Sunday, February 21, 2021 - 7:00pm

by Kaitlin Van Loon

We interviewed nine couples who fell in love and met through their connection with CoJMC. Some couples met in an activity or a class, others were set up by a mutual friend at the college, and still others met post-graduation in a "right place, right time" circumstance. See how each of these couples use the communication skills they learned at the college in their work and personal lives.

Wes and Becky Albers

Becky was a year ahead of Wes while attending UNL. The couple never had a class together, but Wes remembers a J School professor talking about a student named Rebecca Ross because she won a Hearst award for news writing.

“I really don't think Becky had any idea I existed,” Wes said.

Becky graduated from the college in 1974, then for six months she worked as a reporter at the Fremont Tribune. She went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern to earn her master’s of science in journalism. In 1976, she moved to Florida to work as a reporter at the Boca Raton News.

Wes graduated from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 1975, and his first job as a night police reporter was at The Lincoln Star. A year later he moved to New York to work for the Binghamton Evening Press. Wes found out about the job from another CoJMC grad who was working there at the time.

A year and a half later, Wes got a call from CoJMC alumni Mike Baxter, the city editor for The Miami Herald. He offered Wes an interview for a job at the paper because CoJMC mentioned his name.

In 1978, CoJMC alumna Sara (Schweider) Kennedy hosted a party at her house in Tampa for any fellow alumni working at Florida newspapers. Becky and Wes both attended, their connection was instant and the night ended with Becky giving Wes her business card. On his drive back to Miami that night, Wes remembered thinking he might have just met his future wife.

Fast forward a few years, they got married and were both working for the Miami Herald. Wes was the assistant state editor and Becky was working in the Broward County Bureau as a reporter. After their sons Ross and Reed were born, Becky took some time off then switched to working part-time on the Broward Bureau copy desk.

Wes worked at the Miami Herald for 14 years and Becky for 13. They moved to Washington D.C. in 1992. Wes was offered a job at Knight-Ridder Tribune Information Services (which later became McClatchy Tribune Information Services) and he worked there until his retirement in 2014.

Reed followed in their footsteps as a journalist. He thought he wanted to be in advertising, while in college at Virginia Commonwealth University, but became a journalist after starting a blog about the National Hockey League team the Washington Capitals. He learned a lot about sports writing and reporting and eventually got hired by Express, a free publication distributed by The Washington Post, to cover the Washington Capitals.

Now Reed works for PowerSpike, a company that connects advertisers with influencers on Twitch. Twitch is a live streaming platform for video game players. He is married with one daughter and another on the way.

“Becky and I laugh about the fact that in high school Reed watched a lot of hockey and played video games,” Wes said. “We always used to yell at him that doing those things would never get him a job and he sure proved us wrong."

Ross is a lawyer in Westminster, Maryland. He played lacrosse at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and his undergraduate degree was in business.

“After working in insurance for a year, Ross decided to go to law school,” Becky said. “He’s married with three kids under the age of 3 which makes for a fun but chaotic household.”

Starting in 1992 Becky worked as a writer for Presstime Magazine, a monthly magazine for the Newspaper Association of America. She worked her way up to the position of editor. In 2009, the organization downsized and halted print production.

Becky shifted her focus and started technical writing and editing for a defense contractor in the Washington area. She was writer and editor for a company called ManTech for 10 years before retiring a few years ago. She continues to freelance edit for them now.

During the interview, we asked the couple for advice they might have for any of our students who are graduating as couples.

“After 41 years of marriage I feel totally unprepared to answer that question,” Wes joked.

They agreed that it helps to have things in common, but it also helps to have your significant other look at things from a different point of view.

Years later while unpacking some old boxes, Wes found a program from when he was inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, the journalism honorary society, in May 1974. A senior student always said the introductory remarks each year at the ceremony. The student chosen that year was Rebecca Ross. It turns out the couple did meet during their J School days; they just didn’t even know it.

Shelly and Wade Anderson

Anderson family at baseball game

Shelly and Wade Anderson met in 1985 during the second semester of their freshman year at the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Wade was enrolled in an introductory public speaking class where Shelly was the teaching assistant after taking the course the previous semester.

The students in the class had to present three speeches to Shelly who graded their performance.

“Everyone always asks if he got an A and yes he did, but he earned it,” Shelly said.

They figured out that they were both broadcasting majors and began dating that summer. Once school started again, they began taking more classes together, studying together and scheduling their shifts at KRNU near each other.

They got engaged during the summer of 1988 at a George Michael concert in Denver, Colorado, and graduated from CoJMC that December.

Following graduation, in January 1989 Wade got an internship at Hill & Knowlton Strategies in Washington D.C. Shelly was still in Lincoln working at the Nebraska Bookstore. They got married that August and then moved to Denver.

After six weeks of graduate school, Wade decided to instead accept a job offer from Hill & Knowlton in its public affairs department, so the couple moved to the Washington D.C. area.

“It was an interesting time to be in public affairs because it was around the time Iraq had invaded Kuwait and one of the firm’s clients was the ruling family of Kuwait, who had fled when Saddam Hussein invaded,” Wade said. “Basically, our job was to convince the American people that it was a good idea for the United States to defend Kuwait to go to war with Saddam Hussein.”

While in Denver, Shelly did human resources work for a company called Talent Tree, which had offices in Washington D.C., so she was able to easily transfer.

They spent a year working in D.C. and living in Arlington, Virginia, before moving back to Denver. Wade did freelance with Hill & Knowlton and Shelly continued working at Talent Tree.

One day, Wade was catching up with a friend from CoJMC who said there’s a distributor of Paul Mitchell hair care products who has a job opening for a sales person.

Wade was tired of wearing a suit and tie to work each day, so he decided to apply. After three interviews, he got the role and was a sales consultant for a Paul Mitchell distributor for nine years in the Denver area.

After having two sons, Eric and Hugh, Shelly decided to stay home with them and Wade was promoted to regional director of John Paul Mitchell Systems in Lincoln in 2001.

They’ve been in Lincoln ever since. Wade works for John Paul Mitchell Systems as its national sales manager, and Shelly works at Lincoln boutique Edge.

Eric and Hugh are five years apart. Eric graduated with a degree in marketing from Hastings College on a baseball and academic scholarship and now works for Duncan Aviation. Hugh is a sports media and communication student at CoJMC.

Their advice to CoJMC students is to remember that it’s okay for your dream to change. You can still use the skills learned at CoJMC in any role you choose.

Harry and Linda Argue

Harry and Linda (McClure) Argue started dating in 1967 when their roommates — who happened to be dating — suggested that Harry ask Linda out on a date. He looked Linda up in the “buzz book,” a directory where you could find all the sorority pledges information, and they went to a hangout at the Nebraska Union called “The Crib” for a coke.

Harry was two years ahead of Linda at UNL, so they didn’t have any classes together, but they did get to go on a CoJMC sponsored field trip together. While in school, Linda had several part-time jobs, one she remembers particularly well was working in the Society Department of the Lincoln Star. During the summer, she worked in her hometown as a reporter at the Hastings Daily Tribune.

Harry graduated from CoJMC in the summer of 1968. His first job was with the Sioux City Journal. While at UNL, he was in the ROTC and was on active duty for two years, stationed in the U.S. as the assistant public affairs officer at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Linda graduated in the summer of 1970 and worked at the Hastings Daily Tribune before marrying Harry that fall and moving to Kansas City. Harry and Linda dated for three and half years before getting married and moving forward with their careers in the Kansas City area.

In Kansas City, Linda was an associate editor for the VFW Auxiliary magazine before working in community relations at St. Mary’s Medical Center. Harry worked in communications at the Bendix Corporation, which has since changed owners three times.

Harry’s career has taken the family all over the Midwest. After four and a half years in Kansas City, the couple moved back to Nebraska when the dean at CoJMC — Neale Copple — told Harry about a communications director position that was open at the Nebraska Bankers Association. The opportunity set him on the path for a long time career in banking association management.

The couple welcomed a son Brad in 1976, and Linda found herself spending a lot of time volunteering for various organizations. After three years in Nebraska, Harry became the CEO of the North Dakota Bankers Association where he stayed for 12 years.

He then served as CEO at the Wisconsin Bankers Association from 1990 to 2004. Harry spent the next four years in what he calls “semi-retirement” as he was the CEO for the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin during that time.

These days, Linda continues her volunteer work with the Attic Angel Association, which operates a senior living community in Madison. She served on the organization’s board for five years and as chairman in 2002 to 2003.

Harry is enjoying retirement in between a few consulting opportunities and service on two bank boards. Harry is also on CoJMC’s external review committee for the strategic planning task force.

The Argues’ advice for couples who both work in communication is to stay open minded and try not to be demanding of your own way all of the time. It’s OK to not always agree on things, but seeing another person’s perspective always helps.

Mark Getzfred and Liz Austin

Mark Getzfred and Liz Austin were friends long before they got together. While at CoJMC they saw each other at a lot of the same parties, but they were always just friends.

After graduating, Mark started working at the Grand Island Daily Independent. Liz was still in Lincoln finishing up her undergraduate courses so she could graduate.

Liz’s best friend, Karen (Wittwer) Kiekow, had also graduated from the CoJMC and she worked at the Grand Island Daily Independent, so Liz went to Grand Island most weekends to spend time with her. Soon, it went from hanging out with Karen to hanging out with Karen and Mark.

The more Liz got to know Mark, the more he’d find excuses to cover stories in Lincoln and visit Liz who was in law school at UNL during this time.

Sitting in a Valentinos the summer before Liz’s second year of law school, they decided they wanted to get married.

“Mark was always saying when we get married this and when we get married that, it was never well, do you want to get married?” Liz said. “But it was us, we set the date after that day in Valentino’s and were married the summer before my last semester in law school.”

After Mark’s time at the Grand Island Independent he spent six months at Maverick Media in Syracuse before spending a year on the copy desk at Lincoln Journal Star.

Close friend Mike Stricklin (CoJMC professor emeritus) called Mark about a job at the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX. After a winter of below zero temperatures in ‘82, it was an easy decision for the couple to move their life to Texas.

Mark worked at the Star-Telegram from 1981-1989, and Liz found her first job post law school two weeks into the move. She worked for a firm that specialized in bankruptcy, insurance, defense, trusts and estates. Eventually the couple moved to Connecticut.

“I got the idea in my head that I wanted to move to New York City, and I figured at least Connecticut is close to NYC,” Liz said. “So I went to work for Pullman & Comely, and that’s where I’ve been until I retired at the end of 2020.”

Mark worked at the Waterbury Republican-American for three years, and then went to work for a trade publication called the Journal of Commerce for eight years.

It was in July of 1999 that Mark started working for The New York Times. He’s now been at the Times for 22 years.

Having the same educational foundation from CoJMC has been a big advantage to their communication over the years.

“Liz understands why I work such long hours, nights and over the weekends because she understands the process having been at the J School,” Getzfred said.

He recalled their second anniversary. They had to cancel their plans because there was a crash at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Liz also recounted a handful of times when they had to cancel vacations so she could be in court or deal with a new bankruptcy being filed.

“I think it helps that we’re both a bit of workaholics and Type A, but it’s really about being understanding and forgiving” Liz said. “Not everything can go right all the time and that’s okay.”

Liz and Mark have been married for almost 40 years. Their advice to other couples?

Try to have separate bathrooms.

“And you’ll want an ice maker, along with an automatic dishwasher and the mental capacity to figure out how a dishwasher should be stacked,” Liz said.

When the couple was first married they didn’t have an automatic ice maker, and there were many “battles” over the ice tray not being filled.

Their other piece of advice is to remember that you have to detach from your responsibilities once in a while, especially while on vacation. Put away your phone and don’t respond to emails, let yourself step away and don’t let your work consume you.

Mike and Karey Koehn

Karey Shephard Koehn and Mike Koehn attended a college internship event at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.recent family photo

At the start of the fall semester of her junior year, (Karey Shepard) Koehn was looking for a classmate who could take notes if she ever had to miss class.

She searched in the hallway outside the classroom, spotted Mike and decided he would be her notes person and went to introduce herself. She later found out that he was waiting for a different class next door.

As weeks went by, Karey noticed they both started arriving for class earlier than necessary. It became a before-class ritual to do the Daily Nebraskan crossword puzzle together. This went on for the entire semester. They soon began dating.

In the Koehns' case, opposites do attract. Karey said she is extroverted and has worked in corporate communications and public relations, while Mike is more introverted and has worked in data analysis and marketing.

Currently, Karey works at the University of Nebraska Foundation as the director of internal communications, and Mike is the vice president of marketing of a pet and veterinary supply firm.

The couple has three children. Their oldest Whitney went to Nebraska Wesleyan and has a degree in marketing and communications; she is now enrolled at the CoJMC in the graduate program.

Their son Spencer goes to Peru State College and is studying to be a middle school teacher and coach for small school systems. Their youngest, Harrison, is an eighth grader at Elmwood-Murdock.

Karey and Mike have had quite a few opportunities to work on communications projects together throughout their careers. They’ve learned that because they have different areas of expertise, they work great together as a team.

“It’s interesting because we have the same learning background from CoJMC, but I think that we approach communications and challenges very differently,” Karey said. “It makes working together easy.”

Colton and Sylvia Stone

The first time Colton asked Sylvia out on a date, she said no. The couple met their freshman year in a large lecture class. Sylvia remembered initially not liking Colton because he was the “teacher’s pet.” Colton disagreed.

The couple connected in CoJMC professor Rick Alloway’s audio production class. Everyone in the class was close with inside jokes that often centered around Colton. Then when Sylvia was a video production intern for Husker Vision and Colton was working for Big 10 U as an announcer, they spent even more time together.

While at UNL Sylvia worked with Alloway as a learning community mentor and Colton worked with him at the college’s radio station, KRNU.

“Rick approved of Colton, which made me think, this guy’s OK,” Sylvia said.
Sylvia said yes the second time Colton asked her out, and the rest as they say was history.

After graduating from CoJMC, the couple got married, and Alloway officiated the wedding. The day was extra special because it was Alloway’s 39th wedding anniversary.

In 2019 the couple moved to Omaha to start their careers, but Sylvia was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 23.

Rick — who has had his own battles with cancer — was someone she regularly communicated with throughout her sickness.

When Sylvia began her treatment in February 2020, she decided to use the skills she’d learned at the college to educate people about her experience.

“I used my social media accounts to let people know the steps they could take to find out if breast cancer was hereditary, like it was for me,” Sylvia said.

After more than 20 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, Sylvia’s current diagnosis is cancer-free.

And the couple’s advice for CoJMC students? Both encouraged students to “just go for it,” whether it’s an internship you think you’re not qualified for, or attending an event by yourself, or even asking someone out on that first date.

“You just never know who you’re going to meet at the CoJMC; they could change your life,” Colton said.


Jake Strange and Amanda Walla

Jake and Amanda first met in 2012 in Mass Media 101. Amanda remembers having assigned seats and that Jake’s seat was always in her line of vision.

Eventually Jake asked Amanda on a coffee date which turned into more coffee dates where they would talk for hours. Now, they’ve been together for almost eight years and have been living together for five years.

“We pride ourselves on being very open with our communication. Our friends often joke that we’re essentially married,” Jake said.

After graduating in 2016, Amanda was hired as a graphic designer at Omaha advertising agency Ervin and Smith. She has been there ever since.

Jake was hired full time at Agent as a project manager after his senior year internship as an account service intern there came to a close. His role eventually transitioned into a brand manager position.

The couple’s advice for CoJMC students is to start slow and get to know each other in person.

“Something unique about our love story is that we didn’t meet through online dating, which is kind of rare these days,” Amanda said. “It was special getting to know Jake slowly and I think that helped build the strong connection we have today.”

Jon and Taryn Vanderford

When Jon and Taryn Vanderford first met at UNL, they had two things in common: they were both in the Cornhusker Marching Band, and they played the same instrument, the saxophone.

During her sophomore year of college, Taryn decided to join the broadcasting program at UNL, and it was her first step in getting to know Jon.

She was sitting in Rick Alloway’s office, discussing the broadcasting program and while they were conversing about Taryn’s career, Jon called Rick.

“I remember Rick picking up the phone and asking me if I knew Jon Vanderford,” Taryn said. “I look back on that moment and think, isn't it odd that Jon called Rick the day I decided to become a journalist.”

It was the bond of the marching band that formed the bond of friendship because that year they got to go to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

As Taryn got to know Jon, she saw how outgoing he was. He was the star of the show in the marching band’s tradition of performing skits before Saturday games.

And in a performance class they took together, Jon had the entire class laughing as he pretended to sell guitars on a beach.

After her turn at selling shampoo went sour, Taryn knew she needed to overcome her shyness if she wanted to get serious about her career.

“I remember Dr. Walklin pulled me aside and told me that it’s OK to be shy, but once the cameras are on and the mics are turned up, I had to be somebody else,” Taryn said.

Taryn overcame her shyness and became one of the top broadcasting students in her year. Before graduating, she and Jon were named co-winners of the Outstanding Broadcasting Award.

Mutual friend Ford Clark takes credit for bringing the couple together because he continually encouraged Jon to ask Taryn out.

Now, they’ve been married almost 25 years. They have two children — Jacob is 18 and Olivia is 15. Jacob is a sports media and communication and vocal performance double major at UNL and Olivia attends Lincoln High School.

The Vanderfords haven’t always lived in Lincoln. Jon reported, anchored and served as a weather forecaster in St. Joseph, Missouri, after college. He came back to Lincoln to work at 10/11 as a weekend anchor and reporter.

Taryn started her broadcasting career working for 96KX radio station in Lincoln.

Then they moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, for seven years. There, Taryn was a producer, writer and researcher for several HGTV national programs, and Jon was an anchor and reporter for various newscasts at WATE-TV.

In 2003, the couple returned to Lincoln when Jon was offered the evening anchor position at KOLN 10/11.

Taryn joined the team in 2010 when she and Jon were paired up as co-anchors on the 10/11 morning show.

She and Jon started the show First at Four, which Taryn anchors and produces. They also created the show Pure Nebraska. Jon is the executive producer, writer, photographer and editor.

Taryn does a daily report for the 5 p.m. newscast and hosts “MomsEveryday” on weekdays. The couple also awards “The Golden Apple” to a nominated educator in the 10/11 viewing area each month.

These Emmy award-winning journalists have had many different roles throughout their careers in broadcast journalism.

“The key to staying in broadcast journalism is that you have to be willing to reinvent and adapt to new things,” Jon said.

Their advice for CoJMC students is to always have a backup plan.

“Remember you don’t have to be in TV or radio to find a career in journalism,” Taryn said. “You don’t want to accidentally limit your opportunities by not realizing the possibilities that are out there.”

Erik and Elise Wieseman

Elise Hernandez met Erik Wieseman when she was hired as an intern at Lincoln advertising agency Archrival in 2009. Erik had already graduated from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2008, he was working at the Lincoln Journal Star.

The couple met through mutual friends who were all alumni of CoJMC. They met on a Friday night at a party after work and were friends for three years before they started dating.

“The advertising community in Lincoln is strong in friendship. A lot of us stuck together when we were at the J School and we stayed close once we went off into the real world,” Erik said.

Erik left the Lincoln Journal Star and started working at an agency called Thought District as a copywriter. After graduating in 2010, Elise interviewed for a job in the account management department and got it.

“I remember I was really trying to prove myself as a young person in this industry, so I had strict expectations and was pushy with timelines,” Elise said. “Erik liked to take his time with his writing so we definitely butted heads in the beginning.”

They worked together for a year before Erik left to work for the Nebraska Book Company and helped launch its student-facing brand. It was when they stopped working together at Thought District that they went on their first date.

Elise decided to take charge and ask Erik out because she heard from their work friends that he had always been interested in dating her.

“I remember thinking he had a weird way of showing it because he was always so cranky with me,” Elise said.

“Being cranky is my love language,” Erik said.

The had been dating for about a year when the Nebraska Book Company relocated to the Chicago area, so Erik decided to go back to working at Thought District as a brand strategist.

A few months later Thought District became Agent, and the couple spent an additional four years working there.

They got married in 2016 and shortly after getting married, Elise got a call from Archrival about an account director opening She’s been there ever since.

In 2017, Erik left Agent to work in the marketing department at Nelnet, and continues there serving as associate creative director.

These days, Elise and Erik stay busy spending time with family, catching up with industry friends and CoJMC alumni, and taking care of Ford, their one and half year old.

Working and building their careers together in the same industry has worked out great for the Wiesemans. Erik examines things through a more creative and strategic lens, while Elise is more business-minded and client focused.

“I always have someone to bounce ideas off of, and he can offer an alternative perspective for any issues I run into at work because we work on different sides of the business,” Elise said.

Their advice to students and new graduates is to be open to making connections with people while in school and especially graduation.

“It’s not really about impressing people; it’s about being friendly and open,” Erik said. “You just never know what could happen.”

“It goes beyond finding love too, the connections you make can help lead you to some really great places,” Elise said. “Wherever you’re supposed to be, you’ll get there.”