search button
newscenter logo
Monday, September 25, 2023

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Marcia Kern and Marty Stern stop by campus to visit the location of the beginning of their 50-year love affair. (Photo: Leslie L.J. Reilly/SDSU) Marcia Kern and Marty Stern stop by campus to visit the location of the beginning of their 50-year love affair. (Photo: Leslie L.J. Reilly/SDSU)

Overfilled Classrooms, Whipped Cream, and Fortuitous Consequences: An SDSU Love Story

Alumni Marcia Kern and Marty Stern recount how they their lifetime together began on campus more than 50 years ago
By Leslie L.J. Reilly

It's a San Diego State love story that begins with a whipped cream pie antic, makes a crucial plot twist with an apology — and concludes with a lasting impact on two students and the university itself.


In 1969, Marty Stern was a brash sophomore studying political science and comparative literature with a penchant for challenging his professors. Marcia Kern was a studious second-year English student minoring in sociology.


As they recount the story, English professor Karl Keller had asked Stern to help him find a creative way to show students that crashing a class was discouraged. On that fateful day, though, Stern’s planned dramatic ruse went awry when he decided the best way to get everyone’s attention was with a whipped cream pie prank. After realizing the action was a bit overzealous and because of the angry reaction from Keller, Stern was mortified. 


Later that day, Stern ran into Kern and asked for her help in making amends. Kern had no problem with the assignment since she was very close to Keller, her advisor. Stern’s mea culpa delivered to the professor through Kern worked. He was not reprimanded and his future was about to change.


The professor saw something in both Kern and Stern after working with both on a variety of projects. Kern said, “For nearly two months he would ask me: ‘If Marty asked you out on a date, would you say yes?’” 


And, later the professor posed similar questions to Stern about Kern. 


It was in the campus Library that Stern finally asked Kern on a date. She said “yes” and the rest is history. A year and a half later, they were married at a local synagogue while they were still students.


During their time at what was then San Diego State College, Kern and Stern each worked two or three jobs each semester to support themselves. Kern remembers there was a scholarship director who often informed her about scholarships. She applied each semester and received those scholarships which helped her stay on track to graduate.


“I always said to myself: ‘if I ever get to a point where I can give back, I’m going to do it.’ I was always so grateful for the scholarships I received,” Kern said.


Kern and Stern have made a planned gift to the College of Arts and Letters in hopes that students who need financial assistance will be supported and encouraged to complete their degree programs.


After graduation, their career trajectories took them to Northern California (Kern as a teacher and Stern as a law student at USF) and then back to San Diego where they settled down, had a child, and continued their careers in teaching and law. They are now both happily retired and proud grandparents to their first grandchild.


At their wedding in June 1972, right about the time the college was upgraded to state university, Keller proudly said, “I did this!” Kern recalled. The wedding gift from Keller was a porcelain pie plate, a pie server, two packages of crust, two packages of pie filler, and an empty can of whipped cream. 


“We still use the pie server, it’s a treasure to us,” said Kern. ”If it wasn’t for Keller, this never would have happened.”