1973 was a big year. Secretariat won the Triple Crown, the Sears Tower was completed in Chicago, and of course, Southeast alums Ron Pensel and Jan Baker went on their first date.

If you've ever been on a blind date, you know how nerve-racking it can be. Is your hair fixed just right? Do your shoes really go with that shirt? Are you dressed too casually or smiling too big? But what if your friends never told you about the date at all? That's what happened to Jan Baker in 1973. She attended a Vet Corps event in Cape Girardeau where her friends planned to introduce her to Ron Pensel. He was returning to Southeast after serving in the Vietnam War. Jan had no idea who was about to step into her life.

The first date 💕

Right down from the Cape Girardeau Golf Course stood an old home that had been purchased by a few rowdy Vet Corps members. On February 19, 1973, they decided to have a party. It was here that SEMO students Ron and Jan were introduced by a few mutual friends. After that first meeting, they spent the whole night talking. 

The two began dating. They went to places like the roller rink in Jackson and watched films like "The Poseidon Adventure." Ron proposed to Jan about a year and a half into their relationship and they've been conquering the world together ever since. 2023 is their 50th year together and they say they're still happily married.

Memories of southeast 🔴⚫️

As a Cape Girardeau native, Ron says his memories of Southeast go back to the time when he was just a boy. He remembers going to Kent Library with his dad when it was the quintessential ivy-covered college building. Jan, on the other hand, transferred to SEMO from the St. Louis area and spent much of her time in school teaching and working the lunch shift at Towers. Outside of class and work, they always made time for impromptu parties with their Vet Corps friends.

Between the two of them, they hold five degrees from various institutions. From Southeast, Jan has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a degree in counseling with an elementary emphasis. She also has a master's degree in counseling with an elementary emphasis. Ron has a bachelor of science in electronic communication from SEMO and a Master of Business Administration from what is now City University in Seattle, Washington.

what are they doing now? 👩‍❤️‍👨

In 2023 the Pensels spend their time in Washington. Ron grabs his camera to take beautiful scenery photos while Jan creates quilted blankets for the local hospital. They have never lost touch with Cape Girardeau. Ron has donated several geological specimens to the Crisp Museum as well as photos to Kent Library. They give back to the Veterans programs in and around Southeast as well as fund scholarships to make sure future generations get to experience the joy the Pensels got from SEMO. Southeast is still near to their hearts and soon it will be the place that holds their legacy. Ron and Jan intend to donate much of their photo collections to the Special Photos and Archives starting this year.

Ron and Jan Pensel have the kind of love story most people dream about. When you ask how they've lasted so long, they'll tell you the secrets are mutual respect and never forgetting to say "please" and "thank you."