Bryan J. ‘13 and Maria Gommel ’13 Taylor were wed July 29 in Polo, Ill. At the fateful moment of their first kiss at the altar, Bryan held up his hand and told their guests that they’d be doing things a little differently this time.
Janis Fitzsimmons, founder of the Junior/Senior Scholars (JSS) program and executive director of the College’s Urban Education Laboratory, was a guest at the wedding and shared the story of the kisses.
“With Maria at his side, Bryan raised a large glass jar and went on to explain that tonight they would kiss as people put money in the jar,” Fitzsimmons said. “They would match the money and it would go to the JSS program. I was speechless.” Bryan and Maria’s kiss jar raised a total of $320 for the JSS program.
More than just a guest at the wedding, Fitzsimmons was the impetus for Bryan and Maria’s gesture. “I was inspired by Dr. Fitz and her dedication to students, there is no other way to put it. Because of her I am where I am today in education,” said Bryan, who is now in his fifth year as a chemistry teacher at East Aurora High School. Maria is a fifth year doctoral student and teaching assistant at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.
Bryan participated in JSS during his time as a student. The program brings students from high-need schools in Chicago and East Aurora, ranging in grade level from kindergarten through high school, to campus for guidance, mentoring and instruction by North Central students.
The couple made the decision as part of their shared devotion to alumni giving. They served as alumni ambassadors for the Class of 2013 and started the Frank LeBeau Educational Scholarship for secondary education majors. They also plan to fund another scholarship for students working with JSS.
“We are hoping that we [can] use this platform as a way to encourage not only the Class of 2013, but all younger classes that even a small donation can make all the difference in helping future [North Central] students,” Bryan said. “Maria and I would not be where we are today without the staff who touched our minds, and the friends who touched our hearts.”
[In the wedding party were Michael Swanson ’12 and Caitlin Dodd ’13. In attendance were Sarah Hall ’12 Swanson, Elizabeth Linning ’13 and Mary Dickinson ’13. Rev. Judy Giese ’75 performed the ceremony.]
“With Maria at his side, Bryan raised a large glass jar and went on to explain that they would kiss as people put money in the jar, and the money would go to the JSS program. I was speechless.” Janis Fitzsimmons