When Connie Sidley received her first test back in an intermediate accounting class her junior year at Miami University, she didn’t do very well.
Luckily, the boy sitting next to her did.
The year was 1970 when Connie and Pat Sidley met and started studying together. They were 20 years old. Today, they’re 65 years old, married and one of 14,262 “Miami mergers” – Miami alumni who marry other alumni – on record at the school.
After moving all over the country, including Iowa, California, Illinois and Connecticut for work, the Sidleys moved back to Oxford in October because they wanted to retire in a college town, and because they knew what the “vibe” of Oxford was like.
They’re now part of 7,062 Miami mergers in the state of Ohio.
“I think the tradition of Miami mergers is just one attribute of the connections you make while you attend Miami, whether it’s with professors or other people you meet here,” Pat Sidley said. “The place just seems to foster connections. Part of it is being out in the sticks. Part of it, at least for our generation, was not having a car and being stuck in Oxford, and part of it is the expectation that you’ll be involved with different things while you’re here. And that fostering of connections continues to this day.”
Rebecca Clark, 34, and her husband, Andrew Clark, 35, are Miami mergers who live in Boston. They wed at the Sesquicentennial Chapel at Miami in October of 2006.
“I suppose there are so many Miami mergers because college is such a formative time in a student’s life,” Rebecca Clark said. “It’s a time when you form a number of life-changing and lifelong relationships, friendships and romances included.”
Ray Mock, executive director of the Miami University Alumni Association, said that although the percentage of the Miami alumni population who are mergers has hovered right around 14 percent for the past couple of years, he expects that percentage to begin trending downward soon.
“We have a growing student base,” he said. “Additionally, the changing culture of our campus, which started when students began being able to have cars on campus in the mid-1980s, means our students have more access to the outside world. When you consider social media and all of its associated technologies, it makes it very easy for students to have long-distance relationships now.”
Still, Mock’s office sent out 13,658 Valentine’s Day cards to Miami mergers this year, a tradition Miami formally started in 1982, and he said it never fails to amaze him how much the cards mean to Miami mergers.
“Each year in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, we get calls from couples who want to make sure we have their new address,” he said. “Each year immediately following Valentine’s, we hear from people who didn’t receive one. They want to make sure we have their new address on file so they’ll get one next year.”
Denver residents Josh Fudge, 34, and Brittni Fudge, 32, said they’re one Miami merger who needs to make sure Miami has their address on file so they can receive a Valentine’s Day card next year.
Although the Fudges don’t participate in that Miami tradition currently, they did follow another tradition to the T. Or, one could say, to the “M.”
Josh proposed to Brittni under the Upham Hall Arch in April 2005, where, legend has it, couples seal their destiny to eventually marry by kissing under the light at midnight. The couple also wed on campus at Kumler Chapel and ordered a groom’s cake in the shape of an “M” for their rehearsal dinner – a ritual followed by many Miami graduates who marry on campus.
“We were married one week after I graduated, so it was almost a celebration of college,” Brittni Fudge said. “Everyone stayed from graduation until our wedding.”
Brittni Fudge’s sister and brother-in-law – Brooke and Jason Finck of Cincinnati – also are Miami mergers. They graduated in 2003 and 2002, respectively.
The custom of sealing a relationship with a kiss under the Upham Hall Arch at midnight was one the Sidleys were informed of when they started at Miami as freshmen in the late 1960s, but Jacky Johnson, Miami University archivist, says no one knows for sure when the practice took root.
“You’ll often see a line of people waiting to kiss underneath the arch at midnight on Valentine’s Day,” Johnson said.
In fact, Mock said, Miami’s student foundation has spent the past several Valentine’s Days handing out ChapStick to students by the Upham Hall Arch to remind people of the tradition.
“It’s all part of the culture here,” he said, noting that his office gets its merger demographics from self-reported data.
“There really aren’t any other schools that I know of that make as big of a deal about their merger rates as Miami,” Mock said. “Because of our tradition of honoring our mergers on Valentine’s Day each year and our tradition of the Upham Hall Arch, we pay more attention to it.”
Miami’s Upham Hall Arch tradition actually was ranked by CollegeRanker.com last year as second on its list of 25 most romantic college traditions. And the school’s vow renewal ceremony in June of 2009 at the Upham Hall Arch holds the Guinness World Record for the largest vow renewal ceremony on record with 1,087 couples renewing their vows at the “Merger Moment” event.
Although the Sidleys were one of the couples who kissed under the Upham Hall Arch in the 2009 Miami vow renewal, they won’t be waiting in line to kiss there at midnight this Valentine’s Day.
“We might go out to breakfast,” Pat Sidley said. “We don’t have anything specific planned. You’ll discover when you’ve been married for 43 years, you don’t do as much as you did in the first 10.”
Miami mergers at a glance
- 28,524 – Number of living Miami alumni married to other Miami alumni
- 14,262 – Number of Miami merger couples
- 13,658 – Number of Miami merger Valentine’s Day cards mailed this year (based on current mailing addresses available and not the total number of mergers)
- 7,062 – Number of Miami merger couples from Ohio – the most in one state
- 1990-93 – Miami’s top four graduating classes for Miami mergers, accounting for 1,470 total Miami merger couples
- 1,087 – Number of couples who renewed their wedding vows at Miami’s Upham Arch on June 20, 2009 – a Guinness World Record
- 50 – Number of U.S. states with at least one Miami merger couple
- 40 – Number of Miami merger couples living outside of the United States (Canada leads the way among 16 total countries with 14 mergers)
- 14 – Number of Miami mergers reported from the class of 2015
- 1 – Number of Miami mergers already reported from the Class of 2016
- Notable Miami mergers: Charlie and Delores Coles, Mike and Frances DeWine, and Dick and Joyce Farmer
Source: Miami University