Antiochian couple hold commitment ceremony on campus

The happy couplePhotos by Shayna McConville

Antiochians Lela Klein and Robert “Bobby” Holt ’03 exchanged vows in an August 31 commitment ceremony on the steps of Main Building on campus.

Klein grew up in Yellow Springs, and attended Antioch as a transfer student on the urging of her parents, Julia Reichert ’70 and Jim Klein ’72, both alumni, and Holt came to Antioch wanting to learn more about the world. They met on Holt’s first day on campus.

“The first time I saw Lela was my first day at Antioch, in late August of 1999,” he said. “She jumped up on stage in Kelly Hall during first-year orientation to try to rally new students to come to a protest in Columbus. She looked like something out of a socialist realist mural...”

But Klein remembers it a little bit differently: “I don’t specifically remember Bobby from that first day of Antioch, but I do remember him well from that time,” she said. “He and I participated in a sit-in in the administrative offices, and I remember that he knew more than just the first verse to ‘Solidarity Forever,’ which impressed me. We were also in the same affinity group at a large protest in Philadelphia, where Bobby was arrested for civil disobedience.”

The ceremonyWhile at Antioch, Klein and Holt were very involved in campus activism. Klein co-founded an anarchist reading group, which met weekly to read and discuss articles and was was involved in Take Back the Night.

“Community Meeting was an especially important part of my experience,” Klein said. “I had never before (or since, really) been in an environment where people were so engaged and active in their own self-governance.”

Holt said that going into college, he thought I already knew a lot about the world and Antioch helped him understand how much there was to learn.

“I took courses in existentialism from Scott Warren, Philosophy of the Mind and Feminist Philosophy from Andrew Carpenter, and Literary Criticism from Jean Gregorick,” he said. “As a first year, I took philosophy classes to understand the meaning of life. As a fourth year I would have settled for the meaning of meaning.”

After one year at Antioch, Klein realized that she needed to challenge herself to get outside her comfort zone (and literally get outside a two-block radius from her mother's house), so she transferred to Cornell. Her and Holt’s paths would cross occasionally when she would come back to Yellow Springs to visit family.

The reception tentAfter graduating from Antioch in 2003, Holt worked as a union organizer for American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, a job in which he would sometimes run into Klein, who had graduated from Cornell, moved to Chicago, and also began working as a union organizer for Service Employees International Union. They didn’t see each other for several years afterward when they both separately moved to Boston for law school.

“When we reconnected in Boston, I still had a crush on her, and I hoped we might become more than friends,” said Holt.

The two became closer friends, spending more and more time together until Klein suddenly realized that she was falling for Holt. And that was that! They moved in together a year later, and started stalking about starting a family.

Inside the tent“Our biggest decision was in 2008 when we decided to have a child together, which we knew was a lifetime commitment,” Klein said. “After having our son, Beau, we talked a lot about whether or not to have some kind of ceremony.”

Klein said they had both read and been compelled by feminist, queer, and anti-capitalist critiques of marriage, and that both of them have ideological issues with traditional marriage, because of “its roots as a tool of oppression for women, and because it is an institution that privileges one kind of love and excludes other kinds of love and family, whether same-sex or otherwise.”

“On the other hand, we were proud of the family we were building, and there were certain things about ‘weddings’ that we liked—the official joining of our extended families, and the public declaration of our love and intentions,” she said.

So, one night over Italian food, they decided together to “go for it” and have a commitment ceremony. Both decided no place was more perfect to have the ceremony than Antioch, on the steps of Main Building.

Outside the tent“It was an important place for us,” Holt said. “It was the place where I first saw Lela and its such a beautiful building, we couldn’t have asked for a setting that was more Antiochian or more Ohioan.”

The ceremony—held almost 13 years to the day they met—was very community-centered and do-it-yourself, in true Antioch style. The couple asked fourteen of their close friends (several of them Antioch graduates) to participate by writing the whole ceremony, based on the couple’s wishes.

“I think it was also special that we walked in together, each holding the hand of our two-year-old son,” Holt said.

The reception followed outside under a tent on Main Lawn with local Yellow Springs band, Wheels, performing and all the children playing out on the lawn. A barbecue-style dinner was served in the tent decorated (by the bride and groom) with 100 paper lanterns, Christmas lights, and mismatched vintage tablecloths. Close friends of the couple acted as DJs, guests danced for hours, and 25 pies took the place of traditional wedding cake for dessert.

Reception-goers dancing“Towards the end of the evening, about 15 of the new Antioch students wandered up, and we invited them in to dance with us,” Holt said. “We loved meeting them, and that made it feel even more Antiochian. It was great to be back on campus and feel that same energy we experienced as students.

“We had so many friends comment on how special it was to have the celebration at Antioch, where we met,” Holt continued. “All of the staff at Antioch were so supportive, especially Tom Brookey (Antioch’s chief operations officer), who made the whole thing possible and was just the kindest and most patient person throughout our planning process.”

Antioch alumni in attendance included: Julia Reichert ’70, Jim Klein ’72, Anthony Heriza ’74, Annie Reichert ’06, Jaffer Battica ’03, Amanda Greenhart ’03, Evan Hall ’04, and former faculty member Anne Bohlen.

So, what does the future hold for Klein and Holt? In August, they moved back close to home in Dayton where they are both practicing union-side labor law. They are currently living in the South Park neighborhood of Dayton and are planning on moving to Yellow Springs in a few years.