“AJB here met MMS September 28, 1968. The rest is history,” reads a bench that sits across from Lechase Hall at the corner of Alumni and Fraternity roads. The initials stand for Margaret M. Stolze and Arthur J. Bernstein.
In September 1968, Arthur was a graduate student two years from earning his MBA. One day late that month — the date on the bench — he spotted a girl walking ahead of him past Todd Union. It was Margaret. Arthur desperately wanted to meet Margaret, but he struggled to find any reasonable excuse to talk to her. He took the chance anyway and asked her for directions to the football stadium.
Margaret was understandably confused. After all, the school year was well underway at that point. How could someone not know where the football stadium was? Still, she helped him with the directions. Then, Arthur shot another shot:
Would she go with him to a Simon School function that night?
Yes, she would.
The two continued to see each other for some time. The next fall, they were engaged. And the summer after that, on August 22, 1970, they were married. The Bernsteins have two sons, Jeff ‘04 and Brett.
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of their first meeting, Arthur had the inscribed bench installed in 2008. He planned to surprise his wife during that year’s Meliora Weekend. When they got to campus, Arthur started to lead Margaret toward the bench, but noticed that people were already sitting down on it. He had to stall until their bench was empty. After a while of biding time, and Margaret becoming increasingly confused, it was time for the surprise.
As Arthur and Margaret approached the bench, Margaret noticed the inscription.
“I said, ‘Wow, that plaque has your initials on it,” she remembered. “Then I looked again and said, ‘Wait a minute. It has my initials too.’”
She was completely taken aback.
The Bernsteins’ return to Rochester from their home in Boca Raton, Florida, almost every year. And ever since 2008, they stop to rest on their bench to sit and remember their days on campus.
While at UR, Arthur actually had Margaret’s father, Bill Stolze, as a business professor. According to Bernstein, Professor Stolze was careful to not show favoritism. He always had someone else grade Arthur’s work.
“When I had appendicitis and was staying at his house, he wouldn’t give me extra time for submitting a paper,” said Bernstein. “That was tough in the days of typewriters.”
Some of their favorite memories include reading (and often falling asleep) in the Welles-Brown Room, watching games in the Palestra, and their frustration over scarce parking (especially after snowstorms).
“Current students should appreciate the peaceful, beautiful quad and library. It’s always great to return and walk the oldest part of the campus,” Arthur said.
Of course, the campus has developed considerably since their days at UR. The Bernsteins have bittersweet feelings about the changes. The biggest change, according to Margaret, is the proliferation of new classrooms and residential buildings. She is sad to see the open spaces go, like the slope overlooking the football field.
But the Bernsteins understand the need of buildings to accommodate the growth of the school, and they can still find amazement in the scale of the Strong Medical Center and in the beauty of the older parts of campus.