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Spring 2024 Edition
Alumni & Friends Magazine

Knowledge, Wisdom & Love

Talk about #couplegoals! Meet the winners and staff favorites from the Bobcat Bliss contest, many of whom were betrothed on the bricks.

Jen Jones Donatelli, BSJ ’98 | April 11, 2024


From class rings to wedding rings, plenty of love stories have started in Athens—and nearly 100 Bobcat couples shared theirs as part of the Ohio University Alumni Association’s recent Bobcat Bliss contest.

Throughout June, entrants posted stories and photos on the Bobcat Network platform depicting their OHIO beginnings and lifelong memories. Winners Amber and Jon Lechner were chosen randomly to receive an overnight stay at the Ohio University Inn, dinner for two at Cutler’s and a vow renewal ceremony at Galbreath Chapel.

“Alumni shared so much about their personal lives and the things that they’ve been through as a couple—and they showed that it all started at OHIO,” says Jennifer Shutt Bowie, BSJ ’94, MS ’99, associate vice president of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at OHIO and executive director of the Ohio University Alumni Association. “Bobcats create so many lifelong relationships while they’re students, and being able to highlight their journeys in this way is really beautiful.”

Hear from our Bobcat Bliss winners, plus a few stories our staff loved, below. Be sure to follow the OUAA on Facebook, Instagram, X and LinkedIn and join the Bobcat Network for details on the 2024 Bobcat Bliss contest!

Bobcat Bliss Winners

Our 2023 Bobcat Bliss winners have multiple significant touchpoints on and around campus, from Peden Stadium to the Ohio University Inn. Their newborn daughter gives them a good reason to visit them all. Photo by Ty Wright, BFA ’02, MA ’13


Jon Lechner, BA ’14, and Amber (Christian) Lechner, BSHCS ’13
Married: April 16, 2016
Living in: Groveport, Ohio

During that time, Amber took a job in sales and catering at the Ohio University Inn, where she helped orchestrate many weddings—including her own.

“We wanted to do it before wedding season kicked off, because I had to work every single wedding [at the OU Inn],” Amber says of their April 2016 nuptials. “Holding it there really helped me have a stress-free day, because I knew and trusted all of the other employees.”

The couple gradually made their way north after Jon’s graduation in 2014, living in The Plains for a year, then Nelsonville and finally Groveport, south of Columbus. Naturally, they still make plenty of trips down to Athens, returning for football games and to see the cherry trees blossom in spring.

And now that they have a brand-new Bobkitten on board, they’re even more excited to return to campus. Hadley Rose Lechner was born Nov. 21, 2023, and Amber and Jon plan to take her down to Athens this spring. “We’re excited to show her all of our stomping grounds,” Amber says.

That shared OHIO pride is something that has been a throughline in the Lechners’ relationship.

Jon originally came to OHIO from Nebraska to play football, but he eventually realized he was playing the long game in more ways than one. After all, Peden Stadium was home not only to five years of football memories, but also to both his wedding proposal and rehearsal dinner.

“I surprised Amber by proposing during Senior Night on the field,” Jon recalls. “Her family came down to Athens, as did my dad. There was a video crew, and they showed our proposal on the scoreboard!”

Jon and Amber originally met their sophomore year when they both lived in Sargent Hall (where Amber was an RA), and Jon says they’ve been “inseparable” ever since. Amber was an Alpha Omicron Pi sorority member and restaurant, hotel, and tourism major, while Jon stayed busy with his sociology and criminology studies and starting position on the football team.

“We got along with each other’s respective circles, which was great because we were around each other at all times,” Jon jokes.

Amber graduated one year before Jon, who stayed on for a fifth year to complete his run as an offensive lineman.

“I just feel so grateful for our journey,” Amber says. “I love it because [meeting] on campus and sharing core college memories has made OU the backdrop of our whole relationship.”




Harvey Kopel, BFA ’64, & Anna (Balaban) Kopel, BSED ’64
A chance meeting—and a little mischief—led to Harvey and Anna Kopel’s first date. It went well: The pair entered their senior year as a married couple. Photo by Karsten Moran

Harvey Kopel, BFA ’64, and Anna (Balaban) Kopel, BSED ’64
Married: Sept. 1, 1963
Living in: New York, New York

Harvey was immediately smitten when he met Anna at a Hillel party in 1961—but so was his friend.

“We flipped a coin to see who would get to call Anna for a date,” Harvey recalls. “I lost, but I asked her out anyway.”

That bold move resulted in a love story that has lasted 60 years and counting. After receiving their parents’ blessings, the pair married between their junior and senior years at OHIO, then lived together at a house on Depot Street while finishing their degrees.

“When we went back for our 50th alumni reunion, our fraternity and sorority houses were no longer there, the dorms we lived in weren’t there anymore, and the river was no longer in the same place,” Harvey says, “but that dilapidated house on Depot Street was still there.”

Today the Kopels reside in Manhattan, where they raised their three kids. Harvey spends his retirement volunteering as a Central Park tour guide and shooting with the Sierra Photo Club, while Anna is an avid reader who belongs to two book clubs after retiring from her real estate career with The Corcoran Group. According to Anna, their secret to a happy marriage is simple: "He takes very good care of me, and I take very good care of him.”


Russell Morrow, BSC ’12, MED ’14, & Kasey Daniel, BA ’12, MED ’15
OHIO brought Kasey and Russell together as a couple, then back to Athens as a family after spending a few years out of state. Photo by Rich-Joseph Facun, BSVC’01

Russell Morrow, BSC ’12, MED ’14, and Kasey Daniel, BA ’12, MED ’15
Married: Oct. 22, 2016
Living in: Athens, Ohio

Their paths weren’t initially set to cross; media arts and studies major Russell worked as a production assistant at WOUB and as a LINKS peer mentor, while psychology major Kasey was a student research assistant. But their worlds intersected when they both became orientation leaders. “As we continued to get to know each other, we eventually started dating,” shares Russell.

Stunning fall foliage provided the backdrop for their wedding at Galbreath Chapel, complete with photos taken on College Green and at The Ridges. The choice to wed in Athens was fitting for the couple, who pursued both undergraduate and advanced degrees at OHIO. “Athens was the best and only choice,” Kasey says.

Though California was home for several years after graduation, the couple and their two sons are back in Athens, as both Russell and Kasey now work on campus. Russell serves as OHIO’s interim vice president for diversity and inclusion, while Kasey is the director of Allen Advising in the Center for Advising, Career and Experiential Learning (ACE). Their older son can often be spotted riding the escalators at Baker University Center or eating a corn dog from Larry’s Dawg House.

“It’s nice to work in the same place, but to be separated from each other’s [line of] work,” Russell says. “We get to have lunch together, see each other at faculty/staff events, and share the experience of being back at OU at this stage of life.”


Lucas Michael, BSPEX ’23, & Lydia (King) Michael, BSFNS ’20, MSFNS ’22
Jackie O’s holds special meaning for the Michaels; fortunately, the Columbus-based couple has a local outpost of the brewery where they can relive their early days at OHIO. Photo by Ty Wright, BFA ’02, MA ’13

Lucas Michael, BSPEX ’23, and Lydia (King) Michael, BSFNS ’20, MSFNS ’22
Married: June 26, 2022
Living in: Columbus, Ohio

Despite having mutual friends for a few years, fate took its time bringing Lucas and Lydia together. Lydia had been studying abroad at the University of Limerick during Lucas’ first semester, and Lucas was deployed with the Ohio Air National Guard when Lydia returned to Athens. They became fast friends after a serendipitous trip to Jackie O’s, and Lucas started to fall for Lydia.

After hearing through the grapevine that his crush was reciprocal, Lucas gathered the courage to ask Lydia out in February 2020. “I knew Lydia was the one after our first date, hard stop,” he says. “It was such an overwhelming gut feeling.”

They couldn’t have guessed that the next year would bring far more togetherness than they ever could have imagined. “We spent almost every day of the COVID-19 quarantine together—you couldn’t pry us apart,” Lucas recalls.

The Michaels made it official in June 2022 with a wedding outside Columbus, and their friendship has continued to grow in marriage. “Lucas is my best friend,” Lydia says, “and I am so thankful every day that OU brought us together.”


Bobcat Bliss winners Neff
For their April 2023 wedding, Ty and Hayley commissioned a watercolor of Alumni Gateway that was depicted on their invitations and now hangs in their home. Photo courtesy of Haley Neff

Ty Neff, BBA ’16, and Hayley Lewis, BSJ ’16
Married: April 15, 2023
Living in: Beverly, Massachusetts

Ty and Hayley hail from Pittsburgh and Boston, respectively, so they believe it’s unlikely they would have met if not for their time together at OHIO.

“We basically experienced every college milestone together—the dining halls freshmen year, living on ‘dirty South’ sophomore year, turning 21, first jobs and internships, and all the joys and bittersweet aspects of senior year,” Ty says. “We held onto OU so tightly because we weren’t sure what was ahead or where we’d end up.”

After dating long-distance for one year post-graduation (with Ty taking a job in Dallas at Hewlett Packard Enterprise), the answer to that question was revealed when Ty ultimately joined Hayley back in Boston.

Friends captured his proposal on video during a trip to Brussels, Belgium, in December 2021, and the couple’s wedding invitations featured a custom watercolor painting of Alumni Gateway (now displayed proudly on their wall). Naturally, lots of OHIO memories were shared as their wedding guests toasted with custom OHIO Champagne flutes given to the class of 2016.

And according to Ty, there are still plenty more memories to be made. “We’ve traveled all over the world together,” he notes, “but there is still no place like hOUme.”

Bobcat Bliss winners Esper
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bob and Kathleen's graduation from OHIO; they plan to gather with friends at Homecoming to celebrate. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Esper

Robert “Bob” Esper, AB ’74, and Kathleen (Kondik) Esper, BSED ’74
Married: July 18, 1975
Living in: Cleveland, Ohio

Ever since their graduation day in 1974, Bob and Kathleen have been gathering their group of friends on campus every five years during Homecoming weekend; this year’s reunion promises to be extra-special, as it marks 50 years since they first left the bricks.

“We both love OU—from the lovely campus to the beauty of making lifelong friends … including each other,” Kathleen says.

The Espers’ friendship began when they met as freshmen in the Grosvenor Hall cafeteria. Their courtship didn’t begin right away; they spent several years playing water volleyball and softball on West Green before going on their first date their senior year. Things escalated somewhat quickly from there, with a proposal next to the Cleveland Museum of Art lagoon after graduation and OHIO friends by their side when they married a year later.

Since then, their marriage has spanned five cities and spawned two sons, one daughter and two grandchildren, but Kathleen says they still feel “young and in love.”