Love at HBS is an annual celebration of the diverse expressions of love that exist on our campus and in the world around us. Even with the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, love has endured, and our students have continued to share their take on what love means to them. PRIDE is pleased to present this annual showcase of student stories from the LGBTQ+ community and our wonderful allies here at Harvard Business School.

Charles Ghati and Michi Ferreol (MBA 2021)

Every evening, before heading to bed, I check the time, hop on WhatsApp and call Charles. No matter how long we've been doing this, my breath always catches when he picks up and his face floats onto the phone screen. "Hello, beautiful!" he always says. It never gets old, and always makes me miss him more.

Charles and I met at a housewarming party in Nairobi in August of 2019. I was new to the city, and he was a prospective friend, so I was all too eager to meet him. What followed were months of the usual dance that ensues when an expat (me) is blithely aware of their impermanence - non-committal texting, hedging, and the dreaded “casual” relationship. But Charles was persistent and unerringly kind, and I soon found myself falling.

Long-distance was (and is) surprisingly easy. The eight-hour time difference between Boston and Nairobi always feels small and inconsequential with him. We have become masters of Netflix parties, finding cheap flights and, during the pandemic, figuring out transcontinental travel policies. Though few and far in between, moments together are magical, made all the more special by their rarity.

So love, for me, is definitely here at HBS, but it is also thousands of miles away at a studio apartment in the heart of Nairobi or, even further out, at my childhood home in the Philippines. Some may say this scattered love is sad, disjointed, and incomplete but I say the opposite! I am insanely blessed to have and find love in so many places.

Ryan Flamerich (MBA 2021

When people ask how Daniel and I met, we often chuckle and say through friends. We rarely give the full story that involves me awkwardly introducing myself on a dance floor in DC. Perhaps, Daniel is saving me from embarrassment. Little did I know in that moment my life would change forever.

Daniel was a junior at Harvard College, and I had just graduated from undergrad at the University of Alabama. I had seldom traveled above the Mason-Dixon line, but Daniel made Boston my weekend home for two years. It was during our weekend walks through campus that I walked across the river and discovered Harvard Business School. I fell in love with campus and the more I researched, the more I wanted to get an MBA.

Distance made our hearts grow fonder. Two years after meeting, he pushed me to follow a dream to live in New York where we moved in together. When it came time to pursue an MBA, Daniel encouraged me to think back to those weekend walks, even if it meant being apart again. I wouldn’t be a student here without him.

When I think back on the last eight years, I know I am who I am today because he has always pushed me to pursue my dreams, no matter how big. Now, I can’t imagine life without him.

Arielle Anderson (HBS MBA 2022) and Stephen Anderson (Ross MBA 2022)

Stephen and I became best friends during my freshman year and his sophomore year at Indiana University. We fell in love through ping pong games (I always lost), late night fast food runs, weekends exploring state parks, Bible studies, and service trips. We survived a year of being long-distance when Stephen graduated and moved to Minneapolis to pursue his dream job working for the Minnesota Vikings NFL team. Ready to take on the world together (and probably just a little bit crazy), we got married relatively young when I was 21 and he was 24.

Since then, we’ve learned that love isn’t a feeling; feelings are fleeting and circumstantial. Love is an action and a choice made with intention each day. Choosing to be in a long-distance marriage with me attending HBS and Stephen attending Michigan Ross was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make together. Our first semester apart was difficult and we learned that we’re not as good at communicating as we once thought! Still, we rely on the foundation we’ve built through our shared Christian faith and years of loving with intention and live for the moments we’re able to spend together.

Erin Livesey-Becks (MBA 2021)

I, like many a Millennial, leaned on the love of animals in 2020 as I started to foster.

My little One Western Ave (OWA) apartment became home to Shep, Midnight, Ushi, Tyler, and Momo.

With a girlfriend across the Atlantic and even neighboring friends feeling impossible to see, their physical companionship was an immediate source of comfort. I expected to enjoy their presence but ended up feeling genuinely heartbroken at each departure. Getting ahead of myself, but I, a vegetarian, cooked Midnight a full chicken breast on his final morning with me.

I came to learn that Midnight would freak out at the sound of skateboards. Tyler would gleefully stare at his own reflection in the mirror for a weirdly long time. Momo could outrun a once-pro-BMXer on a BlueBike – wish I hadn’t learned this one.

I came to appreciate how beautiful it is to be afforded the opportunity to truly know someone. With the dogs, I never knew their backstory. It was a continuous game of test-and-learn to see what worked and what didn’t. Every time they made a new step (wagging a tail, playing with a toy, sleeping belly-up), there was that excitement of progress in a bond.

Saying goodbye always sucked. But I’ve also gotten to build relationships with their owners and watch them grow. I’m excited to have my own dog one day, of course, but I also wouldn’t trade a thing for all of the experiences I’ve had with the ones who’ve come and gone.

Brian (MBA 2021), Bridget, and Finley Mongeau

Despite the incredible difficulty of the last year, I have been able to spend more time with my daughter than I ever could have hoped for. Attending daily Zoom classes together since she arrived on the first day of my final year at HBS was not something that I ever could have imagined, especially given the way that my relationship with Bridget developed.

Our closest family and friends thought we were crazy to start a long-distance relationship after knowing one another for only three weeks. It wasn’t the kind of distance that would require three hour drives to see each other – one of us lived in Boston while the other was stationed in the South Pacific and would have to go off the grid for most of each year.

By the time we came to HBS, well over 50% of our relationship had been physically apart. Perhaps unexpectedly, these trials made our love stronger. Being apart taught us how to succeed through constant communication and deep trust. Our times reunited were made sweeter, basking in each other’s company and taking in every moment together, which deep down we knew would be fleeting until the next set of orders came.

Through it all, we grew to be more than two individuals in a marriage. We are teammates and true partners, with bonds forged as one. With our little Finley now on the team, I hope she can see and feel the love and strength this brings our family.

Jayci Blake (MBA 2021) and Kyle Golden

On our first date Kyle took me two-stepping. We were both “temporarily” in Houston, and I was only looking for an interim dance partner. I was spending weeks offshore, he was working long days on a high-rise project, and neither of us had any intention of slowing down. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to share my ambitions, passions, and silliness… or that a man in a hard hat could fall in love with a woman in steel toes.

Fast-forward 1.5 years. My dance partner became my best friend and roommate. We kept our pace, pushing each other to achieve our respective goals as true equals. We talked jobsite safety while cooking, built vacation Gantt charts, and stole the show on any dancefloor. But, I was leaving for Boston and didn’t expect Kyle to leave his whole world in Texas to follow me. Until, he did.

Fast-forward another 1.5 years. We successfully navigated HBS, made our studio a home, survived winter, and discovered new hobbies during a pandemic. We also learned to argue, manage stress, and take care of ourselves and each other better. It wasn’t easy, but we committed (and continue to commit) to the work. Three years after our first date, the best teammate I’ve ever had got down on one knee and asked me the easiest question I’ve ever answered in my life.

Now, we look forward to moving back to Texas, planning a wedding, and adding a furry friend to our family.

Abhay Divakaruni (MBA 2021)

Rumi, the Sufi poet, says this more beautifully than I ever could, “The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for You, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.”

Love comes in as many forms as we have identities. And here Greek does a better job than I ever could, too! There’s Eros (romantic love), Philia (profound friendship), a bunch of others that are all wonderful, and my personal favorite Agape (sometimes called universal or unconditional love). And that’s what I had always been looking for.

It brings up some good questions. What actually is unconditional love? Had I ever loved anything or anyone unconditionally? Had I ever experienced unconditional love? The immediate answer is, “of course, my parents love me unconditionally,” but the condition hilariously is still there! They are my parents! They don’t love you unconditionally because they’re not your parents!

So then I set off on a quest, so to speak—to find unconditional love. And I stumbled across some good questions along the way. I thought it might be fun to leave them here, in case they spark something for other people who might be looking:

• When you toss a ball to a dog, and that dog leaps and bounds after it, that ball is the dog’s whole world for a moment. Does the dog love the ball unconditionally?
• When a newborn baby opens its eyes for the first time and sees its parents, without knowing them as its parents, does it love them unconditionally?
• Even if you have ever hated yourself, been unkind to yourself, been your worst inner critic—you remain here. Do You love yourself unconditionally?

Charlotte (MBA 2022) and Bethany Lawson

Love... love is Elliott Louise Lawson, born November 19, 2020. The resilient little baby girl who made us feel like we became even more of an official family.

Elliott, ELL, Ellie bean, Ellie belly, Elli-copter, little Turkey (she was born on Thanksgiving y’all) - we love you so much. Thank you for making mommy and me parents.

Love is also Section E. You showered us in so much kindness and through your own mothers' recipes (okay and Grubhub) kept us fed during finals and beyond. We are so grateful.

Rachel Drapper (MBA 2022) and James Dinsdale

James is my best friend, was my ultimate back-up for a bit too long, and is – I am very happy to say – now my partner in life and love. It feels a bit like cheating in the game of dating when you end up with your best friend. I knew that I loved James before we went out; the fun part is discovering that I would love him even more than I knew feasible. I learnt that, when you find a good one, it is possible to become comfortable sharing all of yourself with another human being – I am grateful that James stuck around as I figured it out. James is kind, patient, intensely optimistic and makes every situation more fun than it would be if he were not there. He consistently puts other people before himself and is endlessly generous, in both time and enthusiasm. Safe to say, I am his biggest fan. He seems pretty keen on me too – so far, we are counting our lucky stars at how surprisingly splendid things are working out.

The transition from being friends to more than friends was an interesting time. James helped me more than anyone else to realize my dream: pursuing an MBA in the States. All the while James was selflessly helping me with my applications (he is a genius and an excellent proof-reader – really, he got a place at HBS and I just got to come here), he was simultaneously sabotaging his own happiness by facilitating two years of long-distance. James has never been anything less than thoroughly supportive, and I can only aspire to be as thoughtful and considerate of others as he is. I realized that it was possible to be with someone who made me a better version of myself, without losing any of the good bits, and became deeply convinced that James and I have something we should work hard to hold on to, despite the location challenges and the time difference. As James says, “What are two years when you have the rest of your life?”

I am thrilled to be back at HBS and I am infinitely excited for the adventures beyond: to go home to James, begin the next chapter and face the future – both challenges and fun – together with my best friend.

Felipe Núñez (MBA 2022) and William J. Simmons

When I met my boyfriend Will, we both thought we knew what we wanted, and yet we sensed in each other a desire for something more, something outside the bounds of what we could imagine for ourselves, by ourselves. Love, we learned, is not just a process of wanting one another or normative markers of happiness, but also wanting the best iterations of our lives both shared and private. Yet this is not some superficial "be best" or "make time for weekly dates" philosophy, but rather an earnest and increasingly instinctual gravitation toward wanting with all your heart what will empower the other and allow you to become one of many channels for that empowerment. Don't get us wrong - we do have monthly Mr. Chow dates! But what is most important to us is the art of a life shared.