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Drew University Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Alum Love Stories

Five love stories that began at Drew

February 2023 – It’s time for our annual Valentine’s Day story highlighting relationships that began at Drew University.

Without further ado…

Ryan Mason C’05 and Kristin Traci Mason C’04

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Kristin and Ryan Mason with son, Ryker.

Ryan and Kristin officially met on a Thursday night in October of 2002 in McClintock Hall during an early season baseball team party in a mutual friends’ suite. And unlike many college dating situations, Ryan took the initiative to follow up with an actual phone call (on the old school dorm phones!) two days later to set an off-campus date to the movies for the following week. 

They quickly bonded as they were both from Massachusetts amidst so many Drew students from New Jersey, and despite never thinking they would stay in the NYC area, they have been living in Hoboken since graduation. In December 2007, Ryan proposed in Boston, and they were married on Cape Cod in June 2009 with many Drew graduates in attendance.

They both work in Manhattan, Ryan as a Managing Director at Stonepeak, an infrastructure private equity firm, and Kristin as CRO at Studio71 in Digital Media Sales.

Ryan currently serves on Drew’s Board of Trustees, and Kristin has been a guest speaker with the NY Semester on Communications & Media program several times. They still love to visit Drew with their seven-year-old son, Ryker, for various sporting events.

Alan Apter C’80 and Susan (Kessler) Apter C’83

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Susan and Alan Apter

Alan, a senior from West Hartford, CT, and Susan, a first-year from Philadelphia, met on November 16, 1979, attending a Jewish Students Organization (JSO) Friday night Sabbath dinner in a room off the Commons. The conversation flowed as they walked to UC 107 to catch a movie. Alan served as treasurer of the JSO, and Susan became involved as well, serving as the organization’s president during her second year. Their relationship continued as Alan graduated and moved on to further schooling and the working world, visiting Susan as often as possible over the next three years. They enjoyed meals at the Greenhouse Cafe in Morristown, a french restaurant and movies in the Hickory Square shopping plaza, and exploring NYC via either the Lakeland Bus or NJ Transit. The couple got engaged in December 1982. Alan attempted to drive from Connecticut to New Jersey for Valentine’s weekend in 1983 and got caught in a blizzard – AAA had to tow him out of a ditch!

Married since April 1984, they started in southern NJ, moved to the Hartford, CT, area, and since 2000 have lived in Rockville, MD. Parents to a daughter and son, they now especially enjoy spending time with their grandson. Alan recently retired from a career in insurance computer programming, and Susan serves as a Contracting Officer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. 

They have visited Drew many times over the years, typically for a reunion ending in either three or eight and occasionally years ending in zero or five, and enjoy walking the campus paths each time. Susan has served as C’83 Class Notes Secretary going on her 40th year.

Peter Bruckmann C’95 and Shannon (Laudermilch) Bruckmann C’96

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Peter and Shannon Bruckmann

“It started on Tolley Third in the fall of 1992, where we first met,” recalls Peter. “I was a sophomore soccer player, and Shannon was a first-year soccer player with a fish tank. I love tropical fish, so you could say I was hooked. Eventually, we went on our first date on February 19, 1993, to the movies and Empire Szechuan, and the rest is history.

“We were fortunate to play and captain the men’s and women’s soccer teams, respectively, with each of us being on the cover of the game day program; it must’ve been destiny. We went back to work at Drew soccer camps for both Lenny (Armuth, head men’s soccer coach) and Christa (Racine, director of athletics and head women’s soccer coach) and have returned for various games and alumni events over the years.”

Peter graduated in May 1995 and moved back to Little Silver, NJ, as Shannon finished in the fall of 1995 and moved home to pursue her master’s in exceptionalities. During the summer of 1997, Shannon and Peter took a five-week journey across the country and back. On July 3 at Yaki Point in the Grand Canyon, Peter asked Shannon to marry him, and she eventually said yes!

They were married on June 27, 1998, in Bloomsburg, PA, with many Drew friends in attendance. They have been educators for more than 25 years and have two college-aged children, Lucas and Olivia. They reside in Freehold, NJ, with their two dogs, Kaia and Oakley

Leah (Wandera) Karanja T’22 and Peter Karanja T’21

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Peter And Leah Karanja
Peter and Leah Karanja

Thousands of miles away from their respective homes in Kenya, Leah and Peter’s quest for education brought them to Drew Theological School. Their passion for nature and community formed an ever-lasting bond.

The Community Garden at Drew has a special way of bridging students together. As volunteers, Leah and Peter grew and harvested fresh produce for the Drew community and local food pantries.

“It was a seed of love planted in the soil of Drew Community Garden,” said Leah.

Married during the summer of 2022 surrounded by members of the Drew community, Leah and Peter now reside in Omaha, NE. 

“At Drew Theological School, we found academia and love—not only between us—but from our professors and fellow students who continue being part of our life,” said Leah. “We found an extended family. When our family back in Kenya weren’t able to join us here, the Drew community was with us.”

Peter is currently an Associate Pastor for Community Engagement at Hanscom Park United Methodist Church (UMC). He is pursuing his passion as he works alongside refugees, migrants, and new Americans in Omaha.

Leah is a Deaconess in the UMC serving as the African Region Coordinator for the Deaconess and Home Missioner program, as well as running Wema Health Foundation (an NGO in Kenya she founded) that supports girls and women on health and education. She is also pursuing her Master’s in Public Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dan Ilaria C’97 and Kristine Ilaria C’00

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Kristine and Dan Ilaria on the Mead Hall steps.

Kristine remembers hearing about Dan from her math tutor in her first year. Then one day, while walking to Brothers College on crutches, Dan walked by her and accidentally knocked her off balance. She dropped her books, and Dan didn’t stop. Dan doesn’t recall this event.

What Dan does recall is reciting memorized mailbox numbers—he worked in the Drew mailroom—of a room full of people. The only person’s he didn’t know was Kristine’s. Kristine does recall this, and having to call home to request more mail.

They went on a few dates but drifted apart until Dan, years later, invited her on a second (and long) first date of sorts: a cruise. This time it stuck. After that, there were many trips back and forth between Boston, where Kristine worked, and Rutgers University, where Dad was pursuing his PhD. After too many “one time in Boston” stories, they initially settled together in NJ.

In 2004, they got married surrounded by family and Drew friends. Over the last 19 years of marriage, they have supported each other’s careers—Kristine is a Vice President of Corporate Development in the healthcare industry; Dan is a Professor of Mathematics Education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania—raising two children (Aaron and Emerson), and enjoying life together.

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