Central Michigan University is a place where lifelong relationships begin. Whether it's faculty who become lifelong mentors for their students, roommates who remain best friends or sweethearts with fond memories of the places they met, CMU Chippewas are family forever.
John and Paulette Green understand that better than most. In the fall of 1964, a chance encounter in the food court at the university center led to a marriage still going strong in its 50th year.
In honor of their anniversary, the couple returned to the place they met for a maroon-and-gold celebration with family and friends.
"I knew that if ever we had a party, there's only one place I'd want it to be," Paulette said.
Meeting through mutual friends
Both were from the local area, Paulette from Mount Pleasant and John from Winn, but they hadn't met until the first week of the fall semester. A pair of mutual friends invited them to meet up in the food court, a popular hangout for commuter students who were finished with class but not quite ready to go home yet.
A short conversation over a cafeteria table led to an instant connection and a first date.
Standing in the Down Under Food Court over the weekend, the Greens tried to find the exact spot of their first meeting. Navigating among the tables, recycling stations and columns, the pair settled on a spot not far from the entrance to the food court.
"It looked very different then," John said. "It was more of a cafeteria line. These partitions weren't here. The space was laid out much differently."
An interruption from Uncle Sam
After just a year of dating, John enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Pakistan to serve. The pair got engaged just before he left for his first tour of duty.
Paulette continued on her path at CMU, earning a degree in biology that would allow her to pursue a career as a medical technologist. In her final year, John had a break between assignments. They got married on a Friday night in the spring of 1968 at Sacred Heart Parish in Mount Pleasant.
Paulette joined John at his new post in Japan shortly after her graduation in June. They celebrated their honeymoon in Tokyo and returned to their new home in Misawa, where Paulette taught elementary school on the military base.
Coming home to campus
When the couple returned to Mount Pleasant following John's discharge in 1970, she came back to CMU, earning a certificate in secondary education in 1973.
Teaching wasn't the right fit, however, and she continued to work in a local hospital as a medical technologist. Through CMU's Global Campus, she was able to pursue a Master of Arts degree in education: health care, completed in 1985.
Over the years, both felt the strong pull of CMU and came back to attend classes. They've been amazed to see campus transformed over the years.
"We remember when Brooks Hall was new and was the edge of campus. It was quite a bit smaller in those days," Paulette said.
She enrolls in one or two courses every year through the tuition- and fee-free senior citizen program, immersing herself in subjects like philosophy and religion. John, a now-retired X-ray technician, has taken an occasional class on campus and even helped teach a few on fracture care and casting in the physician assistant program.
"We wanted our children and grandchildren to see where our life together began."