CCAD love stories

valentines from ccad

Since 1879, Columbus College of Art & Design has changed the lives of artists and designers who have gone on to change the world. And while most of that life-changing has to do with their creative and professional work, in many cases, CCAD has played a pivotal role in their relationships, too. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we thought the time was right to share some CCAD love stories—from the romantic to the platonic, all life-altering in their own way.

For more of these stories, or to share your own, tag @ccadedu.

A love 60 years and counting

A group of artist friends would have lunch in the airbrush classroom. One day Luray Schirtzinger (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1962) came to me and said, “I have two tickets to see Victor Borge, would you like to go with me to see him?” 

That was the start of a beautiful relationship. We were engaged in 1960 and were married in 1962, 59 wonderful years. Luray does beautiful mixed media collage paintings and I am a wood sculptor. We both have won many awards throughout the country with our art careers. 

John Schaffner (Industrial Design, 1960)

An extracurricular love

I chose my seat in freshman year SODA and tried to stand out during presentations not for the grade, unfortunately, but so the super cute boy a few rows behind, Sam Collins (Advertising & Graphic Design, 2019), might notice me. 

He didn’t. 

But my roommates and I had just settled into DSA fall of sophomore year and were playing board games in the lounge when guess who showed up? I was so nervous! But he was so funny and I invited him to our “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” party and he asked me to go for coffee after that. We went to all the CCAD events together and had so much fun dancing at jazz nights, watching talent shows, and coordinating my own events as an RA. Ugh, he was just the cutest. Since my friends included several Sams, I called him “Cute Sam”—but now after dating three years and moving in together in Clintonville with our cat Tater Tot, I just call him mine.

—Gracie Morbitzer (Interior Architecture & Design, 2020)

A love across the generations 

I fell in love with CCAD and the campus when I visited with my son, Garrett Sohnly (Interior Design, 2019), when he was looking for a college to attend. He was pretty set on attending a different school and then we decided to take a look at the CCAD. We came for a tour and then came for admitted students day and we both fell in love. He could for sure see himself roaming the campus and learning here. He was so excited to just learn and experience all CCAD had to offer. I fell in love with all the people, the size, the family feeling, and all the art everywhere. You could just feel something good and exciting in the atmosphere. I fell in love so much that I thought I just had to be here, too. It took me about 5 months but I finally found a job that I just love and I started in the Financial Aid Office in January 2015. I so enjoy meeting with my students and helping them strive along with working with all my co-workers.

—Financial Aid Counselor Robin Sohnly

A love built to last
It was back in 1983 that I met freshman Tina (Hurst) Gundlach (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1987) on the campus of CCAD. Five years later we would be married and we raised two amazing daughters over the next 33 years. After graduation in 1986, I worked outside of CCAD for three years. In 1989, I had the opportunity to come back and teach in the Industrial and Interior Design programs. Looking back now, it is difficult to imagine that after 31 years and several thousand students later, I will be retiring from CCAD after this spring term.

The love I share with my wife Tina after 33 years is as strong as ever as we plan and build our retirement home. I cannot imagine a better partner in life. And after 31 years of teaching, I am still humbled to have had the opportunity to help guide the next generation of creative minds. What a great job this is! I will carry their energy and excitement with me forever. I have also been blessed with colleagues and students that have become lifelong friends. I cannot imagine any other life than here with my CCAD family. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

—Industrial Design and Interior & Architecture Design Professor Joel Gundlach (Industrial Design, 1986)

watercolor octopus

A love inspired by challenge

In 2018, I suffered a stroke caused by an artery tear. In the months and years that followed, I’ve endured unimaginable fatigue, ongoing migraine headaches, and other difficult and frightening neurological symptoms. I lost my sense of self and my ability to stay focused on routine activities. I was determined to find a silver lining. Inspired by the creative brilliance of students and faculty at CCAD, I picked up a paintbrush. I allowed myself to step out of the shadows into the role of a beginner artist. My first attempts are comical when I look at them now. At the time, they were essential to my recovery.

One of my dear colleagues told me that as difficult as it was, perhaps the stroke was a gift. She was right in that it gave me a crystal clear view of what is most important. It provided me the opportunity to focus on self-care for the first time in my adult life. My body demanded rest. I prioritized spending more time with my children. I began seeing detail in things I never noticed before. The patterns in leaves, the texture of flower petals, and the way the light dances in snow all took on new meaning for me.

My goal is to reach others facing challenges with hope. There are so many types of love I wish to share through my work. To name a few: love of life, love of nature, love of color, love of community, self-love, and the healing power of art.

—Tiffany Sperring, Director of Career Resources 

A love that cuts deep

In 1994 we were strangers paired up as third-floor dorm mates. Karen Griffith (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1998) has been my best friend ever since. From the all-nighters and X-Acto blade cuts, incredible CCAD boyfriends, and crazy road trips to long after graduation getting jobs, married, babies, and divorces—Karen has been through Hell and tried to get into Heaven with me. She is an amazing person and artist and the sincerest friend forever.

—Donna Winder (Illustration, 1998)

couple posing

A slow-burning love

My wife Rachael (Ormond) Santillan (Photography, 2000) and I graduated from CCAD on May 13, 2000 and were married the following day at her parent's house in Dayton. We met in our sophomore year while attending a Bible study on campus called "Sanctuary," but it wasn't until our senior year that our love sparked between us. We have been married for 20 years now and have two wonderful children who are both engineering students at NC State, but both love art as well. 

—Mariano Santillan (Illustration, 2000)

An adventurers’ love

It was a not-too-cool evening in the spring of 2004. I was headed to a small gathering of fellow CCAD classmates to celebrate the completion of our final undergraduate semester. On the way, I stopped to pick up a friend, Shawn Brown, from the Blue Danube. Shawn had double-booked his evening, which was a surprise to me and the young women—a couple of CCAD underclassmen—sitting with him in the booth.

family with puppy in mountain

Always up for an adventure, I invited them to join us. One of those young women was Zuzana Vargova (Fashion Design, 2007), who was just finishing her first year in the Fashion program. She accepted the invitation and we hit it off immediately.

While we hung out frequently in the weeks and months that followed—often meeting at the Blue Danube to play chess and listen to the jukebox—our first official date was in December. We were inseparable after that, spending many late nights working alongside one another, she on homework and me on freelance projects while Night of the Living Dead played on repeat in the background.

In 2006, Zuz started working with Abercrombie & Fitch, where she currently works as a senior menswear designer. She graduated in 2007, the same year we adopted our first pup, Pilot. In 2009, we purchased our one-room house, in the German Village. In 2015, we adopted our second pup, Jozefine. We have studios at Blockfort, just off CCAD campus. And, ever the adventurers, we spend our free time hiking and climbing.

—Adjunct Faculty Thom Glick (Illustration, 2004; Visual Arts-New Projects, 2015)

Photos, from top: 

Valentine's Day Illustration, Student Agency

Watercolor by Tiffany Sperring; provided by Tiffany Sperring

Mariano Santillan and Rachel Santillan; provided by Mariano Santillan

Thom Glick, Zuzana Vargova, and Pilot; provided by Thom Glick