By Marilyn Joyce Lehren / Correspondent
MONTCLAIR, NJ — In a Red Hawk story that has come full circle, the baby who was almost born in Bohn Hall at Montclair State University is now a graduate. Diana Sisk-Gritz received a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and coastal sciences as part of the combined BS/MS program.
Twenty-two years ago, her mother, then an MSU freshman, went into labor in the residence hall without ever knowing she was pregnant. Floormates helped their friend continue with her classes, babysitting when she would bring her infant daughter to campus and gifting a tiny T-shirt to the infant, reading: “Everybody loves me at Montclair State University.”
As a student these past four years, Sisk-Gritz embraced the Red Hawk spirit. She also fell in love. And that’s where the second part of this Red Hawk story begins.
Sisk-Gritz celebrated her graduation with family on Saturday, June 4, during the afternoon convocation ceremony for the College of Science and Mathematics. It was a long day as her boyfriend, Tyler Frantino, was also celebrating with his own convocation for the College of the Arts that evening.
In between, the families passed the time taking photographs, walking around campus, Frantino with an eye to the perfect place to pull off a surprise. For the second time during Montclair’s series of convocations celebrating the Class of 2022, there was about to be a marriage proposal.
“We were taking pictures near the Red Hawk statue and I was going to ask her there. But that seemed way too cheesy,” Frantino said.
A short time later, when the family gathered on top of the small hill looking down to Sprague Field, he saw that the setting was perfect.
“It was a beautiful background,” Frantino said. “It was set up for the ceremonies, so you could place the time that it happened.”
He doesn’t quite remember all that he said on bended knee.
“You can practice as much as you want, but when it’s happening, it’s amazing but very stressful. Diana said, ‘yes,’ and, immediately after, with no hesitation, she told me I had a bug on my shoulder.”
The couple was telling the story the day after their engagement, laughing about Sisk-Gritz’s reaction and reminiscing about how they met their first week as college freshmen in the middle of the Bohn-Blanton quad.
“When we found out our convocations were the same day, I told him it would be so cute if he proposed since for me so much has happened at Montclair,” Sisk-Gritz said. “I was surprised but I had a feeling because my family was being weird. My mom was doing a livestream and I was wondering why she was recording.”
For her mother, Stefanie (Sisk) Mulley, the engagement was especially sweet. She recalled in stories first published in the award-winning student newspaper, The Montclarion, coming to Montclair State with plans to study Italian and teaching, and the friendships she still maintains with her floormates who helped babysit.
“They would dress Diana up like a doll,” Mulley said.
It’s a story that made for a great icebreaker whenever Sisk-Gritz was meeting new people on campus.
“I feel like a secret celebrity, honestly,” Sisk-Gritz told The Montclarion.
Mulley changed her mind about becoming a teacher and didn’t finish her degree, but when her daughter began applying to colleges she said, “You were born a Red Hawk, you have to go to Montclair.”
Now, Sisk-Gritz jokingly says that her mom is beginning to hint, “You’re engaged to a Red Hawk, you have to marry at Montclair.”
The couple hasn’t set a wedding date yet. Sisk-Gritz isn’t leaving the Red Hawk nest just yet.
She’ll be back in the fall to finish the master’s program, researching the invasive clinging jellyfish found at the Jersey Shore, and then has plans to go to veterinary school. Frantino is applying for jobs in graphic design.
“Everyone’s love story is unique,” Sisk-Gritz said, “but I feel like this one is, especially for me.”
Photos Courtesy of Matthew Rolfert, Mike Peters and The Montclarion archives