A PSU Love Story

Despite dropping her pencil multiple times in her geography class, Sandra Spears could not get “the big guy” sitting in front of her to take notice. But Sandra overheard his conversations and her attraction for Gary Curtis (‘63) never waned. “I could tell he was a nice person,” Sandra recalls. “There was a magnetism about him – he was interesting, handsome, and on the football team.”

Months later, the two would finally meet.

The year was 1959. Sandra was an 18-year-old freshman at Portland State College (PSC). Gary was a 23-year-old junior who had returned to PSC after serving two years in the Army. When Sandra became the College Center Board’s (CCB) secretary during winter term, the couple were formally introduced. As PSC’s Winter Carnival Director, Gary’s work brought him into the CCB office regularly.

Despite their age differences, they shared a social circle – students from the Viking Vets Club and those who took on leadership roles at PSC – and the two found themselves together at parties.

Gary’s interest grew. “I remember we played cards together one night,” Gary says. “Who wouldn’t like a girl that plays penny poker? Plus, she was perky, and I loved the ponytail that ran the length of her back.”

Gary asked her out on April 23, and their first date was a PSC production “Of Thee I Sing.”

“We didn’t have money, so dating meant we spent time a lot of time at each other’s families’ houses,” Sandra says. “We were kindred spirits very quickly.”

Sandra lived with her grandmother and Gary came for dinner every weekend. At Gary’s family’s house, the couple would eat hot dogs and potato chips sitting on the living room floor while watching football games. They spent Saturdays at live football games, and on Sundays, Sandra watched Gary play mushball.

Gary proposed to Sandra in early June after receiving her parents’ approval. “The bottom line is that I chased her until she caught me,” Gary laughs.

Although some of Sandra’s family were concerned that 18 was too young to marry, her grandmother was Gary’s champion.

Their wedding took place on August 23 – four months after their first date. “Our honeymoon was a few nights at the Overlook Apartments in Nelscott (now Lincoln City),” Sandra says, “and our one splurge was to see a PSC drama student in a theatrical performance at the Dorchester House (at the coast).”

Over the past 59 years, the couple have raised three children, and now they have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Their relationships with PSC classmates turned into lifelong friendships.

In August, Sandra and Gary will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Finally getting “the big guy’s” attention all those decades ago clearly led to something special. “My friends still say that we are the luckiest couple,” Sandra says.




Have you met a friend or significant other at Portland State?

If so, send us your #myPSUlovestory and a photo of you and your loved one. The first 20 submissions will receive a special Valentine’s Day-themed gift bag. PSU students, alumni, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate and spread the love!
All qualifying submissions will be placed into a Facebook album, and could also be shared on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
We’ll accept submissions until Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. We can’t wait to hear your stories of love!