It wasn't just Therese Rein and Kevin Rudd who met and fell in love at Canberra's Burgmann College.
Robin Brown and Jill McSpedden did, too, and the Yarralumla couple is returning to the university residential college today, Valentine's Day, to discuss the enduring love stories and lifelong friendships made there, while also celebrating the institution in its 50th year.
Burgmann College opened in 1971 as a student residence, affiliated with the Australian National University and located on the ANU campus.
As part of its 50th birthday celebrations, Robin and Jill will be attending a "Mega Luigi's" at Burgmann on Sunday.
Luigi's is a weekly Sunday tradition of morning tea scones with jam and cream, tea and coffee, named in honour of former principal and foundation resident, Reverend Doctor Lewis Rushbrook.
During the academic year, Luigi's for current residents is hosted on Sundays by the principal, deputy principal, college dean and residential fellows.
"As it is a college tradition, we wanted to honour it and our 50th anniversary by having a big celebration," a college spokeswoman said.
"By falling on Valentine's Day, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the lifelong partnerships and friendships formed at Burgmann over the years."
Melbourne-born Robin grew up in Canberra from the age of 11 (after overseas postings with his father Ian Brown, who worked for what is now known as the Defence Intelligence Organisation, including as Australia's "spy to Washington").
Jill was from Armidale in northern NSW and her decision to study law in Canberra was partly formed by then University of New England vice-chancellor Zelman Cowan, who would go on to become Australia's 19th Governor-General, and was also a family friend.
"He said women shouldn't do law so that made me suddenly very keen to do it," Jill said, with a laugh.
Robin was studying zoology and psychology at the ANU from 1971, the foundation year of Burgmann. Jill lived for the first two years of her degree at Garran Hall before moving to Burgmann for the last three years. She even appeared in The Canberra Times in 1970, resplendent in mini-skirt, for a story about her first day on campus.
She felt it was "an honour" to live at Burgmann, a taste of freedom away from the family home but still supported by things that made a difference like meals being provided. It was also a heady time of anti-Vietnam protests and the blossoming women's movement.
"In the '70s, people tended to live their whole time in colleges, rather than move out. Whereas I think they tend to stay a year or two and move," she said.
Robin and Jill hung out with the same people and he thought she was very attractive.
"She didn't take to me immediately. It was a couple of years," he said.
Jill said it was at the end of her last year of study they got together. The board game Diplomacy had a role to play. A long-running game of it involving the couple and others seemed to have the whole residence interested.
"I was Turkey; Jill was Austria/Hungary and we formed an alliance," he said. "Despite the wooing of others, especially Italy, the alliance of Turkey, Austria and Hungary held and we won the game."
(It echoes the nerdy romanticism of future PM Kevin Rudd who reportedly first saw Therese Rein in the Burgmann dining room at breakfast during O-week and asked her if she had read The Communist Manifesto.)
Jill and Robin eventually married on the front lawn of Burgmann in 1976, wanting a no-frills wedding.
They have two adult sons, Nicholas McSpedden-Brown, who works for the OECD in Paris, and Jonathon McSpedden-Brown, who is a ski instructor in Utah.
"They're both living my dream," Robin laughed.
Jill is still a well-known Canberra lawyer and is known in the local industry as the "Queen of the Wills". Robin went into science policy and also became the head of what's now the Consumers' Federation of Australia . (He is most proud of having a role in passive smoking being recognised as dangerous.) He also formed the Burgmann alumni association and was the college's secretary.
Burgmann holds a special place in their heart because it was about people.
"You learn about community," Robin said.
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