A marriage that blossomed over half a century ago on Purdue’s campus is still going strong
In December 2023, Gisela and Luis Nino celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at their home in Cincinnati with their three daughters, grandchildren, and other friends and family.
Their daughters surprised them with a heartfelt gift — a book filled with 60 years’ worth of photos and memories, beginning with their time as students at Purdue. When reminiscing about what 60 years together has been like, the couple finds it hard to put into words.
“Sixty years,” Gisela says. “That’s unbelievable. I don’t even believe that!”
The two met in 1962 at a gathering for international students during Gisela’s first year at Purdue. Luis, originally from Colombia, had already been on campus for a few years and was close to finishing his master’s degree in civil engineering. Gisela was studying fashion merchandising and textiles and had just arrived from Brazil.
“He asked me if he could go out with me, and I said, ‘I don’t think so,’” Gisela says. “But he was insistent, and so eventually we did go out, and then it all started.”
Of the dating scene at Purdue at the time, Luis recalls, “There were a lot of guys at Purdue. The girls were a minority. They had good-looking girls who were always taken, so we had to make a line to meet them.
“The reason I was in the States was to get my master’s, get some experience and go back to Colombia,” he says. “And if I had the chance — the opportunity — to meet a nice-looking girl with blue eyes, why not?”
A Purdue wedding
The Ninos’ romance, like so many others, began simply and beautifully. The young couple bonded over their passion for music and dancing. At the time, undergraduate students received football season tickets every fall. But Gisela would trade hers for symphony tickets, instead opting to spend time with Luis in the seats of Elliott Hall of Music, listening to music or dancing at a gathering for international students.
“We didn’t have any money anyhow, so that was a good way of doing it,” Gisela says.
Purdue continued to play a part in their relationship as their young love blossomed into a marriage. Their community stepped up to make their small 1963 wedding happen right on Purdue’s campus, even though funds were tight.
“Our wedding at Purdue was fantastic,” Gisela says.
The wedding ceremony took place at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center and continued with a reception across the street at Purdue Memorial Union. The only family member who was able to join was Luis’s brother Julio, who was living in the U.S. at the time. So the wedding party was largely made up of friends and faculty from Purdue.
Gladys Vail, the dean of the School of Home Economics at the time, offered to make their wedding cake and the punch for the reception. Other faculty members helped throw the bridal shower. Many more faculty and fellow students assisted with wedding planning. The pews were filled with Boilermakers.
As for the wedding dress, Gisela made that herself.
“I couldn’t afford anything else!” she says. “There was a store over in Lafayette that had a basket with remnants. There was a big remnant of lace. It was super, super reduced, because it was soiled. So I took it, threw it in the washing machine, washed it, and then I made my dress. I didn’t have enough fabric to make a long dress, so it was a short dress.”
She even sewed it in her residence hall on campus. At the time, Vawter Hall (part of Windsor Residence Halls) had a few sewing machines available for students to use. When she found a free moment in between study sessions, she would head downstairs to work on her dress.
“I don’t think I would do it again if I had the means,” she says. “But it was a lot of fun creating my own dress. As a matter of fact, I look at the pictures from that time and all the dresses I had made. There is not one dress that I have that I didn’t make myself, but this was mostly for economic reasons.”
Secrets to happiness
Up until recently, Gisela continued to alter wedding dresses for a bridal store near where she and Luis live in Cincinnati. When the store closed a year ago, she took it as a sign that it was time for her to retire and focus on traveling with her husband and family.
“We love to travel. We go every place we can,” she says. Their last trip was to Brazil and Colombia with their daughters to visit family. Gisela is planning on going to Brazil again this year to spend time with her sisters.
For the Ninos, family is the most important thing. “Family is everything, honest to goodness,” Gisela says. “They are the anchor of your life.”
Family is everything, honest to goodness. They are the anchor of your life.Gisela Nino
BS fashion merchandising and textiles ’66
Luis believes that the secret to a long and happy family life is simple. “Keep your family together,” he says. “It’s important. It’s a good idea to go back home to your parents, your cousins, and be together, whether it’s dinner or whatever.”
And Gisela’s advice for couples hoping to keep a strong marriage is equally simple, yet profound.
“One of the things I truly believe in is that when you go to bed, you’re not mad at each other,” she says. “Make peace before you go to bed. I don’t think you ought to carry your troubles to bed.”
To this day, 60 years after their simple wedding on Purdue’s campus, the Ninos are cultivating a strong marriage through simple acts.
“We walk together. We go to the symphony together. We go out at least once a week, have a glass of beer and some food, just the two of us,” Gisela says. “That’s important. We do that every week.”