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Majority of Miami mergers kiss under Upham arch

02/13/2013



Written by Ritter Hoy
Nearly 80 percent of Miami University's mergers report kissing under the Upham Hall arch at some point during their courtship. The informal (and unscientific) survey was launched as part of this year's Valentine's Day merger cards.

According to Miami folklore, couples who kiss at the Upham arch will get married. “Miami Mergers” refers to living alumni married to other alumni, and each year the Miami University Alumni Association (MUAA) sends Valentine’s Day cards to the couples.

The parameters surrounding the Upham arch legend are quite simple: It has to be midnight, and the light must be on. The history surrounding the tradition is a little harder to trace.

The legend is believed to have started between 1949 and 1965. Upham Hall was built in 1949, and Miami President Emeritus Phillip Shriver said the tradition was already established when he became the university’s president in 1965.

“There are only a few stories about the arch in The Miami Student from the 1950s,” said Bob Schmidt (Miami, Ph.D. ’84), Miami’s records manager, archivist and assistant librarian. “It was a favorite student gathering spot and a place where people took cigarette breaks.”

“The legend likely began by word of mouth,” hypothesized Schmidt. “Someone might have said something about marriage and the arch, and the tale was embellished and passed from student to student.”

Unofficial Miami historian Rod Nimtz (Miami ’79) adds his own conjecture, which seems to add up.

“At the time Upham was constructed there were no buildings to the east, and East Quad was still undeveloped,” said Nimtz, the director at Miami’s Voice of America Learning Center. “Just beyond Upham was Bishop Woods (in its original state), which was probably a romantic spot where couples would go for quiet walks. If the arch was the way ‘back into’ the campus, the legend may have started then.”

The 13.5 percent Miami merger rate – the highest alumni marriage rate the university could find anywhere – is largely unexplained, but a psychology professor thinks that in addition to Oxford being a small town, the Greek system is a major contributing factor.

“Oxford is a small town, meaning 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. “A good amount of activity within Miami’s Greek system is directed toward social interactions that promote dating. Fraternities and sororities have long-standing bonds, such as working together on homecoming projects and having formals together. That increases the merger rate.”

Since 1973 Miami has sent its mergers Valentine’s Day cards. University administrators started the tradition after they realized how high Miami’s marriage rate is among alumni.

Although she hasn’t confirmed it, Miamian alumni magazine editor Donna Boen (Miami ’83) hears, “When February 14 is a nice evening, weather wise, there’s a line of couples waiting their turn to kiss under the arch by the time midnight strikes.”

Notable Miami mergers include Charlie and Delores Coles, Mike and Frances DeWine and Dick and Joyce Farmer.

Last year, the Miami merger rate was 14 percent. It’s hard to say for certain what’s behind the decline, but McConnell speculated that “waiting longer to marry and exploring the dating pool could have a significant impact on reducing the merger rate.”

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

• 27,156 alumni married to another alum

• 13,578 total mergers

• Ohio is the top state for mergers, followed by Illinois, Florida, Indiana and Michigan

• Each of the 50 states is home to mergers

• North Dakota has the least mergers, with just one

• 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 graduates have the highest rate of mergers

• 13 mergers are already reported from the class of 2012

• Undergraduate activities with the highest rate of mergers include: residence halls, study abroad, Alpha Phi Omega, Naval ROTC, Marching Band and Laws Hall and Associates

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