As new sophomores, Herran Bekele ’93 and Lawrence (Sam) Laybourne ’93 could not know that they were destined to be together. They never dated while at George School but reconnected at their tenth reunion and have been happily married for fifteen years with two children.
Why did you decide to attend George School?
Herran: My family was relocating to the area and we were given brochures for local schools, including George School. I felt like I saw myself in George School’s brochure. It was the only one that also showed Black and international students learning, thriving, and enjoying the community. Coming from a predominantly white, conservative school in Ohio, that really appealed to me. Also, there was a wonderful Admissions officer at the time, Darryl Harper, who was very welcoming to me and my parents on the tour. It became evident that George School was a special community.
Sam: My sister Emily (Emmy) Laybourne Podunovich ’89 attended George School and really enjoyed it, so I followed her, starting in sophomore year. At my previous school, I was on the athletics track and in a large school like the one I attended, you could really only choose one track to follow. Coming to George School allowed me to continue to follow my passion for athletics but also to perform in musical theater, study photography, and get involved in peer group leadership positions.
What was your experience like at George School—can you share some of your favorite memories?
Herran: Carolyn Lyday was an incredible teacher and figure in my education. I have a deep appreciation for her and other caring community members, like Pippa Porter Rex, Annette Miller, and Nancy Bernardini. I just remember feeling like students were really supported and empowered. All of the women of color in my class got together to produce and star in a production of “For Colored Girls….” by Ntozake Shange. The memory of doing that with my ’93 sisters brings me so much joy. Senior year, I was part of a group of students that traveled to the Blackfoot Nation reservation in Montana for a community service project, which was a really transformational experience.
Sam: Meeting for worship was a wonderful centering activity for me. I had attended a diverse school prior to George School but the smaller size of George School and its intentionality and willingness to have conversations made it feel more inclusive. Chorale with Michael Sherrin, football with John Gleeson ’65, and lacrosse with Scott Spence were major highlights for me. John Gleeson also taught me how to write and think critically in 11th grade English and this has had a profound impact on my life and career.
Are you still in touch with classmates?
Herran: The Class of 1993 is incredibly close. I’m still in touch with Asha Muldro ’93, Aisha Niang ’93, Carra Greenberg ’93, and several other incredible people from our class, which has been a source of real support. We text, check in with each other, and we’ve had some great Zoom gatherings during the pandemic.
Sam: Herran and I are both in touch with many, many students from our class. George School’s Centennial occurred during our senior year, and we have always felt special and connected. During the early phase of COVID, our class had weekly Zoom gatherings and we would regularly have 30-40 people attend. Merry Harper ’93 hosted and Michael Goldstein ’93 would DJ and we had great conversations.
Did you date each other at George School?
Herran: No, we didn’t date each other then. We knew each other because we were both new sophomores, but Sam had a girlfriend junior and senior year, so he was off the radar!
How/when did you reconnect, and your relationship start?
Sam: We reconnected at our tenth reunion. I was living in Los Angeles and wasn’t planning on going back for the celebration, but my roommate at the time, Sam Moyer ’93, convinced me to go with him. Herran walked in and I was immediately struck by her grace and maturity and was reminded of how much I respected her during our time at George School together. We started talking and exchanged email addresses and continued being in touch from that point on.
Herran: I was living in New York and drove down to George School to attend the reunion with Asha Muldro ’93. I remember seeing Sam and chatting with him for a few minutes and thinking he had grown up to be the decent, kind person I always thought he was. I was happy to see that. And he still had a great sense of humor.
Sam: We met again at Ilio Krumins-Beens’ ’93 wedding and our first date was in December 2003 in New York. After drinks and dinner, we played pool. Neither of us play pool but we did not want the night to be over as I was returning to California the next morning. We continued a long-distance relationship for ten months, emailing every day. I greatly value our protracted courtship as we shared our thoughts with each other through our writing and got to know each other on a much deeper level.
Herran: We were emailing and calling each other every day, dating long-distance for almost a year. At the time I was a producer for ABC News and there was an exciting job opening in the Los Angeles bureau, so I decided to go for it. I got the job, moved to LA, and got an apartment with a friend. I was traveling all the time for that job, but Sam and I were very supportive of each other’s work commitments and being based in the same city gave our relationship a chance. We got engaged a year later.
How did classmates react when they heard you were a couple?
Herran: Some were surprised at the beginning, but everyone was supportive. And we’re not the only married couple from our class! Chas Sanders ’93 and Maria Bockman Sanders ’93 found each other after graduation, too.
Do you think that attending George School at the same time has impacted your relationship?
Sam: Being in a relationship with someone you went to high school with, especially a school as special as George School, makes a big difference because you have the same baseline experiences during your formative years when your values are being shaped.
Herran: I remember Sam as a fifteen-year-old, we were kids together. Those are memories I cherish. We were lucky to go to a high school that has good values, and that environment binds us in incredible ways. In Meeting, you learn how to listen to your peers, and make space to really hear them. That ability to listen and have empathy is very important in maintaining a good relationship.
Sam: Being married to an Ethiopian-American woman who I attended high school with allows me to identify my blind spots which is a gift and enables me to make a conscious shift. We have conversations about things which happened at school and her perspective of the same incident can be vastly different. As we raise our children, we wish to continue the values of George School within our family.