David Fleisher '91 and Jen Cooley Fleisher '92 started off on the wrong foot, but things have improved vastly.
by Bryan Van Campen
Jen and David at home
Photo by Gary Horn
In 1990, when Jen Cooley took on the job of assistant to Student Government Association vice president for communications David Fleisher, it wasn't exactly a love connection. Jen thought David was annoying, and after he would make her redo flyers and posters again and again she would call home and complain to her family about "this annoying, perfectionist guy" she had met.
Nine years later, they're married with three children -- newborn Robert, three-year-old Anna, and Matthew, six -- and the story of Jen's initial distaste for David is one of their favorites to tell. "I didn't pay much attention to her, either," laughs David. Despite the bad start, the two did become closer and closer friends as they continued their studies. In the summer before Jen's junior year they both signed up for another extracurricular position: training to be orientation leaders. With the beautiful weather and no classes to worry about, the couple began dating. "It gave us the time to be alone without the pressure of other people," says Jen.
"We kept it a secret from the other orientation leaders," she remembers, " so it was sort of a sneaky summer. Most of them were our friends. We wanted to take it slowly at our own pace. They said later that they knew what was going on."
During their IC careers, both racked up an impressive body of work in various capacities for the College. David served as president of his senior class and the 1991 student representative to the Ithaca College Alumni Association Board of Directors. He also refereed intramural hockey games and was a teaching assistant in the business school for a year. Two days after David graduated, Jen succeeded him as vice president of communications and also served on the Student Activities Board speakers committee, which brought national figures like Oliver North to campus. Both David and Jen received the Campus Life Award (the highest honor for graduating seniors) and were featured in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.
At their 1995 wedding
Jen and David decided they wanted to stay together even though David had graduated and was moving home to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for a job as a financial planner with Karr-Barth. Long-distance courtships are never easy, but they made it work, taking turns visiting each other. In the spring of 1992, degree in hand, Jen moved to Cherry Hill, rented a condominium, and took the position of community services director for the local chapter of the American Heart Association. (She later discovered that it was her work in student government and student affairs, not her diploma in exercise science, that got her that job.)
The romance blossomed in the new proximity, and in 1995 David and Jen were married in Mystic, Connecticut, at an old mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ("the same place where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were wed," David points out).
Today David and Jen are very happy together, busy with their children and their work. Their three children keep them hopping from activity to activity. David is executive vice president of Progress Financial Resources in Philadelphia, while Jen, after a stint as director of the Cherry Hill Alliance on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, is president of her own business, Cooley-Fleisher Consulting, which advises clients about stress management and meditation.
The Fleishers' commitment and connection to Ithaca College are as strong as they were when they were in school. David was elected to the alumni association board of directors only two years after he graduated, a real measure of his belief in the school as well as in his own competence and maturity. He's still on the board and is its most recent past president. Board duties, Alumni Weekends, and Homecomings keep the family coming back to Ithaca several times a year, and they're glad they get back so often. "We feel it's a second home, and we still have a lot of friends who are staff or administrators there," says Jen. David has never missed a reunion; he chaired his class's five-year reunion and also helped establish the IC Philadelphia Area Alumni Club.
The whole family enjoys traveling and the outdoors, especially the beaches in Jen's home state of Connecticut. David and Jen are devotees of '80s music -- the soundtrack of their college life and the time when their romance began. (U2's film soundtrack for Rattle and Hum and Billy Joel's River of Dreams were big on campus when they met.)
Looking back, neither David nor Jen can really remember a particular moment when their relationship turned from polite disdain into deep and abiding true love. It was gradual, they say, but it was the right way for them. "I guess we just got to know and respect each other, and then were able to form a friendship," says David, "And then it turned into more."
"In our relationship," says Jen, "we both teach each other. I'm deeply interested in spirituality and holistic health, and so I opened him up to those things." And nearly 14 years after they first met, Jen's feelings about David's perfectionism, once so irksome to her, have changed a bit. Now, she says, "I actually think it's one of his strong points!"