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September 29, 2023

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Alumni honor plan to reunite on ‘Twosday’

In the fall of 2001, four strangers moved into Kreischer Darrow, the then honors dorm for BGSU students. The four instantly bonded together and discovered a shared sense of humor and love of committing to a bit – in fact, they loved it so much that in their early college years they decided to meet up on 2/22/22 at exactly 2:22, approximately twenty years in the future.

And they committed to that bit.

At 2:22 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2022, 2005 BGSU graduates Zach Starkie, Stephen Hamilton, Matt Benzel and Jim Brown met up in BG to celebrate their strong friendship and the pact they made almost twenty years ago. 

Yes, you read that right: 2:22 a.m. The group had originally planned to celebrate at 2:22 p.m. but after an unexpected time conflict, they shifted to meet in the morning, determined to not miss their once-in-a-lifetime event – sleep isn’t that important anyway.

Despite the many years since the pact was first created, all four of them knew they would follow through.

“Despite everyone in my life being skeptical to some extent about us all remembering this date, even though it was only mentioned one time that we were going to meet up on this date, I had forever zero doubt that we’d all remember it,” Brown said. “I just knew that we were all so strong as a unit, there was zero chance that this would get forgotten.”

There was a significance to when they all met as the group of four were only in college for a few weeks before 9/11. Benzel and Brown were roommates during this time, so they found out together through Brown’s dad, but when they tried to watch, they discovered the cable was out.

“I remember the uncertainty, the confusion,” Benzel said. Due to the cable issues, everyone had to gather in the common area of the dorm, and “we watched the second tower fall on TV.”

Benzel describes the experience as “completely insane” and said the image was ingrained in his brain. 

Later in a class, they found themselves confronted with classroom discussions as they tried to make sense of the unprecedented event – this may sound familiar to friend groups today, as Brown compared COVID-19 to this generation’s 9/11.

As they discussed, one classmate made a comment suggesting 9/11 was not a big deal as “people die everyday,” and Brown described the classroom as immediately reacting.

“It was this atom bomb that exploded in the room of frustration, anger and confusion, and it was one of those things where I think at that moment you went really quickly from being a high school senior to being a college freshman,” he said. “You suddenly realized we’re adults now. We need to make sense of this crazy world of things that we don’t understand. It’s up to us to make sense of it.”

The group met up at Campus Pollyeyes for dinner, and it was as if no time had ever passed. Immediately, they were laughing freely, cracking jokes and referencing memories without concern of judgement or alienation.

“It’s so fun to be so open and honest with each other to the point where you know where the limits are,” Benzel said. “It’s literally going to kick off like we were never apart, and we’ll just be cracking jokes, and we made a playlist that we’re going to play and no one knows what everyone submitted. We’re going to get here, and I don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing, but we’ll be playing our playlist.”

The group describes themselves as honest, where the more appropriate phrase would most likely be brutally honest.

The guys wasted no time appraising Benzel’s tight shirt at dinner, vocalizing their offense at seeing his nipples through it.

Brown was also quick to shout, “Let the jury show that Zach is an idiot” after he admitted to never taking an Honors College critical thinking class. 

It should be noted, however; that these memories and odd jokes are often incomplete when said by one individual. The group often finishes each other’s sentences and finds themselves disagreeing over actual memories – like how conveniently everyone except Benzel remembers him shipping out Pollyeyes to Colorado. 

There were also disagreements over who the “glue” of the group was as there does not appear to be any distinct roles in the group. They simply exist as a unit and interact like an old married couple.

The group of self-proclaimed nerds owe the start of their friendship to the third floor of Kreischer Darrow where they all lived close together, Brown and Benzel were roommates. Afterwards, they lived together throughout college, except for Starkie, who lived somewhere else for a single year, but, as Hamilton said, “we try not to talk about it.”

“We would all just be there. I have really fond memories of our time in Darrow,” Starkie said. “That was the beginning of independence. We stayed up late playing video games just passing the controller and listening to music.”

Hamilton and Brown actually returned to BGSU for their master’s degrees and ended up living together for a total of six or seven years.

“For a long time, Jim and I were each other’s longest relationship,” Hamilton joked, saying he called Brown randomly one year to inform him, “my wife finally passed you on the longest relationship.”

As might be assumed, this was not the group’s first bit. In their junior or senior year, they went to a party and legally, bought EKU 28 beer — which is 11% alcohol — to play beer pong with. Maybe as a result of the beer not being great, the night did not end well, resulting in one of the bottles being left in the refrigerator.

Benzel had hoped to erase his memories of that notorious beer, so he was understandably surprised when it was gifted to him as a wedding present when he was married in 2006.

Since then, the group began a tradition of exchanging “this one bottle between us for celebratory events, kids, weddings, whoever was having the next thing. It became this joke of a bottle that we never opened,” Benzel explained.

Fourteen years after the group’s first wedding, Brown was the last to wed in July 2020. Due to the pandemic, they rented a cabin in Hocking Hills where they finally opened and drank that bottle of over 15-year-old beer together the low expectations for that beer were lowered that day.

The passing years and time apart do not seem to have any impact on this group of friends. While they do have a groupchat to keep up with each other, they do not have to depend on constant communication to have a strong relationship.

“If we don’t talk for a year or if we talk every month, it’s exactly the same. Never once in talking to any of these three, has the beginning of the conversation ever begin with ‘well, I haven’t heard from you in a while.’ Whenever we talk to each other is the right time to be talking to each other, and I think that’s what’s made this so powerful,” Brown said.

Starkie, Hamilton and Brown all majored in a form of education, although Hamilton later got another degree in math, whereas Benzel’s the outlier and majored in computer science.

Since then, Starkie and Brown went off to teach guitar at Sycamore Community Schools in Cincinnati and Brown teaching English at Start High School in Toledo.

Hamilton has worked in statistical modeling for insurance companies including Progressive and Farmers Insurance and Benzel is currently the Head of Technology at Findaway. 

Even as time passes and life keeps changing, as the four of them got married to their respective partners, and some had kids, BG will always be important to their friendship.

“We could’ve chosen to go anywhere. It’s almost like the intangible; it’s not about the location, it’s about the bond you build,” Hamilton said. “That’s where it all happened. Third floor Kreischer Darrow, we’ll always have.”

The four spent all night, and all morning, together with non-stop laughter and overlapping chatter. Their friendship has survived over twenty years together and shows no sign of stopping soon.

The group hopes to inspire current BGSU students to remember their friends and connections made here well after graduation.

“I have this fantasy in my mind that there are four friends at BG right now that will see this article and are like ‘we need a bit to commit to,’” Starkie said. “I hope there’s four people that are somehow inspired to make a silly pact and see it through maybe twenty years later. That’s my little teacher fantasy: that someone is inspired to be silly.”

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