our friends have Drake connections,” Sarah Florian said. “The relationships you build there, like, really do go beyond your time at Drake.”

Alec and Maddie Wilcox:

Alec and Maddie Wilcox met in the first class of their college careers and never looked back.

“We ended up sitting next to each other, and it just so happened we ended up in the same [honors] practicum,” Alec Wilcox said. He studied politics and marketing at Drake and graduated in 2018.

The couple said their first date was studying outside Cowles Library. Later that day, they attended the football game with friends and left early to get milkshakes at the Drake Diner.

“It was never either of our intentions going into college to find our life partner,” Maddie Wilcox said. She graduated in 2018 with a degree in law, politics and society.

The couple lived just down the street their junior and senior years from each other when he lived in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and she lived in the Kappa Alpha Theta house. The Wilcoxes said they still live in Des Moines. She is the policy advisor for the Iowa Department of Health, and he is a commercial real estate broker at Cushman and Wakefield.

These stories are but a few of all the love stories that began on Drake’s campus. So keep that in mind the next time you sit down next to someone new in class, meet someone in line at Hubbell or visit the Admissions Office. Happy Valentine’s Day, Bulldogs.


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