My Funny Valentine

by Jennifer Conlin, ’83, and James McRae, x’97 | February 2019

The classified ad ran in The Michigan Daily on Nov. 19, 1980. It read, “Wanted: Females who would enjoy the company of two curly haired young men.” It ended, “Call Randy or Matt.” And it gave just one phone number.

Fortuitously, Randy Harland and Matt Nerzig’s personal dating ad was the only one to run in the paper that day. It would not be long before whole pages of newspapers and magazines were devoted to the art of finding love through the personals. But on this day—which also happened to be Randy’s 19th birthday—the ad stood out for its content.

“We were pioneers at the time,” says Randy. “Not many people did this.”

Randy and Matt. Matt and Randy. The two had been best friends from their first days as freshmen in the Residential College and, in their sophomore year, were living in a house on Prospect Street. Though their first year of college had been fantastic, Matt recalls one area that was disappointing for both of them. “All the women we were connecting with seemed to be into older guys,” he says. As Randy puts it, “We were desperate.”

Hence the ad. “We had nothing to lose,” says Matt, though Randy remembers to this day the sting of spending $6 for it to appear. What the two did not discuss was what to do if the phone started ringing. “We were goofballs,” says Matt. “We had no system in place. But we didn’t really expect to get many calls.”

Randy and Dana

Randy and Dana at their wedding ceremony, 1983

And they didn’t. “We got around 10, tops,” says Matt. Though one call led to a double date, the rest—which they took turns answering— went nowhere.

Until Dana Rose called.

“I saw the ad and thought ‘I know these guys from somewhere,’” recalls Dana, who was a sophomore at the time living in Alice Lloyd Hall. Within seconds of Randy answering, she realized they were not the Matt and Randy she knew. Despite a humorous, fun conversation with Randy, she hung up without giving her name. “Dana was an unusual name at the time, and U-M can be a smaller school than you think,” she says. “I didn’t want them to know who I was.”

A few days later, however, she called back. “I was dating another guy and it wasn’t working out and I thought, ’Why not call that Randy back?’” The two started talking regularly on the phone, though a dinner date at Bicycle Jim’s would not happen until Jan. 18, 1981, due to exams and the holidays.

Despite disparate upbringings—she grew up in the same house in Chicago, he grew up in India, Bahrain, and Kenya—the attraction was instant.

Their relationship bloomed through the spring and summer but came to a temporary halt when Randy left in the fall of his junior year to study in France. A Christmas reunion on the French Riviera solidified their commitment and the decision to marry following graduation in 1983.

Meanwhile, Matt remained single, despite dating, though Dana was now added to his circle of college friends and their story to both family’s repertoire.

“At graduation, Matt’s mother looked me up and down and then said, ‘So this could have been our wedding this summer,'” remembers Dana.

Dana and Matt

Dana and best man Matt at the wedding of Dana and Randy, 1983

At the couple’s wedding in July, Matt (who was, not surprisingly, the best man) recalls Dana’s grandmother saying to him, “So if you had answered the phone you would be marrying my granddaughter today.”

Matt thinks they might have gone out had he picked up the phone, but Randy insists he would have fought Matt for Dana once he met her.

Twenty-five years after that ad, Matt married for the first time. Ironically, he met his wife of 13 years, Sharman Leventon, online. “The newspaper did not work out for me, but the internet did.” Even more fitting, Sharman is a 1991 U-M graduate.

Despite living in different parts of the country (Randy and Dana in Chicago, Matt and Sharman in Santa Fe, New Mexico), the four all remain close friends to this day.

“We might not have gotten a lot of volume out of that ad in terms of dates, but we certainly got quality finding Dana,” says Matt.

 


Jennifer Conlin is the deputy editor of Michigan Alumnus magazine. James McRae is the senior associate director of Camp Michigania.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit umalumni.com/support.