Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Each fall, Eric and Eileen Gurwitz volunteer to help freshmen move into their dorms. While they help students lug boxes, bags and bedding into their new homes, the couple witnesses the introductions of roommates, classmates and friends.
Few are more aware of the potential those introductions hold than Eileen ’02, M.B.A. ’09 and Eric ’02, M.B.A. ’10. They met the day they moved into Olson Hall in September 1998. “We were fast friends within the first week,” Eileen says.
Over the next few years, they became best friends and then fell in love. Along the way, they earned bachelor’s degrees and, after leaving campus for a few years upon graduation, returned to Lawrenceville with jobs at the University and master’s degrees on the horizon. Now married, Eileen and Eric are expecting a baby boy in May.
They're two of the the alum-alum couples who will be at the pre-game tailgate Feb. 23. Open to alumni couples and graduates between 2004-2013, the tailgate is followed by men's basketball in the Alumni Gym.
At their wedding, the Eric and Eileen thanked Residence Life for introducing them on that first day of college, though the relationship took time to blossom. “Our friends knew we should be together before we did,” Eileen says. “We were really good friends, we were inseparable.”
They didn’t start dating until sophomore year, after a summer’s absence helped their hearts grow fonder. Eric had gone home to Long Island, Eileen to Ocean City, N.J. — a pattern they would repeat after graduation.
That first summer apart, they kept in touch through instant message and e-mail. “Coming back after being away from each other over the summer, you see someone differently,” Eileen says.
Being business majors — Eileen studied finance and Eric, marketing — they shared many of the same classes, and the future M.B.A.’s sought each other out for group work, knowing they could rely on each other to follow through on projects with excellence. In fact, academics became a source of friendly competition between them.
“Eric is amazingly smart,” Eileen says, “and I always used to strive to….”
“Beat me,” Eric interjects, finishing his wife’s sentence.
The two shared a penchant for analytical thinking and an orientation for data, numbers and — the stuff of true romance — Excel spreadsheets. “We’re both big Excel fans,” says Eric, who, like his wife, graduated with honors. He was also an Andrew J. Rider scholar.
As undergraduates, the two shared the same building for three years. “We basically lived together,” Eric says. “We saw each other in college just about as much then as now.”
That’s a slight exaggeration. Today, they drive to work together almost every morning from their home in Hopewell. In the afternoon, they eat lunch together, Eric packing Eileen’s lunch each day. And in the evening they return home as they came, as a pair.
“I think we’re just the right people for each other,” says Eric, explaining the bond.
He proposed on Skyline Drive in Virginia on a trip to see several sights — Monticello, Williamsburg, Busch Gardens. They pulled over at an overlook and Eric got down on one knee. “She was very surprised because she thought it was never going to happen,” he says, smiling.
That was July 2009 — July 26, Eileen recalls, to be precise. By then the couple had been dating for nine years and living together for two of them in a tiny home in Ewing. They were married less than a year later, in May 2010. About 90 people attended the ceremony, many with ties to the University.
Their circle of Rider friends grew after Eileen took a job at Dow Jones in Princeton, where she met several new colleagues with Rider diplomas. Moving there from her home in Ocean City, she cut her commute to see Eric in Long Island by more than half. In 2006, she was offered a job at Rider, where she continues to work in institutional analysis, crunching data to help the University run efficiently. She also teaches an introductory business class.
“I couldn’t give up the opportunity to come back,” Eileen says, explaining what drew her to return as an employee. “Rider’s my home. It’s where I met Eric.”
He would be in Lawrenceville less than a year later, gaining a job in the University’s admissions department, where he helps recruit students from Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as several boroughs in New York. The son of Alan Gurwitz ’71, he had stayed connected to Rider by volunteering at admissions events in Long Island.
“We really enjoyed our time here,” Eileen says. “We didn’t go home much at all and had a good set of friends. That’s part of why we wanted to come back to work, to make sure other students get that same experience.”
In addition to the immediate plans of welcoming a new baby into their home, they can picture a major milestone for their son off in the future: He is a prospective member of the class of ’36, which would make him a third-generation Rider alumnus.
“I would love to be able to share that with our son,” Eileen says.
A young alumni and alum-alum couples pregame tailgate and basketball game will be held on Feb. 23. Open to alumni couples and graduates between 2004-2013, the tailgate starts at noon at the Hall of Fame Atrium in the SRC. The basketball game vs. Siena starts at 2 p.m. in the Alumni Gym. Stop by and say hi to Eileen and Eric.