Students enter UM planning to leave with a college degree, but a lucky few also leave with a life-long partner. On campus, the Love Bridge leading to the Wellness Center is decorated with bricks commemorating the love of couples who met and fell in love at UM. Now, tales of romance can also be found on the “Stories of U” website, launched by the Alumni Association as a way for alumni to share their experiences as a Cane.
Struck by an arrow
Thirteen years ago, Erin Moyer and Manny Carballea met at the Starbucks across U.S. 1 to talk about the Iron Arrow Honor Society.
When their informal meeting turned into a four-hour conversation about everything but academics, the two knew they had hit it off.
Reflecting back on the moment, Moyer said that, without intending for it to be, this essentially ended up being their first date.
“Honestly, from that point forward, we kind of made excuses to see each other, like, ‘Oh yeah, we should probably talk Iron Arrow’ or ‘Oh yeah, I go to Starbucks all the time to study. Sure, I’ll see you there,’” she said. “I never went to Starbucks to study, but it gave me a good reason to do so.”
They dated for the duration of Moyer’s senior year, while Carballea was a graduate student.
Moyer was on the Homecoming Executive Committee for three years at UM, so this was an especially fun time for the two of them.
“If we miss Homecoming, we’re sad,” Carballea said. “It was the one thing we did together when we were there as students, and it’s the one thing that we continue to do as alumni.”
Moyer also recalls sharing evenings with Carballea at the College of Engineering.
“When I was a senior in school, I would bring him dinner over to the College of Engineering and we’d sit out in the courtyard sometimes and eat dinner or I’d sit out in the engineering lab and do my homework with him while he was working,” she said.
When she graduated in 2001, Moyer moved back home to California to jump-start her career, but the two planned to maintain their relationship.
“We stayed together, but the distance, as in a lot of relationships, especially when you’re younger, just kind of became too complicated,” she said. “We were both starting out in our careers. He was here and I was there. A lot of travel back and forth. It was fine, but it just kind of takes its toll.”
Making it work
Moyer said that she and Carballea were too good a pair of friends to let a long-distance troubles get in between them. They broke up, but Moyer moved back to Miami shortly after for graduate school.
Carballea, a Miami native, was still living in the same city, giving the two another opportunity to grow together – even if not as a couple.
“We were the best of friends,” she said. “We were kind of inseparable and, frankly, everyone thought we were still together for that four years.”
Moyer moved back to Los Angeles until she finally returned to Miami six months ago.
After maintaining an on-and-off long-distance relationship that was more friendship than romance for several years – a scenario that Carballea joked parallels the movie “Going the Distance” with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long – the couple will be married this coming June.
“No matter what part of our lives we’ve been in, it has always drawn us back together,” Moyer said. “And that’s always stuck out. That there’s a reason why you get drawn back to somebody and why you never let go of them.”
Carballea proposed to Moyer at the Iron Arrow mound near the campus bookstore.
“I couldn’t have planned it any better because the sun was setting – the sky had like an orange, pink kind of sunset hue to it – campus was eerily desolate,” he remembered.
Moyer unknowingly gave Carballea the perfect segue.
“Every time I come to campus, there’s so many memories,” she said as they read a plaque on the Iron Arrow mound.
Carballea looked at her and responded, “Yep, there’s so many memories, and here’s one more.”
“He got down on one knee and said a lot of things that neither of us can remember,” Moyer said reflecting on that day in April 2012.
Moyer and Carabllea will have many fellow Iron Arrow members coming to their wedding in Sonoma, Calif.
“We’re telling all of our Iron Arrow members to bring their jackets because we’re going to take a photo,” Moyer said. “We’ll have a big fire pit at our reception area.”
Alison Brescia and Jason Gray’s pink brick at the Love Bridge leading to the Wellness Center truly bridges their story back to where it began. They met at the Wellness Center in 2006, when they were both employees, and ended up husband and wife five years later.
Brescia, a junior at the time, and Gray, then a sophomore, had been making casual conversation and flirting back and forth since the day that Brescia asked Gray to cover her Friday evening shift at the Wellness Center. But it wasn’t until a dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s across U.S. 1 that the ball got rolling.
After her roommate encouraged her to do so, Brescia invited Gray to join her and about four friends for dinner at Friday’s. This would be their first occasion spending time together outside of work.
“Kind of from then on we sort of started dating,” said Brescia, who graduated in 2008.
Their subsequent first real date at Houston’s in Miracle Mile turned into a lasting relationship full of positive memories at UM. Besides dates at Monty’s and evenings at the Rathskeller, Brescia and Gray enjoyed attending Miami Hurricanes baseball games.
“Alison would never turn down an opportunity to go to the Light and watch Hurricanes baseball,” said Gray, who graduated in 2009. “We saw our fair share of games while we were there. … Just the fact that she was cool enough to do that with me, I knew I had a pretty good catch.”
Brescia and Gray also recalled celebrating a Valentine’s Day in the University Village, where the couple attempted to make homemade pizza.
“It didn’t turn out so well,” Brescia remembered.
“The dough never rose,” Gray said. “That was a little bit of a disaster.”
“Then we had to make frozen pizza,” Brescia added, chuckling.
“That’s probably our most memorable Valentine’s Day together,” Gray said.
When Gray attended graduate school at Notre Dame, Brescia remained at UM to pursue her degree in physical therapy. They made the commitment to maintain a long-distance relationship for the next year and a half. They saw each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas break, but not on a consistent basis, Gray said.
“I think when you make a commitment to stay together with all that going on, in the back of your mind, you have to be happy with your relationship and the other person,” he said. “And you’re going to ideally get something out of it at the end for the sacrifice that you’re making.”
Sealing the deal
Gray made sure he was getting something out of it, when he proposed to Brescia on New Year’s Eve of 2009. Already running late to meet up with their friends in Fort Lauderdale, Gray stopped Brescia to look at the blue moon that evening.
“I was like, ‘Let’s look at the moon later. We’re late. We need to meet these people.’ … And then I had turned around, and he goes, ‘I have something else sparkly to go with your outfit tonight,’” Brescia recalled.
Gray whipped out the box, got down on one knee, and proposed to Brescia.
“I started crying, and I hadn’t looked at the ring yet or anything,” Brescia said.
Their wedding party included green and orange decor, ‘U’ logo cookies, many UM alumni in attendance.
“Miami and that school played such a big part in our lives,” Brescia said.
Now living in North Carolina, Brescia and Gray still attend Hurricanes games when the team plays at nearby ACC schools.