From Braun to bouquet: How alums found love at Oxy

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Author: Melina Devoney|George Newton

According to the college’s Office of Institutional Advancement, 2,672 living Occidental alumni are married to or in a domestic partnership with another Occidental alum. This Valentine’s Day, we share the stories of Occidental graduates who make up those 1,336 couples — or are soon to join them.

Ginny Cushman ‘55 and John Cushman ‘55

Though Virginia, or Ginny, and John Cushman met at a first year-dance during their Occidental orientation, it wasn’t until a year later that they became a couple.

It was Ginny, a member of Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha (Alpha), who asked John out on their first date to an Alpha house party. The couple continued to date on and off until the fall of their senior year, when they became engaged.

While they were officially engaged in February, John surprised Ginny with a pre-engagement token months before.

“We got ‘pinned’ in November,” Ginny said via email. “He gave me his Fiji fraternity pin — sort of ‘engaged to be engaged,’ and I got a ring in February, at which time we were serenaded by the [rest of the] Fijis.”

During their time dating at Occidental, the couple frequented Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado Boulevard (now Tommy’s), but when they really wanted to go out on the town, the two went to Mijaries in Pasadena and the Tam O’Shanter on Los Feliz Boulevard.

Although both enjoyed dining out, they have much more in common: Ginny and John feel as though their similar educational experiences inspired them to be constant learners and bound them to both the college and to each other.

“We had different majors and were involved in separate activities,” said Ginny via email, “but we shared the same basic value system, friends and social activities.”

After becoming engaged in February, the Cushmans set their wedding date between the day they turned in their respective Senior Comprehensive projects and their joint graduation on June 3, 1955. The two were wed at Westminister Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, Calif. by Ginny’s father, a Presbyterian Minister.

The Occidental Glee Club sang at the wedding, Ginny’s younger sister sang a solo and another friend from Occidental played the organ.

But in preparation for the wedding, there were a few hiccups.

“Because of a trucking strike, two deliveries of my five bridesmaids’ dresses were stuck in Denver and LA,” said Ginny via email, “So we spent the day — hair up in pincurls and a bandana — finding dresses for everyone, and succeeded!”

The Cushmans were married in the evening in the church basement. For their honeymoon, the couple drove up the coast to San Francisco, returning in time to graduate.

After graduating, Ginny taught professionally while John went to law school.

“John was in the Air Force ROTC, so we spent just short of 3 years in Texas and Florida in the military before 3 years of law school for John in Berkeley,” Ginny said via email.

While they worked, the two also spent a lot of time volunteering.

While neither are still working in their professional field, they keep themselves busy, as they have a large family and many friends. Both are joining the Oxy Theater Tour to New York in April 2016, an event at which alumni can see popular Broadway shows, meet cast members and writers and visit local exhibits.

The two have three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Ginny serves as a Chair Emeriti on Occidental’s Board of Trustees.

“We are both retired, have done a lot of travel, get to our place in the Sierras, and enjoy our family and friends,” said Ginny via email. “Our future is to continue these things at a slower rate and make every day count.”

April DesCombes ‘14 and Ryan Kammerman ‘14

Fortune cookies are usually tossed aside with a scoff, but some stories can leave listeners wondering if their magical powers are indeed reserved for special occasion.

During a trip to Disneyland during their first year at Occidental, Ryan and April each cracked open a fortune cookie. April brought Ryan, Marnie Kinnaird ’14 and her water polo teammate, Geneva Perez ‘14, to Disneyland for April’s birthday just a few weeks after she and Ryan started dating. According to Kinnaird, April read her fortune aloud — “You have found true love.” When Ryan read his fortune — “Love is right beside you” — Kinnaird could not help but giggle as she witnessed the awkward but genuine moment between Ryan and April.

“Even though it was the very beginning of their relationship, it was obvious they had something special,” Kinnaird said via email.

Kinnaird added that Ryan and April exemplify a stereotypical Southern California couple in that, even today, they visit Disneyland together on a regular basis.

Kinnaird, who lived next door to April in Newcomb, ran cross-country and track with Ryan. According to Kinnaird, April asked one day if Kinnaird knew a “Ryan” from the cross-country team because he was in her class and she thought he was really cute.

“At that point, April pretty much decided she was going to win him over and never looked back,” Kinnaird said.

That class was Occidental’s Sociology 101, which they took during the spring semester of their first year. Though they both grew up in Riverside, Calif., they did not meet until their professor instructed the class to form work groups. April and her friend immediately scouted out Ryan.

“I had just broken up with someone from high school, so I was on the prowl,” April said.

Though April said she turned her charm on full blast, Ryan said that he did not get the hint right away.

“Now that I look back, you were pretty flirty,” Ryan told April.

After a few group projects, April made her move. One day when class was cancelled (which April knew, of course) she played the fool and Facebook messaged Ryan with the excuse of asking whether or not they had class. She continued the conversation by inquiring how his track practice went that day.

“I could tell you liked me because you kept typing a lot of emojis,” Ryan told April.

Ryan eventually worked up the nerve to ask for April’s phone number, which they agreed was the moment that jumpstarted their relationship.

They ate at Senor Fish on Eagle Rock Boulevard as their first official date and watched “Dumb and Dumber” afterward.

“That set the tone for the next five years,” Ryan laughed.

Many dinner dates ensued, and Friday night trips to 21 Choices became routine.

Kinnaird still remembers the first time she saw them holding hands: during a sunny lunch period, in front of the Tiger Cooler. She said that it was clear that the couple was a good fit very early into their relationship. According to Kinnaird, they quickly became inseparable.

They put their relationship to the test when they went abroad to Thailand for four months together during their junior year. Spending all day together prevented both of them from getting too homesick.

“That was a pretty significant part of our relationship,” Ryan said. “Because we were really supportive of each other in that situation.”

According to Ryan, their support for one another’s life goals was key in maintaining the notoriously transient first-year relationship.

“We grew and changed at the same time in the same direction,” Ryan said. “Our values in life really align, and our morals and what we want to do with our lives and our passions are all very similar, which makes it really easy.”

So easy, in fact, that Ryan and April began talking about marriage their senior year.

“I told him that I didn’t want him to propose during graduation because graduation is a big deal, and I didn’t want to take away from that,” April said.

Ryan laughed.

“So I asked her the day after graduation,” he said.

The morning after April’s graduation party at her parent’s house, Ryan suggested going on a bike ride to a nearby state park that they had been considering as a wedding location. April assumed they were just casually scoping out the venue.

As they stood among the orange trees, Ryan pointed out to April that they were standing in the spot that the wedding ceremony would take place.

“He started saying really nice things,” April said. “And his hands started really shaking.”

As Ryan knelt on one knee, his hands were trembling so much that he could hardly get the ring out from the pocket of his running shorts. His nerves were unnecessary, as April accepted his proposal.

Following a hunch, April’s family had champagne ready when April and Ryan biked home.

The couple ultimately decided to get married at Occidental on Branca Patio, where they used to see weddings take over the Marketplace every weekend.

April said that the unexplainable feeling of connection to Occidental’s campus drove their decision to get married on campus.

“Oxy has been such a big part of our story and our relationship,” April said. “We met here and the classes we took here were so important to us.”

They sent out wedding invitations for June 18, 2016. When Kinnaird received hers, she was not surprised.

“All of us who knew Ryan and April could tell early on that they were in it for the long haul,” Kinnaird said.

Adding to the thrill of their upcoming summer, April and Ryan will both finish graduate school. April will earn a master’s degree in social work from California State University, Dominguez Hills and will work at the Department of Children and Family Services. Ryan will earn a Master of Education at University of California, Los Angeles. Having earned his teaching credential last year, Ryan plans to teach for the next five or six years, particularly focusing on low-income communities. Afterward, he will either continue teaching, get a master’s degree for education research, or pursue work in administration or educational policy. They plan to stay in Los Angeles.

Lana Banbury ‘90 and Bowen Banbury ‘90

ch other since attending the same high school in St. Louis, MO, where they were a couple.

“I was a day student and Lana was a boarding student from Dearborn, Michigan,” said Bowen via email. “It was my senior year and Lana’s junior year.”

During that year, the two crossed paths for the first time in a marine biology class that included one week at Hofstra University’s beach campus in Jamaica.

Bowen was admitted to Occidental as an Early Decision student, but he decided to take a gap year to travel. The following year, Lana chose to go to Occidental on her own accord, a decision Bowen said was uninfluenced by his decision.

Once in college, the two were on and off, and both are fond of their shared and individual time at Occidental.

“We were a couple again as new first year students at Oxy, separated and then got back together our senior year,” said Bowen via email.

Between the schoolwork and the extracurriculars, the two went on dates to Disneyland, movie previews and most importantly, dinner dates at Clancy’s (now referred to as the Marketplace).

These dates allowed them to continue building their relationship while pursuing different fields of study.

“We occasionally had classes together,” said Bowen via email. “We had both common and separate friends and even lived in the same dorm (Pauley) one year.”

The two published the La Encina yearbook together as seniors, and in March of 1990, Bowen became the editor-in-chief while Lana was the managing editor.

After graduating from Occidental in 1990, the two waited three years before marrying in 1993. At the time, Lana was in her second year of law school at Washington University, and Bowen was a recent graduate from Thunderbird School of Global Management with a job in Honolulu, HI.

When it came time to propose, Bowen admits that it wasn’t perfect — in fact, there was no proposal.

“My marriage proposal didn’t go exactly as I’d planned,” said Bowen via email. “While Lana and I agreed that I would take a job in Honolulu and that we intended to marry, I had beach-front dinner reservations for the evening when Lana arrived in Honolulu to interview for jobs. Unfortunately, her flight was many hours late and I very casually gave her an engagement ring after we missed the reservation thanks to the airline — this is something Lana still teases me about today.”

Because they had family in Michigan, the couple was married at the Detroit Yacht Club in a Hawaiian-themed wedding in the snow. Soon after, Lana finished her last year of law school at the University of Hawaii. The newlyweds stayed in Hawaii, but not forever.

“After working in Hawaii for five years, we moved back to my hometown, Denver, to start a new business,” said Banbury via email. “Lana continued to work as an attorney and then worked at the business [DocuVault] when it was big enough.”

They have now sold DocuVault and are looking to start something new.

The Banburys also have two daughters, one a sophomore in high school, and one who is a freshman at Occidental, named Lexi.

 

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