Colum Alum Spotlight: Love in the Time of Academia

Crack open that heart-shaped box of chocolates and check out the 10 alumni couples who submitted their love stories.


Nicholas Sparks has got nothing on Columbia College Chicago. We reached out on social media to request some of Columbia’s most romantic tales. Crack open that heart-shaped box of chocolates and check out the 10 alumni couples who submitted their love stories.


Desiree Kurylowicz ’06 and Steve Owen ’05 (Chicago Suburbs)

Steve and I met in meteorology class in 2003. I got class help from him for weeks (ahem, copying), and one day I said I'd go grab his paper from the teacher's desk. When I got to the desk, I realized that I didn't even know the cute homework helper's name. I took a guess, grabbed a paper and handed it back to him. He said thanks, so I knew his name was Steve. Our innocent flirting eventually evolved into regularly grabbing lunch from Chicago Carry Out. On the last day of class, I could not believe that this guy still hadn’t asked me on a non-Columbia date. After the final, I handed him a quick note that read "last chance" with my phone number. He didn’t call.

On the Fourth of July that same year, we found each other on AOL Instant Messenger. I joked, "You should come see fireworks with me."  Two hours later, the boy from class was at my front door, ready to go spend the holiday together. That was our first date.

We had our ups and downs—including a brief and just plain stupid breakup—during our time at Columbia. We eventually moved in together, and he graduated in '05 with a Radio BA. That same year, he proposed. I finished my BA in Journalism, graduating in May of '06, and we were married that October. This past October, we celebrated 10 years of marriage. We now have a 3-year-old son.



Gabriela Gonzalez ’12 and JJ Bucci ’12 (California)

As incoming freshmen in 2008, JJ and I met moving into Columbia's 2 E. 8th St. dorms. He was majoring in film, and I was determined to take on the television world. We immediately bonded and were close friends throughout our first three years of school. Everything changed in March of 2011 when I suffered a life-threatening injury. JJ stayed by my side throughout my recovery and offered unwavering support when I returned to school after my accident.

It was then that JJ revealed his feelings for me and we decided to take our friendship to the next level. We graduated together, have grown up together and have had our careers successfully take us to three different cities. In March of 2016, JJ asked me the only question I've ever been able to decisively answer: If I'd marry him. Our wedding will be in June 2018 and we can't wait for our close friends from Columbia to join us in celebration.



Kim (Amoroso) Lucatorto ’85 and Lane Lucatorto ’77 (Indiana)

My husband and I met in 1977, when Columbia was just a beat-up building on Lake Shore Drive and a new building at 600 S. Michigan. I planned to be a professional photographer, but I quickly fell in love with studying Television and began pursuing my new dream of being a TV Producer. Lane was the teaching assistant in Howie Shapiro's TV Directing class.

The class took place in a dark control room for most of the semester. I wasn't interested when he asked me out. I had no time for dating.

He asked again. And again. Then one day, he heard me wishing for a good gyro outside of Greektown. (They weren't available on every street corner back then.)  He knew of a gyro place just down the street. Bingo. I didn’t even realize it was a date until he was buying a gyro sandwich for me. Funny thing is that on that very first date, I realized I liked him a lot. We've now been happily married for 36 years.

Lane has worked at NBC in Chicago for 35 years. He is currently the engineer in charge of the NBC studios. Over the years, he’s won several Emmy Awards for his work. Kim first worked behind the scenes at ABC in Chicago. She transitioned to publishing and worked as the publisher and editor of Access USA News for many years. After taking time off from her career to raise a family, she worked as the director of education for a small college in the Chicago area.  



Michael J. Johnson ’99 and Cecilia Rios ’01 (Chicago)

Cecilia and I met in the Radio Department during the 1997 school year. We were both Broadcast Journalism majors with a Radio minor, and I knew from the moment I saw her I wanted to talk to her. She needed a little more convincing, but eventually I wore her down! We dated on and off for years, and were married on June 6, 2015. Today, we’ve been through it all—good and bad—and we both know if it wasn't for Columbia we would have never met and fallen in love!




Stacey E. Mitchell ’07 and Todd Garcia ’09 (Chicago)

Todd and I met in the Theatre Department in the fall of 2005. I was a transfer student in my second year at Columbia, stage managing a production of Company, and he was a freshman who forgot to show up for his call-back audition.

Long story short, he was cast in the show but we didn't start dating quite yet. He was a wee babe of only 19. I was clearly much more mature, and looking for someone who didn't need a fake ID. We had an innocently flirtatious friendship. Every time we ran into each other, he would flash me a grin and a wink, and I would secretly melt inside.

I later graduated and began working as the assistant for the Musical Theatre program. After years of persistence on his part (and a bit of jealousy on mine when he started seeing someone else), we started dating in 2008. We were married in 2013—almost exactly 5 years after that day in my Theatre Department office when we decided that we were "official." Even now, 11 and a half years after that fateful call-back, I still melt at that grin-and-wink combo!



Kevin Wright ’02 and Colette Gabriel ’02 (Chicago)

Colette and I met and began dating at Columbia almost 17 years ago. We were teamed up on a project together in Tech II class and began dating within a few weeks. Today, we are happily married and live on a boat in the South Loop. Colette runs the Chicago division of Keslow Camera, renting motion picture cameras to film, commercial and TV projects. I own the production company Pickle & Wink and produce commercials and feature films. We also both own Experimac, a retail store that buys, sells, repairs and upgrades pre-owned Apple products.




Jeff Jones ’99 and Tirzah Norwood-Jones ’02 (Chicago Suburbs)

One day during the spring semester of 1997, I saw Tirzah walking down Wabash Avenue. Later, I went over to see my friend Taunya "Tango" Scruggs ’00 and Tirzah jogged past. They started talking, and after Tirzah jogged off, I asked if Tango knew her. Tango said, "Yeah, her name is Tirzah." And I said, "She's gonna be my girlfriend."

Later, I went to visit Tango’s dorm and Tirzah was there hanging out. Tirzah and I both loved a Missy Elliott song playing on Tango's radio, so we played it over and over again. We made a game out of it and had a bunch of laughs. That’s when I knew she was the one.

I started waiting around the Wabash building when I knew Tirzah would pass, and I’d act like I just happened to be there so I could walk her to class. On the last day of school, I gathered my confidence and finally asked for her phone number.

We went on our first date on July 4, 1997. We moved in together that October and have been together ever since. We got married on New Year’s Eve 2002 and we now have three children—two sons and a daughter.



Jacquelyn Karambelas ’04 and Matt Karambelas ’04 (California)

In May of 2004, Matt and I attended the same graduation ceremony in Chicago, but we didn’t know each other yet. Matt had already moved to Los Angeles to attend Columbia's Semester in LA program. I moved to LA just three months after graduation and was immediately brought into a group of Columbia alumni. I moved into a house with Alyson Granaderos ’04 and Christina Carano ’03, who introduced me to Matt during my very first week in town. Matt lived with fellow alums Alejandro Romero ’03 and Bradd Fillmann ’04. Dance parties were held at both the "boys' house" and the "girls' house”—and a romance formed between Matt and I. In the years that followed, our film careers have taken us all over, but we always find our way back to LA, our close-knit group of friends, the support of the Columbia Alumni Network and—most importantly—our bulldog, Leeloo.

In 2013, we tied the knot on San Juan Island, Washington, surrounded by all of the Columbia alumni who brought us together nine years earlier.



Heather Wood ’05 and Brandon Wood ’14 (California)

The odds of Brandon and I meeting were infinitesimally small. I graduated Columbia in 2005. He graduated in 2014. My senior year at Columbia, I got a job at the Post Production Center. That’s where, seven years later, I met Brandon. We were strictly co-workers and friends. I was always impressed by his drive and determination to excel at everything he did.

In the winter of 2014, I told myself I needed a change in my life. After working at Columbia for nine years, I decided I was going to try my luck in Los Angeles. I moved alone out west (but I wasn’t alone for long—my first home had 17 roommates). A few months later, Brandon moved to LA because he got hired as an assistant editor at the NFL Network.

We met up again a few months after that and he bought me lunch. We then saw The Theory of Everything—definitely something romantic about quantum mechanics. A month later, I got a freelance colorist gig on a feature film but my laptop couldn’t handle the workload. Brandon offered me his computer and broadcast monitor to work on my projects.

Around that time, something happened between us. Maybe it was when he made me Christmas dinner, or maybe it was when we watched Young Frankenstein. Maybe it was just his sweet computer setup. Whatever it was, we fell in love. A few months later, we got engaged in San Francisco, right by the Golden Gate Bridge. Two months after that, we got married. Our wedding was shot at Venice Beach on Super 8 film.


Sarah Schroeder ’00 and Ken Nowak ’00 (California)

Ken and I were both Cinema Art and Science majors at the same time, and even attended the same graduation ceremony in June of 2000, but during our time on campus our paths never crossed. Luckily, we both enrolled in Semester in LA, which started just five days after graduation. The eight students in class all became fast friends, but the two of us just sparked. Our relationship became official on the Fourth of July under the fireworks at Venice Beach.

Six years later, we were married in Malibu. Now, we’ve been married for 10 years. Together, we’ve traveled the world, adopted two dogs and made Los Angeles our true home. Ken is an audio recordist at NBC Universal, working on shows like Law & Order SVU and Chicago Med. Sarah is the Director of Alumni Relations, West Coast and Regional Programs for Columbia College Chicago.

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