When Jim Met Nancy: A 1959 Penn State Love Story

By Lizzie Palmieri, 2/14/23

Courtesy of Jim and Nancy Gilbert

As Cupid comes around this Valentine’s Day, there is certainly no shortage of happy couples in Happy Valley.

When Jim Gilbert met Nancy Baier at The Corner Room in 1959, the ultimate Penn State love story was about to unfold. 

It was the kind of love few get to enjoy and the kind that would last them a lifetime. 

“And, it’s been that way ever since,” Nancy said. 

After graduating from University Park in 1961, the couple has been married for over 60 years with two children who attended Penn State. Both Jim and Nancy are second-generation Penn Staters, too, and now have grandchildren who claim the unique title of fourth-generation students. 

A Phi Mu Delta brother majoring in Hotel Management, James “Jim” Gilbert came to campus with his two older brothers, also in his fraternity. Jim’s mother began the family lineage of Penn Staters, attending the university in 1923 and even rooming in Old Main as one of the few women on campus at that time.

A synchronized swimmer, Nancy B. Gilbert majored in recreation education and advocated for women’s athletics before Title IX standardized women’s sports. She soon became a sister of Alpha Omicron Pi, the sorority often paired with Phi Mu Delta. 

Through a sea of sisters and brothers, the two caught each other’s eye one afternoon at The Corner Room. In a future-shaping moment, fate took over for the lifetime to come.

“It was an after-class activity,” Jim said. “We probably had an ice cream sundae and a cup of coffee maybe.”