Two Rams in Love

David Nicolato ’98 and Cortney Nicolato ’01 break the mascot code of silence to share their story in celebration of Rhody’s 100th birthday.

David Nicolato ’98 doesn’t usually let on that he was once Rhody the Ram. There was a code. You were quiet in the suit, unknown out of it.

If someone in class recalled a great stunt by Rhody at last night’s game—maybe a slam dunk off a mini-trampoline, his signature move—he was mum.

David and Cortney Nicolato posing with Rhody and their two children at a URI athletic event

“Even today, I don’t volunteer that I was a mascot,” says David, a former URI alumni relations staffer. “It was an outlet to have fun and be a nut without getting into trouble. It was a phenomenal experience.”

You don’t discuss it—unless, maybe, it’s with another Rhody.

Luckily, David is married to one.

David and Cortney Nicolato ’01 celebrated their 18th anniversary this year—likely the only two URI mascots to tie the knot. They live in Saunderstown, R.I., with sons Jacob, 15, and Ian, 12.

“URI is how we met. It’s the foundation of who we are,” says Cortney, CEO and president of United Way of Rhode Island and a member of the URI Board of Trustees. “It’s where it all began.”

When they met in 1996, Cortney Mahoney was a “cocky little thing”—she prefers “resourceful”—from Pawtucket, R.I., and David was a New Jersey kid.

Cortney, who worked full time to pay for college, was looking for a way to be connected to the University. She learned David ran the mascot program. True to the code, David wasn’t admitting anything.

“I went right up to him and said, ‘I hear you run the mascot program,’” remembers Cortney. “He was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘I know you run the program.’ He finally admitted it and said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to try out.’ He was kind of a jerk. I’m not going to lie.”

“There were never really any tryouts at that time,” confesses David. “I was just putting her through the ringer.”

At URI, they built camaraderie through their mascot roles and as resident assistants in Hopkins Hall. “David used to throw out the worst pickup lines ever. Now he’s taught our children these ridiculous pickup lines,” jokes Cortney. “He’s still convinced that’s what wooed me.”

A couple of years after college, they went on their first date, to URI’s Blue and White Ball. Three years later, they were engaged at the ball; they married in 2005.

After several moves, they returned to Rhode Island when Cortney was hired at United Way, and one reason was to be close to campus.

“We wanted our kids to see what a fantastic place it is,” says David, who followed an interest in fixing things to start a handyman business, My RI Handyman. “The kids can go eat Albie’s cheese fries or we’ll go to a Fine Arts event.”

They made one of the first donations to the Rhody the Ram Endowment, which provides scholarships to students who serve as Rhody.

“We are forever grateful for our time as Rhody because it brought us together and we have built this beautiful life and family,” Cortney says. “We are thankful that we are a small part of the history of this iconic mascot.”

—Tony LaRoche ’95

Read more of Cortney and David’s story, and more about Rhody, at