Blind Date Turns Into Conversation of a Lifetime

Mary Laura Philpott and John Philpott

A blind date more than 50 years ago paved the way for alumni John and Mary Laura Philpott’s love story.

Mary Weed didn’t want to go on that blind date.

The Queens College sophomore and her boyfriend (a Washington and Lee guy) had just broken up and she felt like moping.

A sorority sister told her it was silly to sit around on a weekend when there was fun to be had at Davidson College. And her friend’s date had a friend she should meet.

Weed reluctantly agreed to go with sophomore Bill Moretz ’70 to Davidson’s homecoming festivities. He picked her up in Charlotte at 5 p.m. on a Friday night, and “It was love at first sight,” she said. “He wasn’t just cute, he was so smart and funny. He was also very interesting—which not all guys were back then.

“We stayed up until 7 a.m. the next morning—we never stopped talking,” she said, then laughed as she confided, “And I can only tell you that story now because my mother is dead!”

Bill Moretz was a shy pre-med student who studied far more than he dated. He’d seen Mary’s yearbook picture before and, “She was even prettier by far in person,” he said. “I was dazzled by her beauty, intelligence and personality.

“By our junior year I would drive down Highway 21 to Charlotte five or six nights a week to take her out.”

They have a marriage made in Davidson, one of many we celebrate this Valentine’s Day. Their daughter, bestselling author Mary Laura Philpott ’96, met her husband, John Philpott ’95 on campus. (Their son, William ’99,  and his wife, Katy, met in medical school.)

Every Valentine’s Day, Alumni and Family Engagement Director Marya Howell ’91 compiles a list of couples who both went to Davidson. It goes back to the 1970s, when women joined the ranks of the formerly all-male college.

Howell counts 2,482 alumni with Davidson spouses. The class of 2006 reigns supreme here, with 81 of its members—about 20 percent—married to other alumni. (The overall average is about 14 percent.)

“I am always amazed at the tall tales students hear about Wildcat weddings,” Howell said. “At least 10 times I have been approached by a student writing a paper or article who has heard that 41 percent of Davidson alumni marry each other.

That percentage is much higher than the reality, but Davidson does have its share of wonderful love stories. We even have a few who reconnected at a reunion and have since married.”

Fine Romance

While not officially a two-Davidson-alumni couple, Bill and Mary Moretz are about as close as you could get back in the late 1960s.

Bill Moretz’s fraternity brother was dating Mary’s sorority sister when they arranged the blind date. The then all-female Queens College was a sister school to Davidson and during date functions, the visiting young women stayed in guest housing.

“There were a lot of Davidson and Queens people dating back then,” Mary Moretz said. “My friends and I loved to visit Davidson because they had really good parties with great bands and lots of dancing. We had so much fun—I don’t know how we managed to graduate.”

Their first date started with a fraternity party on Friday night, a Saturday brunch before the football game and then another party.

That Sunday, they wrapped it up over egg salad sandwiches at what was then the M&M Soda Shop before he drove her back to Charlotte.

“I don’t think I knew that I would marry him after that weekend,” Mary Moretz said, “But I knew that I sure liked him a lot.”

Bill Moretz wondered if he’d met the woman he’d marry.

“I thought that was too much to hope for,” he said. “But I got lucky when it all worked out.”

They married shortly after their college graduations. She taught, then stayed home with their children while he went to medical school and through training to become a surgeon. They lived in Maryland, Chapel Hill, Memphis and Nashville before settling in Augusta, Georgia.

Hold My Hand

A couple of decades later, their daughter Mary Laura and her friends were at a Hootie and the Blowfish concert in the old college gym when she noticed a guy singing loudly to the music.

“Hold My Hand,” he sang along to the band’s hit song, and she wondered: “Who is this drunken fool?”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, that drunken fool is now the father of my children,” she writes in her memoir, I Miss You When I Blink.

“For the record, he’s not regularly drunken or foolish,” she continues. “If you met him, you would want to marry him. But you can’t, because I already did.”

Like her parents, Mary Laura and John Philpott married soon after her college graduation. He was working in Atlanta and she in Charlotte, when he picked her up at the airport and drove her to Davidson. He proposed on Lake Norman.

“We were young,’’ John Philpott said. “It was just one of those things where you know for sure—this is right. And our wedding ended up being a lot like a Davidson reunion.”

“I consider myself very lucky. Mary Laura is very intelligent and kind and has a tremendous sense of humor,” he said. “She brings a lot of joy to people.”

Mary Laura Philpott never set out to be part of a second- generation Davidson love story.

“For all my independence and insistence on charting my own course, I ended up following precisely in my parents’ footsteps, relationship-wise,” she said. “But I’m glad I did!

“People always love John instantly when they meet him,” she said. “Sometimes they’re like, ‘Is he really that nice?’ He really is.”

Mary Laura and John Philpott may or may not get each other a card today—sometimes they remember only when one of the kids needs a party snack for school—but after more than 25 years together, they’re okay with that.

Bill Moretz will bring his wife red roses and Godiva chocolates. Mary Moretz will steam some lobster tails and make a fancy chocolate dessert. 

This summer, they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary and 50th college reunions. And one thing hasn’t changed since that blind date, Mary Moretz says:

“We’ve never run out of things to talk about.”