In the fall of 1948, Barbara Anderson (now Laughlin) ’51, M’78, a sophomore Elementary Education major, walked into the original Leonard Hall and found the room for her general psychology class. She saw an empty seat toward the back, next to one of her sorority sisters.
On the other side of that empty seat was Jim Laughlin ’51. He doesn’t remember noticing her that very first day of class, but she remembers noticing him right away.
By the end of the semester, Jim asked her out to a basketball game in Waller Hall. “She was the best-looking girl in school,” he said. “She was elected the 1951 May Queen.”
Barbara remembers that first date. It was December 13. It’s easy to remember, she said, because every month for years thereafter, he’d give her a little gift on the thirteenth.
Together still, nearly sixty-three years after that first date, the Laughlins treasure the memories of their years at Indiana State Teachers College, now IUP.
The IUP alumni database shows 6,888 alumni couples
The IUP alumni database shows 6,888 alumni couples, according to Mary Morgan ’91, associate director of Alumni Relations. “It’s no wonder that, at every event, we meet at least one married alumni couple,” she said.
There are many stories, from a romantic proposal in the Oak Grove to a senior’s showing her college roommates the engagement ring her boyfriend surprised her with before her internship.
For the Laughlins and many alumni couples, the IUP campus is more than the place where they went to college. It’s the place where they first ventured away from home, where friendships formed, and where they fell in love.
Barbara and Jim Laughlin in Breezedale (Photo: Keith Boyer)
When the Laughlins were on campus, it was just after World War II. Jim remembers a lot of veterans were there, thanks to the GI Bill.
The campus rules were stricter then, especially for women, Barbara said. “We never could wear pants, only skirts,” she said. “Casual skirts were fine for class and at breakfast and lunch, but you had to wear skirts or dresses with stockings to dinner. The men had to wear ties and jackets to dinner.”
The evening meal was served family style, with seats assigned at the beginning of each semester. At least one couple that met through this mandatory seating arrangement went on to enjoy a lifelong marriage.
After dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students in the late 1940s could attend informal dances that lasted about an hour in the Blue Room. The men stood in the alcoves on one side, and the women waited on the other. The men had to cross the room to ask a girl to dance.
It was a setting that led to another happy alumni marriage, according to Morgan. “Steve Glass ’39 saw Kit Lentz ’42 standing in one of the archways in the room and had to ask her to dance,” she said. “They became a couple after that first meeting and just recently celebrated sixty-eight years of marriage.”
Back then, there wasn’t a curfew for the men, but the women had to be in by 7:30 p.m., Barbara said. A short break between 9:30 and 10 gave the women a chance to get a snack or visit someone very briefly. Jim remembers Barbara’s worrying about the curfew and making sure she was in her room on the fourth floor of John Sutton Hall a few minutes early.
The Laughlins during their college years on what was then known as East Campus (University Archives)
“You had to sign in, and the Dean of Women was standing there,” Barbara said.
Although the dean was strict, Barbara and some of her friends risked getting up in the middle of the night on November 20, 1947, to meet in the hallway in their pajamas. They listened to one girl’s radio as it broadcast live coverage of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
When Jim graduated in January 1951, his father handed him an envelope. He thought it must be a gift of money. Instead, it was a draft notice. Although it was during the Korean War, Jim ended up performing topographic survey work in the Alaska Territory.
He returned stateside and earned a master’s degree and doctorate at Penn State. On June 12, 1954, Jim married his college sweetheart, who had been working as a teacher. Jim later became the admissions director and dean of Student Services at IUP.
The Laughlins have supported the Allegheny Arboretum at IUP and the restorations of Sutton and Breezedale, and they are members of the IUP Leadership Society. A former football player, Jim led a committee to initiate a sports hall of fame for the university. He has also been honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given by the IUP Alumni Association.
Mary Jo Banks Lyttle ’86, M’89 has met many alumni couples through her position as director of Alumni Relations. “It’s no surprise that IUP has so many enduring love stories,” said Lyttle, who is married to Kim Lyttle ’72, M’74. “I think the friendly campus environment and the caring faculty members truly create a special feeling of home.”
Marilyn Berry Kukula ’89 met her husband, Henry Kukula, Jr. ’87, while both were students at IUP. She has written yet another IUP love story—that of Bill Madia ’69, M’71 and Audrey DeLaquil Madia ’70—for the IUP Magazine website.