Stories from the Oaks

Meet Me At The Altar: Dillard Alumni Finding Love On The Oaks In A Digital Age

Donté and Sondriahn Smallwood met as freshmen at Dillard University and fell in love by the time they graduated from the illustrious Jewel of Gentilly. Known for their creative skills (especially Sondriahn’s powerhouse vocals), the Smallwoods made impactful contributions to the Dillard community, especially during the 150th Founding Anniversary. For Valentine’s Day, The Office of Communications and Marketing interviewed the Smallwoods about the alchemy of their love. If you’ve ever been in their presence, you would know the couple had to be connected in other lifetimes and continue to choose each other in this one, no matter what. Learn how this couple navigated dating in college where most students are swiping left (or right) and what the “perfect relationship” means to them. 

Dillard University (DU): When did you two meet at Fair Dillard? 

Donté Smallwood (DS): We met in Fall 2015, during our first semester, when we both joined the Dillard University Concert Choir (DUCC).

DU: Dillard is often branded as a “family.” At the University, you two have found family in each other and eventually got married. How did attending the University solidify your relationship?

Sondriahn Smallwood (SS): Attending Dillard University solidified our relationship by providing a place for us to grow together. In the beginning, we were both vocal performance majors, until Donté switched his major to film production. All of our classes were in the same buildings. With both of us being members of DUCC, we would go on an annual spring tour where each year we were seat buddies on the tour bus. This is where we became best friends. We were always together, and now we’re married. 

DU: Sondriahn graduated a semester after you Donté, how did you both maintain your relationship during that time?

DS: Sondriahn’s last semester at Dillard was also my first semester of graduate school at the University of New Orleans. Initially, she wanted to work full-time to allow me to focus on school full-time. Instead, we both decided to pull our weight concerning school and bills. During that semester, we proved to each other that we can truly trust and depend on one another. That’s why I asked her to marry me!

DU: Walk us through your proposal; what was it like? Sondriahn, were you expecting it or were you surprised? 

SS: Let me just say, I was in total and utter shock! I had no idea it was coming. We were in love and we discussed marriage all the time. My husband wanted to give me a large and glamorous wedding which he believed I deserved. This was the only thing stopping us from getting married. I would reassure him on numerous occasions that a big wedding meant nothing to me. During midterms, while we were spending all night studying, Donté looked me in the eyes and said “Let’s get married.” With my mouth on the floor, I said “What? Are you serious? When?” He sang Jagged Edge’s song, (“Let’s Get Married”) “Meet me in the altar in your white dress. We ain’t getting no younger, we might as well do it.” Donté said he was in love with me, and he was ready. I said “yes!” and the rest is history.

DU: Currently, college sweethearts seems like a thing of the past due to hookup culture and dating apps. How did your relationship withstand those challenges/ dating misconceptions? 

DS: Our love journey happened in stages. First came friendship, then came love and marriage. During our friendship stage, we decided to always be brutally honest with each other. We gave our friendship 100%, which made committing to one another easy. Our friendship is the strong foundation for our relationship. Neither of us can stay mad for too long because we always wind up missing the other. Even when we drive each other crazy, we promised to never go to bed upset. When we started dating, I think we both had the intention of getting married. I guess you can say Dillard University was our dating app [laughs].

DU: How did you two balance your academics with the responsibilities of a serious relationship? 

SS: The truth is, you make time for what you love and care about. We love each other, so for us, it was easy to make time for each other. We had dates centered around what we needed to do. For instance, when we were both in school, we had several study date nights with tons of homework, and we would tutor each other. Also, since Donté majored in film, we would have movie nights, watching films for his class. To ensure we made time for love, we would make it a point to stop our schedules if we hadn’t spent time alone in a long time. We still do as a married couple. As a wife, I make time for my husband no matter what is on my schedule, and he does the same. 

DU:  What advice do you have for students who are seeking the perfect relationship? 

DS: We would suggest to students who are seeking “the perfect relationship” that it takes time to build a great friendship. Students should be intentional when they are dating. They need to be sure that they can truly trust and depend on each other. Express how much you cherish one another; love and support each other through good and bad times. We believe the best cultivation for success, in any area of life, is prayer. They should pray together often and hold each other accountable for the actions they take towards building the perfect relationship.