Campus love stories
By Michelle Hibler
Learn, live, love. Those three words sum up the experience of many university students who got the right girl or guy along with their degree. Many uOttawa alumni would agree that the campus was a great matchmaker.
For Dyane Adam, commissioner of official languages from 1999 to 2006, the campus was a natural place to celebrate her wedding. She arrived at uOttawa in 1971, as did Jacques Carrière. She would go on to earn two bachelor degrees ('74 and '75), an MA ('77) and a PhD in clinical psychology ('80), while he completed a BSc ('75), followed by an MD and postgraduate medical education in psychiatry ('79).
“We were a couple. We started dating when I was about 16,” she says. “We were on a university and life journey together. We shared our education, anxieties as young students arriving at university, discoveries, friends.”
Adam, who received a uOttawa honorary doctorate in 2001, and Carrière married in 1974, after she completed her first bachelor’s. They chose to marry on campus because “our whole lives revolved around the University at the time, even though we came from large families.” (Adam is the youngest of 16 children; her husband had six siblings.) “We also knew Father Raymond Quesnel, who was chaplain at the time.”
Adam had done some part-time admissions work in Tabaret Hall. “I had seen weddings being held in the former chapel,” she says, “and for me, it was, ‘Wow — such a beautiful space.'
“Our wedding was very avant-garde for the time. There was just a little table with candles and we read texts that we liked. My little nieces were wandering everywhere and would come up to us during the ceremony. It was really simple!
"We were also allowed to have a cocktail in the hall itself. That’s one of the most memorable events for me,” Adam says, noting that the champagne corks started popping early. “We have great memories.”
Love across campus
Tabaret Hall was not the only wedding venue on campus. Alumni activities coordinator Anne-Marie Fontaine (BA ’73) met her husband Robert (BA ’73) in 1970 — their first year at uOttawa — in a linguistics class that “he dropped after a while.” They reconnected in a language lab, marrying after graduation in 1973 “in a very small chapel on the second floor of the Simard building,” she says.
In 2015, a new campus venue opened. Alex Trebek Alumni Hall was built out of two heritage homes across the street from Tabaret. The first wedding held there was that of French literature PhD candidate Ariane Brun del Re (BA ‘10) and Marc-André Roy (BSocSc ‘10) this year.
“We met on campus in 2007,” Brun del Re says. “We were both parliamentary pages — me in the House of Commons and he in the Senate — and during our first year we lived in residence at 90 University,” where rooms were reserved for pages.
A love affair with French
For alumni over the decades, love of the French language has been closely linked to finding their true love. Although Louis Caron (BA ’65) was from southern Ontario, “my entire family went to uOttawa because it was the only francophone university in Ontario,” he says. He met his wife Lucile (BA ’65) in first year, when he was elected class president.
“I asked Lucile if she wanted to be committee secretary,” he says. Then, when they were organizing a sleigh ride, he offered to set up a blind date for her — with him. The Carons will celebrate their 51st anniversary this year.
For the Surprenants, the first meeting was a somewhat arranged affair. Hélène Gélinas-Surprenant (BA ’66, MA ’74) was at the uOttawa-affiliated College Bruyère. Paul Surprenant, who holds two BAs (both '65) and an MA (’68), was at the Faculty of Philosophy, then known as Sedes Sapientiae. “Because Sedes was mainly attended by boys and Bruyère only by girls, class presidents would phone one another to arrange companions for social events,” she says.
Hélène was introduced to Paul at a picnic on the banks of the Rideau Canal. It wasn’t until she invited him to Bruyère’s 1967 graduation ball, however, that the die was cast. “The next day, we had a long conversation about our future," she recalls. "We agreed to marry the next summer.”
Judith Sabourin (BA ’73, BEd ‘78) came to uOttawa from London, Ontario, in 1969 because “I wanted to return to a francophone environment.” She met Denis Sabourin (BA ’74) in a Spanish language class that year. Although they were part of the same group of friends, the couple didn’t start dating until May 1971. They married that August — in Vancouver, “just for fun”— when she returned from summer studies in Peru.
Close to three decades later, Michelle Muir (BA ’00, MA ’03) chose uOttawa “to maintain and improve my French.” She met Bill Arends (BA ’02) in a methodology course that, Arends says, “she hated. It was a slow start to a relationship.” But Muir says she had noticed “the cute guy in the front row.”
Arends notes that, “at the time, I was 37 years old, and Michelle was 21. Gradually we started to hang out.” Married on August 11, 2001, they hold the University dear. “It’s where I met Bill and where I developed a passion for history and for writing,” Muir says.
Love endures at uOttawa
If these alumni experiences are representative, love at uOttawa is enduring.
Now named Huguette Labelle Hall, the former chapel in Tabaret Hall continues to host weddings of alumni and other Ottawans. The building’s majestic staircase is also captured in a great many wedding photos. “There are photos on the steps of Tabaret almost every Saturday,” says Anne-Marie Fontaine.
The University’s first dedicated alumni space, Alex Trebek Alumni Hall, is also ideal for weddings and other events. “The house is very pretty and the room was superb,” says Brun del Re.
With 200,000 living alumni, uOttawa has no doubt launched and fêted many more romances — and will certainly nurture many more.
Like many University alumni, Michelle Anawati (BSc ’04, MSW ’06, MD ’10) and Jean-Sébastien Lauzon (BASc ’07) preserved their wedding day in June 2013 for posterity by taking some shots on the steps of Tabaret Hall. Photo: Darlington Studios