A law school Valentine: Couples meet at WSU

Although law school isn't typically thought of as a romantic place, there are some lucky couples for whom the classrooms of Wayne State University Law School provided fertile ground for sowing the seeds of love.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Wayne Law caught up with several alumni couples.

Stephen Wayne, '09, and Ellen Wayne, '10, were both on the Wayne Law Student Board of Governors (SBG) and met at an SBG community service event at Cass Community Social Services. Ellen was drawn to his sense of humor and passion for helping those in need. Stephen was attracted by something a bit more obvious: "She's gorgeous," he said. "We had good conversation, i.e. she listened to my crazy stories," he added. "And we both enjoyed community service."

They talk of many good times at Wayne Law, including an SBG Halloween party where they went dressed as Sarah Palin and Michael Phelps and won 1st and 2nd place in a costume contest. They also recall "commandeering a room in the classroom building" to watch a movie on the projector screen since Stephen didn't have a TV and they were tired of watching movies on his laptop.

The two married on Sept. 3, 2010, at the Belle Isle Casino and both work as public defenders for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy in Hazard, Ky. Asked whether they enjoy working together, Stephen jokes, "Nothing beats romantic evenings at the jail meeting with our clients." He adds in earnest that experiencing joys and defeats and many shared memories is a great plus. "It's nice to have someone who understands what you've been through and what you're doing at work. Being able to dissect the bull on Law & Order SVU together."

"Our families are still in suburban Detroit and we try to visit often. We're focused on meeting new friends and building a home here, and we love to travel and hike in national parks," Ellen said. Stephen coaches the Hazard High School boys soccer team.

Kris and Kristin Dighe, both '87, met in the first-year section. "We first knew each other as Mr. Dighe and Ms. Wilcox," Kris said. "We now call each other by our first names."

Kris fell for Kristin right away. "She was quick-witted, intelligent and pretty darn good looking," he said. "Still is all three." Kristin is quick to return the compliments: "He was smart, energetic and looked good in a Tigers baseball cap. Ditto on the above."

As an SBG rep, Kris founded the annual Ambulance Chase. "I invited Wayne State medical students, thinking it would be nice if they got to know us better," he said. Kristin, a non-runner, competed in the race a few years later and, as the only woman participant, won in the "female attorney" category.

They got married Aug. 8, 1987. "We thought about it, but just couldn't wait for 8/8/88," Kris said.

After a short stint in private practice at a large firm in Florida, Kristin has made her career as a federal law clerk. She currently works for U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, District of Columbia. Kris is currently assistant chief of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Both are involved in federal policy.

"It makes life easier having the same profession," Kris said. "We can use shorthand when discussing legal news. And, since our offices are close together, we ride the Metro to work together every morning."

Though they work in the same city, they do not work together. "We can't work together," Kris explained. "If I appear before a judge for whom Kristin works, the relationship must be made known to the defendant and Kristin is screened from that case. We prefer it that way, rather than to end the relationship so I could appear before Kristin's judge," he teases.

They live in Rockville, Md., with their two teenagers. "We regularly read the cartoon strip Zits to maintain our sanity," Kris said. A member of the Wayne Law Board of Visitors, Kris said he and his wife "are big supporters of the Law School and want to see it continue to thrive and improve its reputation nationally. We would love to see more Wayne Law graduates come to Washington to practice."

Dragan (Danny) and Mercedes Dordeski, both '07, share many likes, but a shared dislike brought them together.

"There was a very outspoken woman in one of our classes whose opinions didn't exactly align with my own," Mercedes said. "One day when she was talking during a class discussion, I turned around and noticed that Danny had a slightly exasperated look on his face, like he was thinking the same thing I was. I couldn't help but laugh, and so after class I went up and started talking to him."

Despite this, Danny was still hesitant to ask Mercedes out on a date. "I knew if she said no, I'd still have to see her in class every day and it would be awkward," he said. "I finally waited until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break--I figured if she said no, I could at least avoid her for a long weekend."

A favorite law student memory of theirs is a spring break trip they took together to Washington, D.C. "Of course the very first place we visited was the Supreme Court," Mercedes recalled. "We went on a tour and the guide kept asking the group all these questions, for example, 'What do they call the appellant in a Supreme Court hearing?' We were the only ones who knew the answers. I'm sure the other participants in the tour group were wondering 'Who are these two?'"

The couple married on Sept. 20, 2008. Danny is chief probation officer at the 16th District Court in Livonia and also practices criminal defense. Mercedes is currently an associate at Frank, Haron, Weiner in Troy and specializes in health care law and false claims act litigation. She is on the Publications Committee for the State Bar of Michigan Health Care Law Section, and authors a health law blog (www.healthcarelawyerblog.com).

Both feel it is a plus that they have the same profession. "I love that I can bounce ideas off Danny. He often looks at legal issues from a different perspective than I do and can offer suggestions or ideas that I haven't thought of before," Mercedes said. "He also knows a lot about criminal law, which is really helpful. Sometimes I think it would be really hard to be married to a non-lawyer!"

They live in Beverly Hills and love to watch college football, especially when their undergraduate alma maters (University of Michigan and Western Michigan University) play each other. "Those weekends can be pretty tense," Mercedes said.

Brian and Mary DuFour Morrow, both '86, met their first year of law school. "I remember that first-year students were placed in 'sections' and had all core required classes together," Mary recalled. "We were both in section three and part of an informal study group."

"At first I was attracted to Mary's beautiful smile, wide eyes and silky hair," Brian said. "Upon getting to know her as a friend, I was attracted to her sense of integrity, honesty and intellect." Mary liked his "easy-going attitude and sense of humor."

The two married on Nov. 7, 1987. Both currently work for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office (WCPO), Mary as an assistant prosecuting attorney and Brian as deputy chief of the Juvenile Division, where, among other duties, he oversees the Teen Court Program in 34th District Court and at Detroit's Southeastern and Denby high schools.

"Being able to bounce ideas off of each other is a great benefit of having the same profession," Mary said. "We definitely understand the particular challenges, stresses and rewards of working for the WCPO, and we rely on each other for advice and support."

Residents of Northville, Brian and Mary share a commitment to community service and are both active with Habitat for Humanity. They are the parents of a 22-year-old son who is teaching English in France and an 18-year-old college freshman daughter. They are avid travelers and are planning a family vacation to France this spring where they will meet up with their son.

Matt and Caroline Engelbert, both '97, met as first-year students. "I spotted Caroline the first day of class," Matt said. "It took me a couple weeks to muster the courage to ask her out. Three months later, we were engaged."

Matt added, "The moment I saw her, I knew I would marry her. Sounds crazy but, then again, many people would say I am a little crazy. Fortunately for me, Caroline has very poor eyesight!"

The two married while still students, on June 15, 1996. Matt is pursuing his dream of being in the entertainment business running TV production company Soup J Productions LLC, and producing a nationally syndicated family musical variety show, Ariel and Zoey and Eli, Too, which can be seen locally on WXYZ-DT2 (RTV). "I am constantly dealing with contracts, licenses--everything associated with entertainment law," he said. "Since Ariel, Zoey and Eli are three of our four children, Caroline has her hands full keeping the family functioning," he added.

Both are active in the community as well, volunteering in youth sports and for their kids' schools. They both also serve as directors of the Benard L. Maas Foundation.

The two have great memories of attending Wayne Law together as well as of their classmates and professors. "If it weren't for Wayne Law, I never would have met Caroline, had four wonderful children and been living this incredible dream," Matt said.

Published: Mon, Feb 14, 2011


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