Love by the Ocean

Mike Press and Kate McClellan were both pursuing an MEM in Coastal Environmental Management in the Class of 2009 when they met. They knew each other, and Mike says he was interested in her, but it wasn’t until they moved to Beaufort that “things between us really flared, and then blazed.”

During the marine conservation class in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, we tried to moderate our incessantly flirtatious behavior in front of everyone else, and were utterly and completely unsuccessful,” Mike says. “A weekend trip to Hatteras the next month with some fellow CEMs gave us the chance for a lot more of that, plus nights on the beach next to a fire looking up at the stars.”

He says that when things got too cold, they stayed up until 3 a.m. watching YouTube videos together.

Mike calls the rest of that spring “magical.” The two spent time together by the fire in Mike’s backyard, playing bocce on the beach, surfing, and going out with friends to Backstreet Pub.

“After graduation, we both found summer jobs at the Marine Lab so that we could make that magic last,” he says. “And ever since then, we have, against all odds, found a way to keep making it last.”

A large group poses in front of a wooden tower.
Mike and Kate celebrating their wedding!
A couple swims in the ocean.
On their honeymoon in Hawaii.












Kate and Mike were married in 2014, “with plenty of Duke classmates in attendance,” and their daughter and “future Duke student,” Althea, was born in April 2018.

A couple poses with their baby.
The happy family.

After graduation, Kate worked as a research scientist studying marine mammal bycatch at the New England Aquarium’s Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction. She worked there for several years before enrolling in the PhD program in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts. Her research there focuses on sharks and marine environmental conversation. Her dissertation will examine the effects of offshore wind energy development on elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays).

Mike went to law school after graduation, first at Duke and then NYU. “I thought it would get me ready for an environmental policy and politics career,” Mike explains. “It probably did, but instead, I ended up taking a highly unexpected turn to the right when I followed Kate to Boston.” He has worked for the last six years as a venture capital and start-up attorney. “However,” he says, “I still honor my time in Beaufort by finding time to surf the frigid waves in front of our house in Winthrop, MA.”

Mike adds, “When we reminisce together, it is often about our time at Duke, and we even think wistfully about moving back to North Carolina some day. After all, our time together in Beaufort and at the Duke Marine Lab is the taproot of our relationship, and I see no reason it won’t always be that way.”