Finding Love on Lancaster


Courtesy of Austin Joyal

The Joyal/Mischler engagement.

Elena Rouse, Co-Culture Editor

Something is in the air, and for once, it isn’t COVID-19. It is something transcendent of that gloom—love. Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and with it comes thoughts of that intangible entity that gives hope, joy and everlasting companionship. However, Feb. 14 is not the sole cultivator of such sentimentality. If history gives any indication to where love is found, this University would likely be the culprit. Countless students across decades of the University’s existence have found love during their four years at Villanova. Every year, the St. Thomas of Villanova Church is the venue for a multitude of alumni weddings and has quite an extensive waitlist. As the University moves closer to the day of love, there is no better way to celebrate than to highlight some of the University’s very own love stories. 

For the first couple, the University’s basketball team was good for more than winning  championships. It was January 1989 when a Villanova versus Seton Hall away game prompted Mary Brunell ‘92 and her friends to drive to New Jersey. Brad Brunell ‘91 decided to attend with his friend as well. Brad and Mary met up before the game since their traveling companions knew each other. According to Mary, it was not love at first sight. In fact, she remembers mistaking him for rude after they were forced to share a ride back to campus together, and he refused to move his seat forward to give her more leg room. However, the animosity was quick to fade, and the two began dating later that year. 

During Mary’s senior year, she rushed to schedule a wedding reservation at the University church, finding only Halloween morning available for the next two years. Current sophomore Jane Brunell is one of the couple’s two children and discussed her parents’ wedding story.

“They got married in the morning and had a costume party for the reception at night,” Jane said. “Lots of family and friends from all over the country got into costume and were there for the celebration.”

Another 1990s couple that had a Halloween connection were the parents of Abigail Lukas, a current sophomore at the University. Her mother, Madeline, recounted how she met her husband during the couple’s sophomore year in Stanford Hall.

“I even remember what he was wearing,” Madeline recalled. 

However, it was not until junior year when some friends reintroduced Madeline to Peter Lukas that sparks flew. The two began dating around Halloween. After graduating in 1990 and tying the knot in 1997, the couple now has two daughters. Abigail and senior Katherine both attend the school where their parents met.  

The next couple includes Danica O’Neill, a 2007 graduate who was a freshman when she met sophomore Patrick O’Neill ‘06. They were first acquainted through mutual friends. The two formed a platonic relationship for three years while Danica received her degree in mechanical engineering and Patrick earned his in biology. 

Danica argues that it took so long for them to come together because “Patrick took some convincing.”

However, Patrick soon admitted his feelings. The two got engaged four years after graduating, and they eventually celebrated their nuptials at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church. Happily in love with each other and the community that brought them together, the two now live in Kansas City with their three children. Even so, the everlasting bond that they found at their alma mater could not keep them away for long. Last year, the two baptized their youngest son, Frances, in the church where they married. In attendance at the ceremony was Frances’s godmother and the very friend that introduced the couple all those years ago.

The last Villanova couple is a product of modern romance. The pairing consists of Austin Joyal and Hannah Mischler, 2018 graduates who got engaged this past summer. When Mischler was a freshman, she frantically tried to find a date for her first Alpha Phi formal after her date cancelled two days prior to the event. She decided to use the group messaging system “GroupMe” to ask her new Alpha Phi sisters and eventual bridesmaids if they knew anyone interested in going. Her sisters gave two names. One of them was her future fiancé. Stalking each boy on Instagram combined with a poll taken by the sisters decided the fateful meeting of these two lovebirds. 

Mischler recalled the bus ride to formal. 

“We just started talking and it was just the easiest conversation…we didn’t even have to try..we just hit it off,” she said.

After the night out, Joyal knew he wanted to see Mischler again, so he asked her out in full Villanova style. 

“We ended up going to Mass together and getting cheesesteaks at Conn after,” Joyal said.

From then on, everything seemed to click. Dating all through college, the couple experienced everything together, from study abroad travels to being orientation counselors. 

In June, the couple got engaged at the spot of their first official date and the venue of their future wedding. The St. Thomas of Villanova Church shined brightly as Mischler squealed in shock when the love of her life knelt down on the grounds of their alma mater to ask for her hand in marriage.

Based in Philadelphia, Mischler is studying to be a nurse practitioner, while Joyal works in wealth management. Besides working, these former Villanovans spend their free time knee deep in love, Villanova pride and wedding planning. 

“Hopefully the pandemic agrees with us and we can get married in August,” Mischler said. “We’ve talked about even if we can’t have a big party we still definitely want to get married there [The Villanova Church].” 

It goes without saying that the whole community hopes for that as well.

These Villanova love stories are a testament to the love on campus, but they merely scratch the surface of all the submissions received for this article and the total number of University marriages. In a time of such hatred and fear, it’s these stories of love that infuse hope for the future.