As part of a week-long series alongside Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring stories about UF couples, past and present, called “Findlay Faithfuls.” Did you meet the love of your life on campus? We want to hear about it! Share your story via Facebook or Twitter using #IHeartUFindlay #FindlayFaithfuls.
Her smile, he said, totally changed his life. Drew Mihalik ’01 regularly thinks back to that trademark smile and laughter that would so often spread across Lydia (Carpenter) Mihalik’s ’03 face nearly twenty years ago. “I don’t think I can overstate how infectious [her] smile and laughter were when we met,” he remembers. “I can still look back and see her walking into the UF gym, or across campus or into a room, big smile on her face.”
Drew and Lydia were both members of the Oilers basketball teams, and it was through the sport and its close-knit group of athletes that they met. Drew first noticed Lydia when he worked a basketball clinic sponsored by the women’s team.
“Drew would wait around after his practice and shoot and try to dunk and hang on the rim to impress me until it was time for the women’s team to take the floor” Lydia said. It may or may not have been his shooting or attempts at dunking that impressed her, but something stuck, because they became close friends fairly quickly, bonded by their mutual sense of humor. “I would say,” Lydia continued, “what we had most in common besides the basketball connection was that we loved to laugh and to make each other laugh.”
According to both, there really wasn’t any definitive point at which their relationship suddenly graduated from friendship to romance. “I think we both agree,” Drew said, “that when the women’s team went to Hawaii over Christmas break that first year, we missed each other’s company.” While on that trip, Lydia wrote Drew a three-part post card telling him all about the trip. It seemed the writing—and laughter—was on the wall. Drew claims that “as an oblivious boy/man” he wasn’t fully aware at first, but during the time they spent together after that Christmas break, cracking jokes and making each other laugh, they became much closer. A romance was blossoming.
When reminiscing about past UF Valentine’s Days, Lydia mentioned the time that Drew drove up to Wayne State University in Michigan to watch her play ball. He brought her a Valentine gift and watched the whole game, which was nothing out of the ordinary—he only missed one of her games for her entire UF basketball career. The game he did miss, though, due to being in his roommate’s wedding, was one that neither will fail to remember anytime soon. It was her very last game as an Oiler, and she managed to drop a career high 30 points and 19 rebounds. “I know he listened to it on the radio,” she admitted, “but I haven’t let him forget [not going] since.”
Amidst their blossoming relationship, they also had school and sports to think about. As they tell it, UF was the perfect place for all of their interests to come together. Lydia said they “tell people all the time about how lucky [they] were to benefit from the level of education and experience that the professors had, particularly in political science and history,” and that “everyone truly cared about [their] success.” Being surrounded by great people, they added, and being challenged, often outside of their comfort levels, made them successful in many areas, including their relationship. The bonds and friendships formed through UF athletics are lasting for the couple. Several teammates of both were involved in their wedding. Two—Kati (Stedke) Hunt ’01 and Molly (Holt) Sabol ’03—are godmothers to two of Lydia and Drew’s three kids, and one—Kyle Hunt ’02—is a godfather to their daughter. They continue to give what they call their “time, talent and treasure” to UF—Drew teaches as an adjunct and Lydia speaks on campus on different occasions. It’s clear that their roots with UF continue to run deep.
In addition, it’s evident that the years spent at UF set the two up pretty well for the future. Drew started as an attorney at Fitzgerald Law Firm in Findlay after getting a political science and international studies degree from UF and finishing graduate school in 2004. He has since become a partner at the firm. And Lydia, who graduated from UF a couple years after Drew with a political science degree, was elected in 2011 as the first female mayor of the city of Findlay, and is now in her second term. They are busy parents of three children (JJ, 12, Libby, 10, and Delaney, 3), and regularly spend time watching their kids’ activities, including, not surprisingly, basketball games. They give further credit to, among others, Drew’s parents, including his dad Joe, a class of ’73 graduate of then Findlay College, and Tiffany Zehender Moore ’09, for helping to keep their family moving along. “It does take a village,” Lydia said.
No doubt they get through the busyness and stress of careers and parenthood by laughing about it. “We always take time to be together and to laugh together,” Lydia added. “Life is too short and often [people] take it too seriously. We have been blessed to do so many great things together at UF and beyond, and will always be appreciative of each other and all the people who help make moments like those happen.”