Seawolves in Love
Cupid aimed his bow at these Stony Brook alumni
Our Stony Brook love story trilogy begins with a couple who graduated in 1970, had very different majors and have very different versions of how they met. What matters, however, is that their commonality overcame those differences.
“We gave each other space and support,” is how Ike Nassi described his marital longevity with wife, Ronee. After three married sons and a lot of career moves,, Ike said he is now known as “Ronee Nassi’s husband” in their hometown of Los Gatos, California, where she has been the executive director of the chamber of commerce and “the Queen of Schmooze” (his words) for the past 12 years.
Ike is being modest; he is a veteran of many startups and held executive positions at Cisco Systems and at Apple Computer, where he landed in between “Jobs” — as in Steve, its founder —he loves to joke. He recently retired from SAP, the third-largest computer software company in the world.
Ike earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree and doctorate in computer science at Stony Brook; Ronee got her bachelor’s degree in sociology and her master’s in liberal studies.
As it often happens with couples, Ike’s first memory of their meeting doesn’t marry up with Ronee’s. “I believe I met Ronee in Psych 101 in our sophomore year and she was sitting in front of me. She remembers taking the class but denies having met me in it.”
According to Ronee, their first meeting occurred when they worked successive shifts at the University’s language lab. “A friend of mine who worked with her was always hitting on her,” said Ike, “and I would come and rescue her from him.”
Ike remembers that she actually had a steady boyfriend — “this smart, wealthy guy going to be a doctor, and yet she wound up with me, a scruffy math major — one of those left-wingers who took the bus to march in Washington, DC.”
The relationship blossomed due partly because Ike was a resident assistant and “the only one with a TV.” He would bring it to the common area in the freshman hall, and “Ronee would come over to watch Star Trek,” he said.
They graduated in June 1970, were married in July, and are still going strong. The software specialist with a soft spot for his college sweetheart said the couple will celebrate their 44th anniversary on a cruise to Alaska later this year.
The second love story involves Gina Vanacore ’89, associate director of residential programs, and her husband Anthony D’Agostino, her significant other for 15 years. They became the first couple to tie the knot at the Hilton Garden Inn on campus this past June 22.
“We were set up by a mutual friend to go on a blind date,” said Gina, an applied math, statistics and economics major. “Our worlds wouldn’t have collided. I’m college educated and he fixes boilers for a living, but we work because he’s the most prejudice-free person I know,” she said. “My life is so entwined here, and I’ve been watching the school grow since I started working here [in 1991]. Anthony gets that it’s more than just a job here for me.”
Gina said one of the reasons that she got married at the Hilton Garden Inn is that a lot of the invitees to the wedding were former Stony Brook employees or alumni and she wanted to share Stony Brook’s enormous transformation with them.
“We’re still cooking and we’ve had our share of turmoil,” she said. “This Valentine’s Day, we’ll be celebrating the anniversary of our first date at Sur La Table [in Lake Grove, New York], where we frequently attend couples culinary classes.”
Another couple bitten by the love bug at Stony Brook were student-athletes Tara Ciccone and Adam Lent, who were also introduced by a mutual friend — fellow student-athlete Michell Bahar ’08. They met in 2005 when Tara was a freshman on the crew team and Adam was a junior playing lacrosse. They became life teammates on September 28, 2013.
“We hit it off right from the start,” said Tara. “His personality was infectious, and to this day we just have so much fun together. This is our ninth Valentine’s Day together and our first as a married couple. It’s always exciting to hit another milestone.”
An anthropology major, Tara now works as a neurosurgical physician assistant. Adam, who works for B/E Aerospace, was a history major. Stony Brook alumni made up a third of the wedding party, she noted.
There have been a lot of changes at Stony Brook over the years, but there is one thing that has remained the same — the language of love is still spoken here.