In this day and age of social media dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, it’s hard to fathom meeting the love of your life the old-fashioned way. However, sometimes happy endings and picturesque relationships can start in the unlikeliest of places — say, a St. Thomas University introductory class.
This was the case for two STU professors, Matthew Dinan and Vivien Zelazny.
Dinan is a full-time professor in the Great Books department, which is where he met his now-wife, Zelazny, who is a part-time professor and campus minister. The pair met in the preliminary course of the Great Books department in their first year. Aquinas is equivalent to three first-year courses, which are based on discussion among students.
“You spend a lot of time with this small group of other students and you really get to know them well,” Zelazny said.
Dinan remembers his first impression of Zelazny, because they both had trouble speaking.
“What I most remember about it was that I had no voice after the Harrington cheer off, and V was similarly hard to understand because she had a bite plane which kept her from being able to say, among other things, the ‘V’ sound — an ironic meeting for two people who like to talk as much as we do,” he said. “Even still, I thought she had the most interesting things to say about Plato’s Apology of Socrates.”
That first meeting eventually turned into a friendship, but in first year, Zelazny was dating someone else.
“We became friends and Matt had a very generous plan on his meal card, so I used to always mooch lunches off of him. We’d go and have lunches on his account.”
Zelazny recounts the times the pair and their friends would have lunch courtesy of Dinan’s meal plan. So much so, he ran out of lunches on his meal plan by March. But even at that point, Zelazny and Dinan remained good friends into their second year at the school.
The couple were not officially dating until their second year and continued dating throughout the rest of their undergraduate degrees.
“I have a lot of memories of saying stupid things in class in undergrad and then being taken to task for them by Viv afterwards,” Dinan said. “Looking back on it now, I’m so glad I had someone there to help me become less of a jerk.”
It was in their fourth year at STU that Dinan realized that Zelazny was the one for him.
“Well, we were understandably thinking about the future and I realized that I couldn’t seriously imagine a future without Viv,” he said.
The pair graduated in 2006. The happy couple who met and fell in love right on campus were married in 2007 in the chapel at St. Thomas.
The professors also decided to attend Baylor University in Texas for both of their graduate degrees.
“By the time we finished our undergrad, we knew we wanted to be together so we both went to grad school in the States,” Zelazny said.
“He studied political science and I studied English and then we lived in Massachusetts after that, from 2011 to 2014. He had a job as a professor at College of the Holy Cross and I did some part-time teaching and finished up my degree.”
After completing her degree in Massachusetts, Zelazny and Dinan decided to move back to Fredericton in 2014 and begin teaching at St. Thomas.
Although they were only 19 when they started dating, their love has remained the same.
“I think that your 20s are a difficult and confusing time, so to make your way through that odyssey with someone you love and trust is a tremendous gift,” Dinan said. “Our relationship has sort of remained a constant as we have changed and grown together. So we’ve changed, but V has been home for me through all of it.”
The happily married couple now have three daughters, aged seven, five and almost two. Zelazny said they plan on staying in Fredericton and teaching at STU for the foreseeable future.
“You never know what life is going to hold, but we love it here.”
As for finding the love of your life during your time at university, Zelazny said, “Be open to the possibility and maybe it can happen for you.”
With files from Cassidy Chisholm