Tying the knot

The stretch of Elm Street in front of the Yale Station post office, with Lanman-Wright Hall looming above and traffic zooming by, is not the most romantic part of campus. Except for Rebecca Nadal ’09 and Sean Riordan ’09.

In the fall of 2005, Nadal introduced herself to Riordan just outside that post office. In December of 2008, with mailboxes as his witness, he proposed to her on that same spot. Down on one knee with a ring in his hand, romantic in spite of his surroundings, Riordan said this: “I thought the place where you first entered my life would be the perfect place to start the rest of our lives together.”

Rebecca Nadal ’09 and Sean Riordan ’09, who met at Yale in the fall of their freshman year, are engaged to be married this November.
Charlie Croom
Rebecca Nadal ’09 and Sean Riordan ’09, who met at Yale in the fall of their freshman year, are engaged to be married this November.

Much is made these days of the idea that college students supposedly don’t date. For a small but proud few, though, Yale is not only a place to date, but also a place to tie the knot.

Nadal and Riordan, both rowers who say their Catholic faith is a quiet but important part of their lives, have been dating since the spring of their freshman year. They will get married in November — Nadal, an anthropology major in Trumbull College, at age 22 and Riordan, an economics major in Morse College, at 23 — and they don’t think that’s too soon.

“I think some people feel like they need to develop their independence, live on their own, make their path,” Nadal said in an interview last week. “But I feel like, if you know yourself, if you know what you want and what’s going to make you happy and what the best path for your life is, you should take it.”

It’s difficult to know how many Yale graduates take the path of early marriage, because the University does not keep such statistics. Nationally, according to a recent study by researches at the University of Texas at Austin, around 25 percent of women and 16 percent of men marry before they turn 23. This number has been falling in recent years, as couples increasingly choose to postpone marriage.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz GRD ’74, a sociologist who studies marriage, said it can be more difficult — but not impossible — for people in their early 20s to have fulfilling marriages.

“The younger you are, it’s not that you don’t have the equipment to be happily married, bur rather that you don’t know yourself as well as you will,” Schwartz said. “If I were going to advise such a couple, I’d say, ‘Why not get engaged and give yourself a year or two?’ ”

Eli Segal ’01 and his classmate-turned-wife Shana Segal ’01 followed that advice exactly. They met and began dating during their first year at Yale, but they didn’t get married until five years after graduation.

“It made sense for us,” Eli Segal said by phone from Philadelphia, where the couple now lives together. “I think we both let each other figure out what it was we wanted to do with our lives, and then tried to figure out how to best make that work together.”

But Nadal and Riordan and other Yale couples planning to get married early don’t necessarily need to worry that they will regret their decision later. After all, University President Richard Levin met his wife, Jane, in a freshman English class at Stanford in 1964. They became engaged during their junior year and married a week after graduation.

“It was much more common in our generation than it is in today’s students,” President Levin recalled in an interview Wednesday night. “I had three roommates my senior year, and all of us got married within a year of graduation. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find four suitemates at Yale who have the same experience today.”

Finding such a suite today is actually impossible, but Charles Drucker ’08 and Mary Ellen Leuver ’06 had a courtship not all that different from the Levins’. The two met during Leuver’s senior year at Yale, which was Drucker’s sophomore year. They were in section together for the “History of Psychiatry and Psychology.”

It was not a talkative section, but the two — like President and Mrs. Levin — hit it off in the classroom. They married on March 14 of this year.

“Charley and I got to know each other this way,” Leuver recalled in a video posted to the Web site of The New York Times alongside their wedding announcement. “Every single week in class, he and I had a two-person discussion on the history of medicine and psychology.”

Nadal and Riordan have also had many two-person discussions, since they said they “spend almost all of their time together,” whether at crew meets or at Mass at Saint Thomas More. (They do not, however, live together yet.)

Even when they are apart, they’re thinking of each other. Riordan paid for Nadal’s engagement ring in part with money he made while at the poker table of the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner over vacation.

Their friends, even those for whom marriage remains a distant consideration, love seeing them together. Christine Glandorf ’09, a fellow rower, called them a “happy, loving couple,” adding that they’re “not too cutesy together,” either.

Glandorf recalled the surprise party that Riordan organized for the night he proposed to Nadal as one of the highlights of her time at Yale. She — as well as the rest of what she called “Team Rebecca” — is looking forward to the couple’s November wedding.

So are their parents. While they cautioned their children not to rush into anything, they were also, as Rebecca’s father, James, put it, “expecting it.” Sean and Rebecca had been dropping hints, after all, and they had been virtually inseparable since freshman year.

After graduation, the couple will move to the Washington, D.C., area. They’re not sure of their jobs for next year yet, but they are sure of their plans for the weekend after Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 28, at the Long Beach Museum of Art, Nadal and Riordan will finish what they started at Yale Station. The couple had hoped to marry in New Haven at the end of the semester but wanted to delay the ceremony so that Nadal’s sister, who is in the military, could attend.

The happy families, Riordan’s mother, Mary Beth, said, will sip cocktails as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean.

Comments

  • snarky, paul

    "Finding such a suite today is actually impossible…"

    oh, paul. sneaking these little comments into the paper of record. how devilish.

  • Anonymous

    Not to be a downer, but even setting aside whether or not this is wise (it's not)… is this news?

  • '72 alumna

    I feel so old - '72 had classmates who married while still students at Yale!
    Most, however, waited until the summer after graduation.

  • Yale 08

    This was a heart warming and touching story.

    @#2-

    I'd rather read more human interest pieces in the YDN than another horribly conceived op-ed in support of the flavor of the day weird social cause or protest movement.

    The lead couple displays more maturity than 99% of current undergrads.

    Although, I would have enjoyed wedding details, plans for next year, their parents' opinion, etc.

  • Anonymous

    I think this article is compelling because it offers a glimpse of a couple not jaded by Yale's twisted social scene. Too often, people in relationships are too ambitious and self-centered to realize that a meaningful connection isn't dangerous. It's good to show Yalies a success story, or something that they can look forward to later.

  • Yalie '04

    I bet that marriage soon after graduation is more common than you think. My husband ('05) and I ('04) got engaged in the fall of 2005, just a few months after his graduation, and were married in summer 2007, at ages 24 (him) and 25 (me). We were by no means the first of our friends/acquaintances to marry, and there have been more since then. I don't think of it as "settling down" because I didn't settle at all! It just works out that way for some people.

  • reality check

    …the yale students I know who get married in their early early 20's are all Mormons or devout Catholics…who are forbidden by their faiths to get it on without a ring.

  • Bulldog71

    I married a classmate--at Dwight Chapel--a year after we graduated. We're still devoted to each other, and to Yale. You'll never get to know a person better than when you're in college ( a bar? C'mon!) Why not grow up together with the one you love?

  • Anonymous

    Is the YDN required by law to publish all comments, or is it just guilty of being devoid of shame and class??? I'm thinking here of poster #7 and his or her irrelevant, tasteless, crude, and insulting remarks. There seems to be a lot of this type of comment that arrive onto the message boards. Such comments are insulting to the target group and should be embarrassing to ALL associated with the YDN.

  • yalie

    I'm with #9… should we think about requiring registration so at least there are names with comments..?

    especially relevant after princeton's debacle yesterday with their admissions rate article. a few people can cause catastrophic PR damage under the current system.

  • Hieronymus

    @#10

    But, surely, you value "diversity" of opinion? Especially in an academic setting where we are called to "tolerate" the equally valid merits of anything and everything?

    Surely?

    [Full disclosure: I found #7's comment a bit ignorant, perhaps crass--as well as to perpetuate stereotypes; however, following Arouet, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."]

  • '91, married, not a Catholic or Mormon

    I graduated in '91, was engaged my entire senior year, married 6 weeks after graduation (to a Princeton alum, we're a house divided…. Happily married almost 18 years, with a 16 and 13 year old. And a career. And how I LOVE watching my classmates chasing after their toddlers NOW! And how great to know that by the ripe old age of my mid/late 40's, my children will be finished with college and I will be starting out on an entire NEW phase of adulthood, young and healthy enough to enjoy it, with the (hope) of decades of growth and continued development ahead of me.
    I feel like I sort of hit the lottery, to be honest. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I don't see how #7's comments reflect on the YDN at all #9. The comments are simply our discussions concerning their articles. There is a clear dissociation between the YDN and those who post comments, so it's only embarrassing to the person who posts it. Which he should be because that remark is totally off base. Your implying that the only reason people choose to get married or NOT to have sex is because of their religion. That seems shallow to me but enjoy your loveless world.

  • Goldie 08

    Bulldog 71 has it right. Good story that has made me happy this morning

  • Freddie

    Actually #9, commenter #7 only had one remark. And in reality she is stating a fact or two,Catholics are forbidden by their faith to have relations until they exchange their vows..Not sure about the Mormans , is that the Polygamists bunch out in Utah ? even then it is the order,it's not until rev. jim says i do ,i do, i do,i do,i do

  • Anonymous

    I met my wife at the beginning of Junior year (she was a student at Southern Conn.-Yale wasn't coed in 1963). It was a blind date arranged by a roommate who was dating a girl at Southern. Since she was in New Haven, we saw each other a lot. We were married two weeks after graduation (June 26, 1965) - she was 22 and I was 23. We celebrate our 44th anniversary this June.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the article was exceptional, and I am delighted to read about a couple who have their heads on straight and know what they want in life. The fact that they have chosen to live their faith in the pagan environment of Yale is a tribute to their personal strength and courage. This couple is well situated to have a long and happy life together.

  • @#11 by #10

    No, I agree with you entirely about free speech and do value diversity of opinion. However, I am concerned about the possibility and accessibility of malicious "sabotage" by a few individuals.

    i.e. It seems that many of the disastrous comments posted on the princeton admit article were by the same disgruntled senior under different names (although it is also a bit hilarious..) see:

    http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/04/01/23213/comments/

  • YaleProf

    The real issue with #7 is this: the YDN screens out comments they think are offensive. Apparently it is not offensive to make a snide generalization about Catholics or Mormons. But my hunch is they would refuse to post something similar about Muslims or some other group. So yes, they are making judgments about who it is OK to offend.

  • Hieronymus

    @#18

    So sorry: my comments should have been directed at #9

  • 09yalie

    hey YaleProf, check out the comments on this opinion piece on Muslims: http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/comments/28421

    snide generalizations against any group are and should be allowed.

  • yaylie

    I wish I were as lucky as the lead couple in the story to have met my match during my time as an undergrad at Tale.

  • Anonymous

    agh, i've been engaged for years; i'm dying to graduate, get out of here, and finally get married. not that anyone cares.

    (oh wait, how is my story different than the one that actually made a "news" article?)

  • bulldog

    #23: Because you, unlike Rebecca, aren't a writer for the News. I don't think that this article mentions that she's on staff for the YDN, though it should.

  • Elizabeth Moore '09

    To anonymous (#23):

    I agree with you, as another Yalie engaged, graduating, and planning a wedding. I too wish the article would have talked a bit more about married/engaged Yalies in general and focussed less on one particular couple. I think an even more general, larger investigation into the topic would be quite interesting.

    But, article specifics aside, congratulations to Rebecca and Sean on the engagement. This stage of life is truly wonderful and I wish you both the best!

  • jealous

    I judge folks who are my age/younger that choose to get married because I'm not even close to being mature enough and sure about myself and my future to be in that same situation.

    Good for them.

  • cool

    I think it's a great feature story. How is this any less "news" than front-page articles on what celebs split up or got married? It's a cool story, and a unique one. As funny as I know Sean can be, he is extremely cool and collected— and at Yale, that's hard to come by. Most everyone I know, including myself at times, are very insecure and could never make this big decision.

  • Mitchum

    re: #19

    This whole "they'd never do that to a conservative/liberal" mode of argument really needs to be shelved. People love to whip that one out without even considering obvious counterexamples. I especially like how Yaleprof's hunch in one sentence is all of a sudden the basis for an affirmative statement in the next. As post 21 points out, it's quite clear the ydn will allow negative statements about muslims on its commenboards.

    And you're a Yale Prof.? Really? People this weak-minded should not be in charge of classrooms.

  • Anonymous

    #28-

    I read the comments on this site fairly often, and I began to suspect some time ago that "YaleProf" is not really a Yale professor. He made a comment about grading at one point that revealed a striking ignorance about how students behave in seminars.