Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
In every way, Creighton helped make us who we are individually, and then as a couple. It gave us a really strong foundation for our relationship.
By Micah Mertes
It being that most romantic of months, we asked a dozen couples who met at Creighton to share their stories.
Read on for tales of premed romance, long walks along the Mall and surprise proposals at the St. John’s Fountain.
Note: A few of these couples have gone or are going through Creighton/St. John’s marriage preparation, an amazing program that allows students and alumni to deepen their relationship before walking down the aisle.
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Zoe Reed Dovgan, BS'17, and Jake Dovgan, BSCHM'16, MD'20, are about as Creighton as couples get.
They first got to know each other because every Thursday afternoon, Jake walked past Zoe as she studied in the Kiewit Fitness Center spine. (They later learned these meetings weren’t happenstance in the slightest. Timing was strategic on both their parts.)
Dating at Creighton involved going to Mass and basketball games. Long walks in the Jesuit Gardens. Hanging out at the Harper Center or Greek Life parties or Campus Ministry events. One of their first dates was to Christmas at Creighton.
“In every way, Creighton helped make us who we are individually, and then as a couple,” Zoe says. “It gave us a really strong foundation for our relationship.”
Zoe and Jake got married in May 2020 at St. John’s Church, nearly 31 years to the day Jake’s own parents — who also met as Creighton undergrads — were wed at the same venue.
Because of COVID, Zoe and Jake had to shrink their big wedding to just their parents and siblings. It was a tough start to a new life together, but their matchmaker Creighton was there for them — particularly the University’s coordinator of marriage preparation, Kathy Martin.
Through marriage prep, Kathy helped the couple process their dashed plans, come to terms with a world in crisis and work through the little things that can snowball into larger problems in a marriage.
“Our biggest conversation in marriage preparation was about grocery shopping,” Jake says, laughing. “We had no idea it was such a point of contention.”
The conversation in summary: Jake liked to go grocery shopping with no plan in mind. Zoe liked to go with a list in hand. Zoe would want Jake to contribute to the grocery list, but Jake didn’t want to completely give up the spontaneity. They talked this all through with Kathy in marriage prep and have since found compromise on the matter. Grocery shopping has become one of their favorite things to do together.
“Kathy helped us see that we needed to talk about these small issues,” Zoe says, “because they’re going to affect how we plan for bigger things in our future.”
Kathy has remained an important part of Zoe and Jake’s lives. Last fall, the couple reached out to their marriage prep facilitator after Zoe was diagnosed with a brain tumor (which has since been successfully removed). They say Kathy was truly there for them in that pivotal moment. “She even sent us a beautiful prayer that incorporated our vows,” Zoe says.
Zoe and Jake now live in Nashville, where she’s a neuro-physical therapist and he’s a physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at Vanderbilt University. They work in the same hospital and care for some of the same patients. They still love to pass each other in the halls.
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Brady Neiss-Moe, BA’15, and Emily Neiss-Moe, BA'15, met as Creighton freshmen living in Kiewit Hall.
Their mutual love of A Very Potter Musical made them fast friends, and over the next few semesters they grew close, grabbing lunch in the dining halls, taking long walks on campus and getting into lighthearted arguments on the topic of Creighton’s squirrels and Emily’s attempts to pet and feed them.
Squirrel-related conflict aside, they eventually started dating and spent the second half of their time at Creighton as one. After graduation, they moved to Boston — where Emily attended Emerson College and Brady Harvard Law School — and adopted a cat named Gumbo.
In the summer of 2018, they returned to Creighton for the first time since graduation. They walked around campus for old time’s sake.
When they reached the St. John’s Fountain, Brady found a passerby to take a photo of them. As they posed for the shot, Brady got down on one knee and presented a diamond ring. The impromptu photographer captured the moment of a surprised Emily saying “yes.”
Given that Brady and Emily's relationship started because of so many long campus walks, it was only appropriate for their engagement to begin the same way.
“Our happiness together started more than 10 years ago at Creighton,” they say. “And we’ll never be able to thank this place enough for bringing us together.”
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Carrie, OTD'12, BSHS'12, and Spencer Werth, BA'11, MS'14, JD'14, met through the Creighton Pep Band in the first few months of their freshman year and dated all through undergrad and grad school. They stayed in the Omaha area, where they’re now raising their two young children.
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Jaxson Schneider, BA'19, first professed his love to Jackie Rivas, BS’19, when they were Creighton seniors standing on a beach in Lima, Peru, at the end of a service-learning trip.
Over that six-week summer trip, the two had been inseparable. They were pretty sure they’d both fallen for each other but wanted to keep it professional until their work in Lima was finished.
So there they were, that last day on the beach. “I had this whole thing ready to go in my head,” Jaxson says. He told Jackie he loves who he is when he’s with her, that she brings out the best in him. His guts spilled all over the beach, he awaited Jackie’s response.
At that exact moment, Thomas Kelly, PhD — professor of theology and Peru trip faculty mentor — walked up to talk to them about some topic now long since forgotten. Seemingly terrible timing. And yet the interruption ended up being a blessing.
“Tom Kelly had bought me some time,” Jackie says now with a laugh. “I don’t know what I would have said if he hadn’t interrupted us, but he gave me time to gather my thoughts and tell Jaxson I felt the same way.”
The new couple returned to Creighton for their senior year. There were a few bumps that first semester, but they found clarity — both in their relationship and their faith — by taking the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises Class with Fathers Larry Gillick, SJ, and Greg Carlson, SJ.
“In those classes, we had some really good conversations, some really tough conversations,” Jaxson says. “But after that class, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is the person I’m going to marry.’”
Jackie and Jaxson are getting married this summer in Denver, after having completed their marriage preparation program, mostly guided by Fr. Gillick. The experience has been a way to continue their Creighton journey and deepen their ties to the community that brought them together.
“We feel really lucky and almost guilty by the gift we’ve received from Creighton,” Jaxson says. “If we hadn’t gone to Creighton, we wouldn’t have done the Peru program, and we wouldn’t have met. We wouldn’t have met Tom Kelly or his wife, Lisa Kelly, or Fr. Gillick or any of these amazing people who have influenced how we approach life and love and how we are going to approach our marriage.”
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Patrick Murray, BA’12, and Angela Brichacek Murray, BS’12, met on their first day at Creighton. They were in the same freshman orientation group and soon met again as members of the Pep Band. After a few years as friends, they took the leap and started dating senior year. They were married a few years later and now live in Omaha with their two children.
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Kathy Marinelli, BS'18, MD’22, and Ben Fletcher, BS’18, met their freshman year as biology lab partners. They made for a good team and, from then on, planned most of their science classes around each other. (“We plan to name our future dog ‘Rigge,’” Kathy says.)
Though they arranged their class schedules to line up, and though they studied together and got lunch together between classes a few times a week, they were still just friends (albeit best friends) until they finally started dating junior year.
Ben and Kathy are getting married this spring (they’re St. John’s marriage prep graduates), right as they’re finishing med school — Ben at UNMC, Kathy at Creighton.
They say it’s tough for them to even imagine going through med school without a fellow med student by their side.
“Even just the mundane aspects of medical school have been so much better together,” Kathy says. “Sitting on our computers and studying together is our way of hanging out. When someone gets pulled away to the hospital, each of us understands.”
In March, a month before their wedding, Kathy and Ben will find out where they match for their residency training. She applied to dermatology, he to radiology.
They applied as a couple, not individuals, so the next stage of their training is linked. Wherever their careers take them, they’ll be by each other’s side, lab partners for life.
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Juanda Lowe, BA'85, and The Honorable Darryl R. Lowe, JD'84, knew it was serious after the car accident.
Not too long after they started dating, Darryl bought a muscle car, and he was quite fond of it. He let Juanda use the car one weekend, and she totaled it.
"His first reaction was, 'Are you OK?!,'" Juanda says now. "He loved that car, but he didn't even ask about it. All his concern was for me. I think that's the moment we both were like, 'Well, I guess this is a serious relationship.'"
Meeting each other was one of the many ways Creighton shaped their lives, she says. Juanda was the first person in her family to go to college. Her Creighton experience helped her "see the wider world. That ideal of selflessness in service really came through to me, and it still does."
The Lowes also made many terrific friends at Creighton. One who is no longer with them.
In 1987, a few months before the Lowes were married, one of their Creighton friends, Karen, passed away.
Darryl and Juanda later named their first child after her. Karen wasn't just one of their best friends. She was the reason they met, the mutual friend who introduced them, spurring the relationship that's shaped the rest of their lives.
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Abigail Laudi, BA'18, and Ryan Leuty BS'18, first got to know each other as study buddies in cell structure and human physiology.
They were polar opposites. He was quiet, quirky and witty. She was an extreme extrovert involved in any number of extracurriculars. But something clicked. Library study sessions turned into lunch, which turned into dinner, until they were hanging out almost every day. She finally asked him out — to a Greek life semi-formal dance. “We’ve been dancing partners ever since,” they say.
They’re now finishing their fourth years in Creighton’s School of Medicine. They’ve got a busy spring ahead of them: Match Day in March — Abigail in pediatrics, Ryan in psychiatry. Med school graduation in May. Getting married the week after.
“We are still polar opposites in our personalities,” Abigail says. “But we couldn’t be more similar in our values and passions and the ways in which we want to give back to our communities. Creighton was a big part of fostering those passions.”
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Michelle Tighe-Dolan, BA'16, and Michael Merrick, BS'16, MS'19, met senior year at a Creighton Halloween party. She asked him out for coffee, and they’ve been together ever since.
Creighton plays a major role in their coming marriage. They shot their engagement photos in the Jesuit Gardens. Their September wedding's colors will include Creighton blue.
“We were so happy to return to the place we grew to love while falling in love with each other,” Michelle says.
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As Creighton love stories go, this one took a while. It begins nearly 50 years ago. Freshman year, 1973.
Joyce Eisenmenger, BA'77, and Steve Chavez, BS'77, were friends, nothing more. Neither recalls any initial romantic feelings for the other.
After graduation, they went their separate ways and started families. He became a pediatrician, she a journalist.
Forty years later, they met again at a class party during their Creighton reunion.
Joyce and Steve got to know each other a bit better at that class party. But it was after their next Creighton reunion a few years later that the two longtime friends started to date.
"It's fair to say that a Creighton reunion changed our lives forever," says Joyce.
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Annie Townley, BA’16, BSN’17, and Matt Wenz, BSBA’17, met on a Schlegel Center for Service and Justice retreat and deepened their friendship the following summer on a Creighton service-learning trip to Peru. But they didn’t actually start dating for another five years.
A few years after graduation, they each discovered something, Annie says: “When you meet people from Creighton, there’s a kind of instant ability to dive a little deeper. When Matt and I went out into the real world, we realized just how special what we have is. It’s a like-mindedness and value set we shared that we both attribute mostly to Creighton.”
Annie’s own parents met as Creighton students, too — on an ILAC trip.
Before Annie and Matt were married at St. John’s in 2020, they completed marriage preparation through Creighton, which entailed a series of deep-dive conversations with Fr. Larry Gillick, SJ.
That experience, they say, helped them get over a few initial hurdles, but it also underlined the rock-solid foundation of their relationship.
Their marriage prep was, in a way, a microcosm of their whole Creighton experience. It spurred reflection and serious conversation. It drew strength from faith and community.
“It taught us how to focus on what matters in life,” they say.
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Kristi Kuhl Mulford, BSBA’02, and Mike Mulford, BSBA’04, met as student-athletes on Creighton’s golf teams. Just friends at first, they spent a lot of time hanging out at practice or in the weight room. One distinct memory: Winter of 2001, driving together to the indoor driving range, listening to Blink 182.
Student-athletes share a common bond, they say. They all face the pressure of balancing school with sport. They share the shaky nerves that come with intercollegiate competition. The deeper Kristi and Mike got into that experience, the more they had in common.
“Creighton helped shape us into the adults we are today,” they say. “We received an amazing education, played a lot of golf and created a strong bond, relationship and now marriage through the values we share.”
One of their favorite things about going to Creighton, Mike and Kristi say, is how close everything is to everything else. They would always run into each other, and “it would just brighten our day.”
Each chance encounter helped to tee up a friendship that became so much more.
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Read a Q&A with marriage prep coordinator Kathy Martin about what she's learned helping to prepare more than 600 Creighton couples to walk down the aisle.