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Friends Forever

When you throw strangers into a room and ask them to get along, sometimes you get mayhem and sometimes you get magic. These are the magical stories — tales of Pitt roommates whose friendships have stood the test of time, distance and lots and lots of life changes.
Photography by
Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh

We recently asked Pitt alumni via social media to tell us about residence hall roommates who became best friends. The response? Overwhelming. Alumni across decades and generations wrote to brag about their besties and describe how Pitt brought them together. Here are their stories:


Starks and Maura in black paint apronsSierra Starks (A&S ’12) and Maura Smith (NURS ’12)

Starks and Smith are the kind of best friends who share a language all their own. In their Pitt days, they called each other LOML, which stands for “love of my life.” The residence hall where they first met and lived together: “Tower Awesome” (for Litchfield Tower A). 

As students, Starks, an English writing major, and Smith, a nursing major, had packed schedules, but they found time for side hustles so they could afford new outfits for every occasion. And there were a lot of occasions — afternoons spent at football games or the August Wilson African American Cultural Center and nights at Little E’s Jazz Club on Liberty Avenue.

Though they went in separate directions after graduation, their Pitt-rooted friendship endured. Today, Smith lives overseas and Starks lives in Texas, which means they’re separated by an ocean and many time zones. They’ve kept in touch by traveling together as much as possible, but what sustains them most when work, miles and motherhood keep them apart is writing and mailing letters. 

They end each one “forever and ever, amen,” which is both a throwback to the sign-off they used when corresponding during Starks’ time studying abroad and a reminder that “we are still those inseparable friends from Tower A[wesome].”

Starks and Smith’s story appears in the Spring 2023 edition of Pitt Magazine.

Four people smile in a black and white photoRegina McPhie (A&S ’74) and Judy Sangl (A&S ’74, GSPIA ’78G, SPH ’78G)

They lived on the same floor in Holland Hall during their sophomore year on the Pittsburgh campus and lived together senior year. After graduation, when other college friendships began to fade, McPhie found her connection to Sangl only grew. “She was one of the rare persons who made efforts throughout the years to keep in touch,” McPhie says. They supported each other as they embarked on careers in federal government and adopted children. Today, they are in their 70s and retired from their careers, but never from each other.

Jordan Shoup (EDUC ’14, ’15G, SHRS ’17G) and Alexa Phillips (A&S ’14, SHRS ’16G)

A person in a black dress hugs a person in a wedding dressIn 2010, Shoup and Phillips were randomly assigned to live together in Tower A. In the 13 years since, they’ve explored the country together as traveling occupational therapists and attended each other’s weddings (Phillips was Shoup’s maid of honor and Shoup made it to Phillips’ nuptials just nine days after giving birth because “I just couldn’t miss her big day”). Today, they’re separated by eight hours but still schedule “FaceTime dates.”

Adam Gunn (A&S ’07, GSPIA ’09) and Austin Ransom (A&S ’08, GSPIA ’10)

Gunn and Ransom were roommates and teammates; now they’re office mates and neighbors. While at Pitt, they lived together and played football for then-Head Coach Dave Wannstedt. Today, they work in sales and marketing at the medical equipment company Stryker and live in the same neighborhood in Pine Township, Pennsylvania.

Mary Ellen Callahan (A&S ’90) and Nicole Rudolph (A&S ’90, ’93G)

Rudolph and CallahanRudolph and Callahan decided they would live together after meeting at a Chancellor’s Scholarship retreat the summer before their first year. They shared a room three of their four years at Pitt (and only missed the fourth because Callahan was studying abroad in Denmark). Their friendship and Pitt ties remain strong. They’ve both served on the Frederick Honors College Board of Visitors and Callahan was a Pitt Trustee from 2009 to 2022.

Cindy Rosenbaum Lynch (EDUC ’78) and Debbie Fisher Sufrin (EDUC ’78, ’81)Lynch and Sufrin

These education majors met before classes even began and have kept their friendship going for almost a half-century. “We met in 1974 at freshman orientation and we’ve been BFFs ever since,” Lynch says.

Smith and PinckneyAshley Smith (UPB ’15) and Brianna Pinckney (ENGR ’15)

During the summer of 2010, Smith and Pinckney ended up in the same activities line at Pitt-Bradford’s orientation and immediately noted their similarities — they were Black students pursuing careers in STEM and completely unfamiliar with Bradford. They roomed together for two years before Pinckney transferred to the Pittsburgh campus to complete her degree. Sadly, they lost touch. Fast forward to 2022 when they reconnected via Instagram and found they both live in Philadelphia, where they now meet up for brunches, dinners and sporting events. “Hail to Pitt for initiating a bond that years apart couldn't shatter!” Pinckney says.

Deb Berrett McGarr (A&S ’02), Stephanie Jennings (A&S ’02), Kelly Leininger (SHRS ’02, ’05G), Elaine Perignat (CBA ’02), Paula Young (SOC WK ’02)

These five friends met in Tower B during the fall of 1998 and roomed together, in various combinations, throughout their time at Pitt. When graduation arrived, they vowed to keep their connection by taking an annual girls’ trip, and they have — for 20 years! “My Pitt Girls keep me: sane, silly, happy, informed, curious, supported and living life the way it's meant to be enjoyed!” Perignat says.

Chintam and Appleton at Heinz FieldKelly Appleton (ENGR ’17) and Kavitha Chintam (ENGR ’17)

The pair met at a Pitt Start orientation presentation when the typically introverted Appleton introduced herself to Chintam. They quickly discovered they were both engineering majors living on the same floor in Sutherland West. They roomed together for the remainder of their college careers. Though they live in different cities today, they remain close — Chintam was even there when Appleton’s fiance proposed last year. “I'm so thankful I was feeling brave that day in the auditorium because now I have a lifelong friend,” Appleton says.

Greg Imbrogno (BUS ’12, ’13G) and Justin Lehr (ENGR ’12)Imbrogno and Lehr

Imbrogno and Lehr met sophomore year and lived together their last two years at Pitt, forming a tight bond while playing Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 and trading countless movie and TV references. “We were basically Troy and Abed from ‘Community,’ only before it was cool,” Imbrogno says. Though Lehr moved to Houston after graduation, they’ve remained close. They were in each other’s weddings and, whenever they get together, they make time for a game of Super Smash Bros.

Jeremiah Cislak (SHRS ’09) and Brian Liszka (ENGR ’09)

Liszka and Cislak met in the fall of 2005 and, despite their very different majors — athletic training and industrial engineering — they quickly connected. Today, they get their families together several times per year and head out on what Cislak calls “some crazy hunting adventures.”

Shabazz and PavlovAisha Shabazz (A&S ’07) and Allison Pavlov (NURS ’08)

Shabazz and Pavlov were roommates at Pitt Start and have been “attached at the hip ever since,” Shabazz says. They’ve even been bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, including Shabazz’s 2022 nuptials in Denver, where they snapped this photo.


Carol Gober Anthony (SHRS ’82), Cheryl Beckert Flinn (CGS ’80), Dee Williams Green (CGS ’80), Betsy Straub McArdle (A&S ’80) and Shawn Loeffler McCarren (A&S ’80)

These women were inseparable after a 1976 meet-cute — they literally bumped into each other in a 13th-floor bathroom late one night in Tower B. They lived together in dorms, suites and a Squirrel Hill apartment over the following three years. Some of Green, McArdle, McCarren, Anthony and Flinntheir best memories were made on lazy Sunday afternoons, gathered around the table with a newspaper, fresh bagels and cans of Tab while Earth, Wind and Fire played on the stereo. Though they stayed in touch in the decades after graduation, the inevitable eventually occurred. “Relocations happen, children happen, life happens, and the connections loosen a bit,” McCarren says.

So, in 2015, they rectified that with their first — and what would become their annual — Fab Five reunion. Every Memorial Day weekend for the past seven years (with the exception of 2020), they’ve rekindled the friendships that began in that Tower B bathroom.

Emily Rosen (CGS ’22) and Lauren Zaslow (A&S ’22)Zaslow and Rosen in front of a blue and yellow background

Zaslow and Rosen met in a Pitt chat group on Facebook in 2018 and “clicked almost immediately,” Rosen says. Together, they lived in Litchfield Towers, made it through sorority recruitment, planned to study abroad (until COVID happened) and — last year — graduated. Rosen lives in New York City and Zaslow in Chicago, but they still make time to talk every day.

Gianna Callisto (A&S ’17) and Meital Rosenberg (A&S ’17)

Callisto and RosenbergRosenberg and Callisto met when they were randomly assigned to live together on the ninth floor of Sutherland West. After graduation, they moved to San Francisco, where they shared an apartment for five more years (they even quarantined together). Their streak came to an end in 2022 when Callisto moved to Washington, D.C., to attend law school and Rosenberg relocated to New York, but they still chat and visit as often as possible. “It's been an incredible nearly 10 years of friendship and we owe it all to Pitt’s freshman room assignment!” Rosenberg says.

A person in a teal dress poses with a person in a black hat and teal shirtAmber Greene (BUS ’06) and Ashley Morton (NURS ’06)

After graduating from Woodland Hills High School, located just east of Pittsburgh, Greene and Morton attended Pitt together and were roommates all four years. Today, they remain best friends, as illustrated by this photo at their 20-year high school reunion.

Shayna Cornell (A&S ’06), Katy Epting (ENGR ’06), Mary Higgins (ENGR ’06), Kisa Kurtz (A&S ’06), Molly Kwiatowski (A&S ’06), Bethany Mackin (SHRS ’06, ’08G), Laura Pfeifer (A&S ’06), Bianca Smith (A&S ’07) and Veronica Szabo (A&S ’06)Epting, Cornell, Kwiatowski, Kurtz, Pfeifer, Smith, Szabo, Higgins, Mackin

These nine women were each other’s roommates, support systems and confidantes during their years at Pitt. Even as they scattered to different cities, launched careers and began families, they’ve made sure to meet up at least once per year, including this gathering in the Poconos in January 2023.

Gutter and Suto pose with their childrenSarah Suto (A&S ’99) and Kia Gutter 

When these two were paired together in a room in Tower B, they didn’t exactly hit it off. But during spring break that year, they both opted to stay on campus and found they didn’t have anyone else to eat dinner with — so a friendship was born over a meal at the William Pitt Union. “We realized that we had so much in common, but also that we were two sassy ladies who could crack each other up,” says Gutter. In the ensuing years, they’ve seen each other through marriage, divorce, remarriage, children, the loss of parents and countless moves.

Michelle Wydra (A&S ’02) and Christina Sander Vogler (ENGR ’02)

Wydra and Vogler in graduate regaliaRoommates who row together stay together, apparently. Wydra and Vogler met during their first year at Pitt when they both joined the crew team. They moved in together a year later and remained roommates until graduation, when Wydra left for Louisiana. Despite the distance, the former roommates kept in close contact and were reunited in October 2022 when Wydra moved back to Pittsburgh. Vogler’s oldest son has plans to attend Pitt, just like his mom. “My greatest hope is that he finds the same sustaining, deep friendship his mother and I have,” Wydra says.

Megan Cotter (A&S ’13) and Samantha Poindexter (A&S ’14)

Poindexter and Cotter hold flowersThey bonded in a world music class and music still plays an important part in their friendship. They’re already planning their summer concert schedule. “From floor mates in Tower A to building mates in PA Hall to roommates in Bouquet J! Thirteen years of friendship!” Poindexter says.

Bobbi Jo Calderone Wagner (A&S ’89) and Michele Dovenspike Hockenberry (SHRS ’89)

Since their time together at Pitt, Wagner and Hockenberry have served as maids of honor in each other’s weddings and godparents to each other’s children. They have supported each other through loss, celebrated career success and traveled together. Their friendship even extends to their husbands, who have become fishing buddies.

Thomas Converso (A&S ’11) and Andrew Haugen (A&S ’11)

Converso and HaugenConverso and Haugen met in 2007 when they moved into Tower A together. The duo bonded over witty banter and sports and managed to combine the two when they hosted a show on WPTS their senior year. “We thought of ourselves as the ‘Pardon the Interruption: Pitt Edition,’” Converso says. Since graduation, Converso has remained tight with Haugen and his family, joining them for holidays, serving as a groomsman in three family weddings and becoming godfather to Haugen’s son, Henry.

Cordisco, Alcoff and Mackley danceIsabel Alcoff (A&S ’75, SCI ’76G), Frosina Cordisco (A&S ’72, KGSB ’76G) and Barbara Hladio Mackley (NURS ’73)

In January 1972 — her second semester at Pitt — Alcoff moved into a suite in Brackenridge Hall and found true friends in Mackley and Cordisco. Over 50 years, they saw each other through marriage, children, divorce, illness and, recently, death. When Mackley lost her battle with leukemia, Alcoff spoke at her funeral. “One can never predict who your lifetime friends will be, but we opened our hearts to each other from the first day I walked into the suite,” Alcoff says.

Haley Adams (CBA ’06) and Lindsay Andrews (CBA ’06)

Andrews and Adams in wedding attireAndrews and Adams were suitemates-turned-roommates at Sutherland Hall. Their connection, Andrews says, was instant — belting out show tunes, going dancing and studying abroad together. After graduation, they moved to Washington, D.C., where their adventures continued. Andrews returned to Pittsburgh in 2015, but the distance hasn’t affected their closeness. The pair meet up for Pitt football games and trips to Deep Creek Lake. “We are both so thankful for that random selection process at Pitt Housing Services for bringing Haley and I together over 20 years ago!” Andrews says.

Stacey Davis (A&S ’89) and Terri Wiggins (A&S ’89)

Wiggins and DavisWiggins and Davis met sophomore year when they were both assigned to Holland Hall and immediately made plans to live together off campus. Davis calls their friendship the epitome of roommates-turned-besties.” “We navigated the party scene, supported each other through ‘boyfriend drama’ and heartbreak, and pushed each other to make it across the graduation finish line.” After graduation, they both moved to their shared hometown of Philadelphia. After a short separation because of jobs, they are back in the same city — this time, Atlanta, where they help each other navigate careers, book the next girls’ trip and plan the latest holiday menu.

Dana Abel (A&S ’03) and Brie Adams (A&S ’03)Abel and Adams at a Pitt basketball game

Abel and Adams met at their Pitt-Greensburg orientation in 1999. They became roommates during their second semester and then transferred to the Pittsburgh campus, where they lived in a house on Melwood Avenue. Though they’ve been separated by thousands of miles over the years, Abel says late-night memories made at Hillman Library and Peter’s Pub — and their “shared interest in the Blue and Gold” — have kept them close.

Mimi Willoughby Houde (A&S ’01) and Erin Duffee (A&S ’01)

They have been friends since 1997 when they shared a room in Tower C. Whether they were close (Houde spent many weekends with Duffee’s family in Clarion, Pennsylvania) or far away (they kept in touch via email when they studied abroad in England and Australia), they remained the best of friends. Today, when they get together, they bring their kids along.

Four women pose with a Pitt Magazine in front of a Myrtle signAnne Peretin Lester (SHRS ’85), Christina Laichak Sakmar (SHRS ’85), Kathleen Schultz Hagerty (SHRS ’85), Joanna Mittereder (UPJ ’84, SOC WK ’86G)

These four women, who met during their first year at Pitt-Johnstown, are roommates-turned-best friends who went on to create Pitt families. Two of them married Pitt alumni, three of them sent their children to Pitt and one is a current student (Mittereder is working toward her PhD in the School of Education). “We’ll be friends forever,” Mittereder says.

Christina Jolley (NURS ’12) and Jamie Novak Pavlovsky (A&S ’12)

Jolley rests an elbow on Pavlovsky's headJolley and Pavlovsky met at Forbes Hall, where “a friendship quickly blossomed out of dry humor and obscure Harry Potter references,” Jolley says. They’ve only grown closer since graduation, as they travel and attend concerts together. This summer, they’ll combine their hobbies when they fly off to Dublin (with Pavlovsky’s husband in tow) to see Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy.


This story was published on April 26, 2023.