Love Is In The Air As Rockhurst, Avila Couples Are Celebrated

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Staff blessing couples from Rockhurst and Avila College

For years, before Rockhurst University and Avila University both went co-ed in 1969 and Avila moved its campus from 55th and Main streets to south Kansas City, the two schools shared a unique bond.

The all-female College of St. Teresa (now Avila) and the all-male Rockhurst were known as “brother-sister” schools, and it was not uncommon to see students of one of the campuses at social and other events at the other. Enough matches were made that it’s become a joke there might be another, more deserving title — “husband-wife” schools. And on Tuesday, Rockhurst and Avila together celebrated all of those Hawks-Eagle couples for the first time with a Mass and brunch on the Rockhurst campus that included presidents from both universities.

In the late 1950s and through the 1960s, Avila students kept the energy up for capacity crowds in Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse as cheerleaders for the Rockhurst basketball team. When it came time for Rockhurst’s homecoming, Avila students were the queen.

Some of the connection was a matter of geography, according to Virginia Coppinger, a graduate of what was then the College of St. Teresa.

“The guys could walk back and forth pretty easily,” she said.

But specific social programming also brought students from the two campuses together. One example is the Rockhurst Discussion Group. Virginia’s husband, Tom, ’58, said the group was for young, single adults, and included presentations and discussions of various topics, and was also something of a mixer for the neighboring institutions.

“I think 75 percent of the couples who started dating because of that got married,” Tom joked.

Though Virginia and Tom did see each other on a regular basis as students, they had actually been acquainted for some time before that.

“We met in kindergarten,” Virginia said.

“Sandbox 101,” Tom adds.

They came up together through elementary and high school in Kansas City. When it came time to pick a career path, they were in a similar boat there, too — albeit at different schools.

“We didn’t know that we each wanted to go into the medical fields,” Virginia said. “I went into nursing, Tom became a doctor, and so we both supported each other in those fields.”

So what is their secret?

“This was a lifetime commitment,” Tom said of their marriage. “Even through the bad times, there was no escape clause.”

Even after their college careers ended, many Rockhurst and Avila students from the 50s and 60s kept in touch through a regular supper club that continues today.

Rockhurst University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., said social connections aren’t the only things that the two institutions have shared for decades. The sponsors of Avila, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, were aided in their original charter in France by a Jesuit priest. The two partner on initiatives where they can. And, of course, there is the shared foundation as Catholic institutions in the heart of Kansas City.

“One of the many common threads that links the mission, the work, and the history of our two institutions is this notion of being a lifelong learner and making a significant impact on the world in which we live,” Fr. Curran said.