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Miami celebrates Valentine's Day with its mergers

02/13/2012

It's a tradition deeply rooted at Miami University. Alumni couples, affectionately referred to as "Miami Mergers," are honored every year on Valentine's Day. This year, the Miami University Alumni Association (MUAA) sent nearly 13,000 Valentine's Day cards to alumni across the country.

While Miami administrators are hesitant to cite reasons for the high rate of marriage of Miami alumni to other Miami alumni, a psychology professor shared his thoughts surrounding Miami’s 14 percent merger rate.

“Oxford, being a small town, means Miami students are more likely to live among, socialize with, and, thus, date other Miami students,” said Allen McConnell, the Jim and Beth Lewis Endowed Professor of Psychology at Miami. “In larger urban areas, college student may live miles away from campus and have social networks that extend well beyond their universities and fellow students. In Oxford, Miami students make up the large majority of the dating pool.”

He also said the strong influence of the Greek system on campus is a major contributing factor to Miami’s higher than average (reportedly three percent at other universities) marriage rates.

“A good amount of Greek activity focuses on social interactions that promote ‘hooking up’ and dating,” added McConnell. “Certain fraternities and sororities have long-standing bonds, such as working together on homecoming projects and having formals together.”

McConnell, who also taught at Michigan State, said seniors at other universities seem ready to graduate and move on, while Miami’s seniors are sad and even distraught during their senior year about their Miami days ending.

Other contributing factors include:
  • Students knowing the history surrounding Miami’s high rate of mergers, and that information guides people’s behaviors and even produces self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • Miami students are typically more conservative than the average college student, and data from a number of sources (e.g. Pew Research Center) suggests these students will marry at an earlier age.

Officials have no way to know how many Mergers have honored the myth surrounding the Upham Hall arch (according to campus legend, couples who kiss under the light at midnight will marry). This may, or may not be a contributing factor.

McConnell said it is hard to predict what the future holds for Miami’s tradition of mergers.

“One possibility is Miami will have more mergers than other schools, but people will wait longer to marry. On the other hand, if ‘waiting longer’ means people begin exploring the dating pool in their first jobs or in graduate school, it may have a significant impact in reducing the merger rate.”

The tradition of sending Valentine’s Day cards to mergers began in 1973. Former university administrators came up with the idea while reviewing Miami’s high marriage rate among alumni.

Miami mergers are encouraged to share their stories of finding love on the school’s alumni website, www.MiamiAlum.org/mergers.

Miami Mergers At A Glance

• 27,230 alumni married to another alum
• 13,615 total mergers
• 15 mergers already reported from the class of 2011
• 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 graduates have the highest rate of mergers
• Ohio is the top state for mergers and South Dakota has the least mergers
• Mergers live in all 50 states
• Undergraduate activities with the highest rate of mergers include residence halls, study abroad, Alpha Phi Omega, Naval ROTC and Laws, Hall and Associates

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