How friendship sparked at first-year orientation served as the foundation for an evolving relationship
By Shannon Sigafoos
From a geographic standpoint, the meeting of Sarah Johnson ’21 and Dennis White ’21 was slightly serendipitous.
“I came to college to meet people from the Northeast, and Dennis had always wanted to go to Arizona. It’s really ironic that I ended up in his orientation group, because he’d always wanted to meet people from Arizona and really liked the state,” says Johnson. “We were each exactly who we wanted to meet at college.”
Their introduction during first-year orientation led to a fast friendship that helped ease the stress of the college transition. Both residents of Hermione Commons, the two took to doing homework together, sharing meals, and connecting with other students in their dorm. White, a neuroscience and art major, and Johnson, a mechanical engineering and music major, also coincidentally shared an academic adviser. The two say their biggest champion and motivator over the last four years have been each other.
“We challenged each other academically and motivated each other to take full advantage of all of the opportunities at Lafayette,” says White. “We’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the arts and sciences at Lafayette, and we’re very proud of how we’ve challenged each other to better our Lafayette experience. I don’t think either of us would have taken advantage of so many opportunities had it not been for the encouragement of the other.”
They also discovered, they say, that “opening up to each other provided different ways of thought and new viewpoints,” particularly as they pushed through research projects, taking leadership positions in their respective Greek-life organizations, and studying topics that didn’t always come naturally to them.
“It sounds cheesy,” says Johnson, “but we kept pushing each other to be the best versions of who we are.”
The two may look back someday and tell people that Lafayette is where their friendship blossomed into a real relationship, but the truth is that the friendship also has always been at the forefront of who they are. They managed to maintain their closeness throughout 2020, when the pandemic turned the college experience upside down, with White flying out to Arizona to spend the rest of the summer with Johnson. Post-Lafayette, Johnson will be working at a nuclear power plant outside of Phoenix, with White able to join her while he’s working remotely on his biomaterials degree with University at Buffalo.
What they found at Lafayette taught them to respect and appreciate the way friendships are formed—particularly when it comes to discovering authentic personalities.
“It was just nice to be able to meet someone randomly one day … and every semester, you’re meeting new people,” says White. “That’s the thing we’re going to miss the most about being here.”