A match made at Heller

This Valentine’s Day, alumni share stories about how Heller brought them together

February 10, 2020

Patrick Cutrona, MA SID’15 and Megha Hegde, MA SID’14
Patrick Cutrona, MA SID’15 and Megha Hegde, MA SID’14

While all Heller alumni leave with an extra degree (or two) in hand, some also leave with something else: a life partner! As Marwa Farag, MS'05, PhD'10, says, "The Heller community is the perfect place to fall in love because it is a place full of love."

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, we’re sharing the stories of Heller couples and their varied journeys to both Heller and each other.

Marwa Farag, MS’05, PhD’10 and Tamer Qarmout, MA SID’07

Marwa Farag, MS’05, PhD’10 and Tamer Qarmout, MA SID’07
Marwa Farag, MS’05, PhD’10 and Tamer Qarmout, MA SID’07

"My time at Heller is the place I go to in my mind when I want to be reminded about why it is gift just to be alive," says Farag. "The people I met at Heller including my classmates, teachers, and administrators (who all became friends later) created the kind of community that most people do not believe is possible. A community made of people who genuinely want to do good in this world, care about our joint fate as human beings and about each other, and think of life as a celebration and make sure to enjoy all the simple and big things in life. The Heller community is the perfect place to fall in love because it is a place full of love. When Tamer and I met in 2005, he was doing his Masters and I was doing my PhD. It was not love at first sight, it was more like a slippery slope! We grew to like each other through the dinners in Waltham Indian restaurants, the cultural nights, the walks around Harvard Square, the rare visit to Newbury Street, the trips to Rockport… the endless discussions with our friends about anything and everything. 

Tamer Qarmout, MA SID’07 with their two children
Qarmout with the couple's two children
Tamer graduated from the SID program in 2007 and we said our good-bye and good luck because I still had years to go in my PhD program but we kept on talking everyday… making a lot of money for cell-phone companies. We ended up talking a lot and not seeing each other much for the next three years because Gaza is perhaps the hardest place in the world in terms of travel mobility. We got married in 2010 in Cairo, moved to Canada until 2018 then Qatar until now… so continuing the tradition of global nomads with our two kids now. Having two kids and two careers is of course the beautiful balancing act, which is our life today! So being at Heller changed our lives in every possible way for the better!”

Murray W. Frank PhD’74 and Phyllis Hearst Hersch PhD’77

Murray W. Frank PhD’74 and Phyllis Hearst Hersch PhD’77
Murray W. Frank PhD’74 and Phyllis Hearst Hersch PhD’77

Heller singles take note! You never know what will happen at a Heller anniversary celebration. Murray and Phyllis met many years after they were students and after they had both suffered the loss of spouses. At the 55th Heller School reunion, they struck up a conversation while waiting for a session featuring Robert Reich (former Heller faculty and US Secretary of Labor ’93-’97). Phyllis says, “I knew of Murray because of his status in the social welfare community. We chatted for a while quite pleasantly.  Eventually he asked if I would like to have lunch.  The lunch didn’t happen for several weeks - but we continued to have lunch, and here we are.”

Travis Warrington, MA SID/COEX’13, and Ariel Delaney, MA SID’13
Travis Warrington, MA SID/COEX’13, and Ariel Delaney, MA SID’13 during at cultural night at Heller

Travis Warrington, MA SID/COEX’13, and Ariel Delaney, MA SID’13

“We met during my second year at Heller as I was starting SID after my first year in COEX, and Ariel was starting SID, in 2011,” says Warrington. “We caught eyes during orientation. She had a few of my classes that fall. I invited her to a talk by Esther Duflo at one of the local colleges. We dated throughout that year. Through our practicums in opposite coasts in Africa, graduation in 2013, living in East Africa together, then back to the U.S., we are now living in the Seattle area where Ariel works in Global Health and I am a consultant for international development NGOs. Our daughter just turned three!”

Krystal Lea Friesth, MA SID’09, and Eric Friesth, MA SID’09

Eric Friesth, MA SID’09 and Krystal Lea Friesth, MA SID’09 with their daughter
The Friesths with their daughter

“My now-husband and I met at the Heller School in 2007, had a couple amazing group experiences in shared classes, got to know each through the social connections within the cohort, fell madly in love by 2008, and have been together ever since," says Krystal. "We journeyed off for our internships abroad, but stayed together and met up at Christmas for our first international trip together (summiting Mt Kinabalu, visiting orangutans, and learning to surf in Malaysia and Indonesia...you can't marry someone you've never traveled with!). We got back in the late spring, graduated, and then ventured off to DC in June to start the next phase of our professional and personal lives!

We both still work in development and are currently based in Nigeria with our 4-year old daughter, Ashlyn.

It's been a whirlwind and we're so thankful to our Heller community who have been part of our journey since the beginning!”

Mark J. Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'71 and Rachel Harris Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'73
Mark J. Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'71 and Rachel Harris Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'73

Mark J. Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'71 and Rachel Harris Winkeller, MSW'70, PhD'73

Rachel and Mark were fresh out of college when they came to the doctoral program at Heller and they first started to really talk to each other after a chance meeting in the library. Their courtship progressed quickly and they spent a summer together doing applied research at the Navajo Community College near the magical Canyon de Chelly. Married at the age of 23, they took turns completing their dissertations and each inscribed a message of love and respect to one another in their dissertation acknowledgements.

Patrick Cutrona, MA SID’15 and Megha Hegde, MA SID’14

 Megha Hegde, MA SID’14 and Patrick Cutrona, MA SID’15 during their Indian wedding ceremony
Megha Hegde, MA SID’14 and Patrick Cutrona, MA SID’15

Megha and Patrick met in the Spring of 2013 at the Heller school admissions front desk. Megha was in her first year of the SID (Sustainable International Development) program and working at admissions for her work-study, and Patrick came in for an interview as a prospective student. Patrick was nervous enough as it was, but when he arrived and set eyes on Megha, it was a like a bolt of lightning struck him and he lost his breath. Little did he know he was applying for more than just a degree. Patrick did eventually get accepted to Heller. 

Since the two were in separate cohort-years, their meetings were infrequent, but each knew that there was something special about the other. It took a couple more years but fate had destined the two to be as one. Megha and Patrick were married in Patrick's hometown Falmouth, MA July 14th 2018 and again in Megha's hometown of Sirsi, India November 19th 2018.

Patricia Matthews-Juarez, PhD’83 and Paul Juarez, PhD’83

Patricia Matthews-Juarez, PhD’83 and Paul Juarez, PhD’83

We met the first day of orientation at the Heller School in the fall of 1979 and have been together for 40 years – one year of courtship and 39 years of marriage. We were completing our dissertations and spent every waking moment at the Heller School. 

Gunnar and Rose Mary Dywad were our role models. They spent every waking moment at the Heller School. They worked together and were best friends. Gunnar was Paul's mentor. We still have a wonderful picture of Gunnar that was taken at our wedding in 1981 at Phillip and Cassandra Clay's home in Jamaica Plain. Fran Rosen and Fran Hahn were great too and cheered us on as a couple. Our friends also cheered us on with lots of support. Dr. Connie Williams was one such friend. She encouraged me to come to the Heller School, so she is responsible for me meeting Paul. 

Paul is an exceptional human being and an outstanding scholar, mentor, and partner. Our respect and love for each other have not dimmed. We have worked as a team for more than 35 years. My favorite Brandeis memory together is on a sunny spring afternoon, Paul came by to say hello with a bunch of wild flowers that he picked on his way back from a run. That memory lingers.

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