As Anna Maria College gets ready for its “Feel the Love” celebration on Valentine’s Day, we wanted to take a moment to share the love stories and memories that have been created at Anna Maria. In addition to being a proud academic institution, Anna Maria College is the first chapter in many students’ happily ever afters. A place where people first met, fell in love, and went on to get married and even have families. Anna Maria College is the start of many stories and through February we are excited to “Feel the Love” with our alumni love stories! 

How many years have you been together?  

Anna Maria’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Melissa, and Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach, Jeff Paulhus, have been married for 25 years – Together 27 years.   

What year did you graduate? What was your major? 

Jeff: 1997 – Major: Business 

Melissa: 1997 – Major: Human Growth and Development/Elementary Education  

What drew you to Anna Maria College as a student?  

Jeff: I was recruited to play Basketball. 

Melissa: I was recruited to play Basketball and the Coach invited me to stay for an overnight with one of his players, Tara D’Ambra. When I visited campus, I really liked the small class sizes and the family feel and I knew I would be successful here. 

How did you meet your significant other?  

Jeff: We both came in as freshmen in 1993-1994. We were friends for the first few years of college and then we decided to date during our senior year.  

Melissa: The first time I remember meeting Gabby was in class our freshman year. We had English class together with Jason Silvestri, Jay Ouillette, and Commuter Mike. It was a great class; we learned a lot but also had a lot of fun and we all became fast friends. It was a class that I looked forward to going to every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I thought Gabby was attractive, but I had a boyfriend at the time. Plus, Gabby was really quiet in his freshman year so at first it was a friendship. 

Describe your first date. Was it love at first sight or a slow burn?  

Jeff: On our first date – we went to see the movie, Jerry Maguire. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight because we knew each other as friends first but I can remember the first time I saw her. She was standing in line waiting to see her advisor during our orientation and I thought she was beautiful. I then heard her say she had a boyfriend, so I didn’t peruse her until years later when I heard she was single.  

Melissa: I would say attraction at first sight, but the love came years later. Our first date wasn’t until our senior year. We had both dated other people up until then and into senior year. However, in the second semester senior year we had both ended relationships and found ourselves single. Gabby made the first move and then asked me out and I accepted. He took me to the movies to see Jerry Maguire and the rest is history. We had built a friendship that grew into a love that I am forever thankful for. 

Share some of your favorite memories as an AMCat!    

Jeff: Playing basketball and making it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, also winning two conference championships. Playing on the Baseball team. Senior year was great because I finally had the courage to ask out my soulmate and was able to experience the last couple of months at Anna Maria College with her as my girlfriend.     

Melissa: Meeting my husband. Meeting my lifelong friends, Tara D’Ambra, Marisa Phaneuf, Jolene Loprete, and Tara Nawrocki. The 50-days party with Gabby and my friends. Playing basketball for Coach Meomartino and Coach Smith. Building relationships with my teammates that were loyal and had my best interest in mind. Scoring my 1,000th point. Beating Regis in their gym and jumping into the pool. Dr. Pop’s class and always seeing Mr.G at our games or playing cards.    

How has Anna Maria impacted your personal and professional life? 

Jeff: Anna Maria has helped me be successful in my career and in life. It has given me the tools needed to continue to grow as a person and businessman. I am grateful to Anna Maria, my professors, and coaches for all they have done over the years for me.   

Melissa: Anna Maria introduced me to my amazing husband and 24 years later we have two incredible children, Drew (Anna Maria Class of 2022) and Madison (Anna Maria Class of 2025).  Anna Maria gave me my career in education and fostered my love of children and teaching. It has also given me the opportunity to coach basketball at the collegiate level. I love my team and the extended basketball alumni family, and I am so grateful for them all.    

What do you “love” about Anna Maria College?  

Jeff: I love how Anna Maria feels like a family and that you feel like a person and not a number. Also, I love that I met Melissa.  

Melissa: When asked what I love about Anna Maria College my only response could be the people. I am blessed to have so much support and love for myself and for my team.  Anna Maria continues to go above and beyond to ensure the success of their students and that means the world to me.    

What is it like you have your children as part of the next Anna Maria generation? 

Jeff: It makes me proud and secure in the fact that I know my children are set up for success with their Anna Maria education behind them.   

Melissa: Having my children as the next Anna Maria generation makes me proud.  I also know that their education will take them very far in life and as a mother, that means the most.      

Fun Fact: Some say the Paulhus family bleeds Anna Maria and why wouldn’t we?  Gabby and I fell in love there, had great success in our careers, and as a result, built an amazing life together. I am forever thankful to Anna Maria for all my great memories and successes. Once an Amcat always an Amcat!!!