She was from south Jersey; he was from north Jersey. She lived in Hancock Hall; he in Madison. She felt silly in her “dink,” the beanie all freshmen had to wear. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
She was beautifully statuesque, the prettiest girl at Robert Morris,” says JIM BREHOVE ‘71 of the girl he eventually married. “I just kind of followed her around for weeks on end till I got the nerve to ask her out.”
ELLEN KARAFIN BREHOVE ‘69 earned a two-year liberal arts degree, then went back home to get her bachelor’s in education. Jim stayed four years to get his diploma before heading back east and getting his CPA license. They married in 1974, and raised two sons. Jim worked in the plastics industry, and eventually started his own company, Palmer Plastics.
Then they got an invitation to an alumni dinner in New York City, an hour’s drive from their home in Succasunna, N.J. “We said, ‘This is cool — we’ll do something with our own school rather than our kids’ schools’,” Ellen says. “It was such a friendly atmosphere, and they made us feel so welcome, that we just kept coming.”
The Brehoves started going to basketball games when the Colonials played teams in the area. They started driving to Pittsburgh for RMU events such as Homecoming. And they have given generously to Robert Morris, pledging $25,000 to endow a scholarship in their names for students from New Jersey. “We’re just giving back,” Jim says. “Robert Morris has come a long way since we went there, and it just keeps getting better every year. We’re so proud to be part of it and glad to be involved.”
SARA SIMON, who recently completed her first year at RMU, currently receives the Brehoves’ scholarship. “It’s very important to me. It will help to pay for my books,” says Sara, who transferred from Rider University because of her desire to major in both accounting and sport management, two of the university’s strongest programs. At the spring Scholarship Luncheon, Sara was thrilled to meet the Brehoves.
“When I first came to Robert Morris no one knew about Tinton Falls, the town where I am from, so meeting two people who did was very exciting. They are good people,” Sara says.
In recent years, Ellen has taken up independent market research and “mystery shopping.” She’s hired to go to stores, hotels, restaurants, and casinos and write up reports of her experiences there in exchange for a paycheck and reimbursement. Ellen says acting in Colonial Theatre productions prepared her to “pretend to be someone else” on her shopping forays.
Jim ran the New York Marathon in 2010, raising thousands of sponsorship dollars for U.S. troops. (The Brehoves’ sons are veterans, and their oldest, Jordan, earned two Bronze stars in Iraq.) “When you cross the finish line, a volunteer places a medal around your neck. You realize you did not win the gold medal at the Olympics,” he says, “but you also realize this is what it would feel like if you did.”