I-House honors gay couple as equality fight unfolds in DC

Vern Haddick and Paul Herman met as residents at International House and formed a lasting partnership that endured more than fifty years. Image courtesy of International House.

Vern Haddick and Paul Herman met as residents at International House and formed a lasting partnership for more than 50 years. The men “stayed together until the end,” said Ferris. (Image courtesy of International House)

This week, as the battle for marriage equality raged before the U.S. Supreme Court, UC Berkeley’s International House posted its own vote of support by highlighting a more than 50-year partnership between two men who met at I-House in 1951.

Vern Haddick and Paul Herman met as residents, and were together until Herman died last fall. Their relationship was featured on the the I-House Facebook page Tuesday as the “Couple of the Week.”

The feature is part of an effort launched earlier this year by I-House to highlight “some of our couples we knew about and garner more photos and stories from new couples. I also wanted to highlight friendships on this new page so it’s not just focused on couples. Creating life-long friendships is part of the I-House mission after all,” said Laurie Ferris, communications rep for I-House, who created the campaign.

Ferris said, before the campaign launched, the residence hall had already documented more than 1,000 couples with I-House connections. In January, Ferris created a page featuring heart-shaped graphics to layer over photos, and sent an email to alumni to let them know about the graphics. The email also served to put out the call for more love stories and photographs.

“Within days we received more than 10 photos and stories of couples and friendships,” she said. The “love” page launched Valentine’s Day, and Ferris said the plan was to feature a new couple daily, as well as a story about close friends every Friday, through the end of February. But the project has kept growing and evolving in recent months.

“The stories kept coming so I continued to share the love by featuring ‘couple of the week’ and ‘Friendship Fridays’ on our Facebook page,” she said.

Ferris said “timing is everything” when she decides which couple to feature. One couple, Vangie and Bill Buell, who were married at I-House, were featured on their 26th anniversary. Another, Donna Rosenthal and former I-House executive director Joe Lurie, were featured in time for Lurie’s 70th birthday.

“This week with the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage I selected Vern & Paul’s story, which has received more ‘likes’ than any other couple story!” said Ferris, via email.

Vern and Paul brickeFerris also noted, in her description about Vern and Paul, that Vern recently had a brick inscribed in the I-House patio in honor of Paul. (Click the brick to the right to learn more about this I-House program, which “provides critical support for resident scholarships as well as the day-to-day operations of the House.”) Visitors can see this and other bricks in the I-House patio outside the International House Café (open daily, with afternoon happy hour specials).

Ferris said the project has been a great way to uncover special I-House stories that may have slipped through the cracks over the years.

“While sharing these posts, I keep an eye on the comments, and document new love stories, including Juliet Estrella & Mark Spencer, a couple we didn’t have on our radar.”

Learn more about I-House Love at ihouse.berkeley.edu/love. If your relationship has an I-House connection, contact I-House with info and pics at ihalumni@berkeley.edu.

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