Power Couples

Power Couples

By Emilie Munson

As students, we live our lives in proximity to our peers, and thus have the opportunity to see them not only in an intellectual environment, but also in the social sphere. We see our friends on dining hall dates, at Atwater parties, on long walks to the organic farm, and “studying” in the library — our curiosity is satiated by observation and gossip. But faculty and staff remain an enigma: though we may get to know our faculty and staff we hardly ever see their personal lives. The Campus sat down with many of these couples individually this week to find out if they know each other as well as they know their subject matter.

Director of Sciences Support Services Tim Wickland and Director of Student Fellowships & Health Arlinda Wickland by Emilie Munson

Middlebury Campus (MC): How did you meet?

Tim Wickland (TW): We went to high school together in Chicago, but moved in different circles. Arlinda was a socialite and I was a nerd. (Our high school actually had more students than Middlebury College does.)

MC: What was your first date?

TW: Arlinda sought me out when she was part of a group planning our 10th year high school reunion. We went out to a little creperie in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, and after that, we pretty much never looked back.

MC: How long have you been married?

Arlinda Wickland (AC): A lot of good years — who’s counting!

MC: What is one of your spouses quirks?

AW: Tim likes sugar: brown sugar on Greek yogurt; chocolate Quick (powder) on vanilla ice cream; a packet of raw sugar in a pinch.

TW: After so many years, quirks become such a part of the normal fabric of things that you hardly notice them anymore. I guess one thing would be that she can’t tolerate any red decor in the house after the end of February.

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

AW: Tim is incredibly intelligent and well-read, but at the same time is handy around the house; for example, he services all our cars, built personalized bookcases for each of our sons, and rewired the electrical system in our house by reading a manual.

TW: Arlinda has just about the perfect blend of caring and feistiness. That, and she is an absolutely fabulous culinary artist.

MC: What is their most annoying habit?

TW: Cutting the time too close for my comfort when we have a performance to go to. That being said, we’ve never missed an opening curtain that I can recall (though I don’t always get a chance to read the program before the lights go down).

AW: He often is doing something else (crosswords, sudoku, reading magazines) when I am talking to him! Then when I ask him what I just said, he tries to fake his way through, but it’s clear he wasn’t listening.

MC: What is your spouse’s favorite book?

AW: The Taylor Branch Series on Civil Rights is probably his all time favorite, but he just read Don Mitchell’s new book and had great things to say about it. I just re-read a trilogy that was incredible, but I would never admit what it is.

TW: I think her favorite author has been Rosamunde Pilcher, particularly The Shell Seekers. I think probably the most memorable and compelling at this point in my life would be Taylor Branch’s great trilogy on Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

Professor of Mathematics Steve Abbott and Dean of Students/Professor of The History of Art & Architecture Katy Smith Abbott by Isabelle Stillman

 MC: How did you meet?

Steve Abbott (SA): We met at New Faculty Orientation at St. Olaf College. I think we were the only two single people in the room, so it felt like a trick.

Katy Abbott (KA): Steve was wearing rag wool socks and Tevas, so that was the sign that he hadn’t needed to care what he looked like in a while.

MC: What was your first date?

SA: Some early weekend that fall, we ended up downtown. They had a town celebration to honor the defeat of Jesse James at a bank in town. They have a midway carnival.

KA: With fried food on a stick.

SA: Very Midwestern carnival, and we were there with a bunch of faculty.

KA: We rode the tilt-a-whirl together, and Steve almost threw up. [laughs]

SA: And we got to the end of the evening, and Katie’s house was on one side of town, and everybody else lived somewhere else, and she was going to walk home. So I offered to give her a ride on my bike.

KA: Your Harley.

SA: My bicycle. And she accepted. And she got on the back of my mountain bike.

KA: I sat down on the seat, and he stood up on the pedals.

SA: I was stuck, because I didn’t take any art history in college, so I didn’t have any tools. But that summer I was working in D.C., and [in the National Gallery] there was a specific exhibit about one painting. And I said I saw this exhibit this summer with this painting. And Katie said, “I saw that exhibit too, I love that painting.”

MC: How long have you been married?

KA: Eighteen?

SA: Nineteen?

KA: Nineteen, yeah.

MC: What is one of your spouse’s quirks?

KA: There are so many! So much material to work with…Hmm…Steve has never worn a watch and never kept a calendar.

SA: She has probably fifteen different mechanisms for making coffee. And they’re all perfect for about four days. And then it’s not quite right. The French press, the drip thing, the foamer that doesn’t foam, it just spins it really fast. We haven’t done the thousand dollar espresso machine.

KA: That’s the destiny.

MC: One thing you love about your spouse.

SA: Just one, sweetie, you can only do one.

KA: Steve is an incredible parent. He’s always one hundred percent all in, so it’s always been fifty-fifty.

SA: If somebody comes up with an idea, you need Katie around to make it happen. She’s an instigator. The wall between concept and implementation is very thin. Like, “we should get a dog”—she was afraid of dogs when we first met. I went away for a week, and I came back, and we had a dog. We didn’t even have plans to get a dog.

MC: What is it like working at the same college?

SA: Well. When we were Commons Heads, for six years—that was the first time we collaborated. Saying yes to the job was partly inspired by the desire to do something together.

KA: Spending six years together thinking about connecting intellectual life outside the classroom, that was such a rich time for both of us. But in general, I can’t think of any downsides we’ve ever felt.

SA: It’s always funny when students figure it out.

KA: One of the things that’s great about it, is we definitely have a lot of interest in the institution as an institution, and what we’re doing for students here.

John G. McCullough Professor of Chemistry Sunhee Choi and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemistry Jim Larrabee by Emilie Munson

MC: How did you meet?

Sunhee Choi (SC): In the chemistry research lab at Princeton Grad School.

MC: What was your first date?

Jim Larrabee (JL): Sunhee cooked a Korean dinner for me and we watched the Academy Awards ceremony on TV (it was early 1978).

MC: How long have you been married?

SC: 33 years.

MC: What is one of your spouses quirks?

JL: She is very demanding and does not tolerate any effort other than your best effort.

SC: Be[ing] ready for everything 1000 hours ahead.

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

JL: She is very demanding and does not tolerate any effort other than your best effort.

SC: Devotion.

MC: What is their most annoying habit?

JL: She is very demanding and does not tolerate any effort other than your best effort.

SC: Seeing and questioning unnecessary details to my amazing ideas.

MC: How do you take your coffee?

SC: [I take mine] Black and strong. [He takes his] Black and stronger.

JL:  [We] Both take it black, no sugar.

Fulton Professor of Humanities Stephen Donadio and Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Art Emmie Donadio by Emilie Munson

MC: How did you meet?

Stephen Donadio (SD): Emmie and I met at a party in New York (Upper West Side).

MC: What was your first date?

Emmie Donadio (ED): After the party we went to the West End Cafe, near Columbia University, and talked about everything.

MC: How long have you been married?

ED: Since before our children were born.

SD: We have been married since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

MC: What is one of your spouse’s quirks?

SD: Unusual enthusiasm for foreign travel (i.e., to places beyond Middlebury town limits).

ED: Just one?

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

ED: Sense of humor!

SD: Capacity for lasting friendship with others, near and far.

MC: What is their most annoying habit?

ED: Resistance to time away from work.

SD: See above.

MC: What is your favorite movie?

ED: [I] couldn’t say [mine]. [His is] Citizen Kane, without a doubt.

SD: My favorite movie: Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise), an old French film. Her favorite: Dirty Harry (starring Clint Eastwood).

Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies Deb Evans and Professor of American Studies and English & American Literature Will Nash by Emilie Munson

MC: How did you meet?

Will Nash (WN): We met in an Emerson seminar in graduate school.

Deb Evans (DE): But we really met in the mailroom of our grad school program; I was working in the office and we started up a conversation. He had recently shaved a full Grizzly Adams-esque beard, so I had no idea it was the same guy from class I was talking to. It kept rolling after that.

MC: What was your first date?

DE: For our first date, he came to my house for dinner. One of the most memorable parts of the evening was that after we brought dinner out to the porch, I sat down and the wicker chair collapsed – completely! – underneath me.  I cracked up; so did he. I think that was when we knew we had a future.

MC: How long have we been married?

WN: It will be 21 years in August.

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

DE: Will is a very genuine person. When he cares about something – an issue, a person – it is for keeps.  And it may be a cliche, but he is a tremendous father, and I love to see him with our three kids.

WN: She is very compassionate and very thoughtful. And she is smart and funny.

MC: What is their favorite color?

DE: His: Red, maybe blue.  Mine: green, maybe turquoise.

WN: Her favorite color is blue. That’s my favorite color.

Associate Chaplain Rabbi Ira Schiffer and Commons Coordinator Linda Schiffer by Jiya Pandya

Middlebury Campus (MC): How did you meet?

Ira Schiffer (IS): Our common friends Hank and Roxanne lived in Wilmington, Delaware, and we met at their housewarming party. As we sat talking at the party, I asked her how she knew them. I found out that she had worked on a political campaign with them, and we hit it off ever since. Our friends still claim that they are responsible for introducing us.

Linda Schiffer (LS): Oh that’s a fun story! We met at a party in Wilmington, Delaware, that friends of ours were throwing as a sort of housewarming occasion. I asked him how he knew them. “I married them,” he said. I was taken aback for a moment, and then I realized he was a Rabbi, but I didn’t want to ask outright. We spoke for a bit, and then I broke my cardinal rule of meeting men, letting him have a cup of coffee and driving me home the first time we met each other. I didn’t hear from him for over a month after that, but then he called, a month later, and we started dating!

MC: What was your first date?

IS: It was Christmas Eve, and we went to the restaurant open on Christmas Eve: a Chinese place, with our friends ‘who introduced us’, Hank and Roxanne. After that, we went to Midnight Mass together at the Episcopal Cathedral of Wilmington. We both found it fascinating.

MC: How long have you been married?

LS: We got married in November 1981. He proposed 3 months after we started dating, but we decided to keep the whole thing quiet until he finished his degree. We announced our marriage at his ordination.

MC: What’s one of your spouse’s quirks?

IS: She always makes sure I wipe up all the water around the sink in the bathroom, keep it clean and dry. She’s very particular about things like that.

LS: He’ll do things like feed the cat, which is lovely, but then he’ll leave the empty can of food on the counter. He’ll start something, finish it, but then leave things behind.

MC: What you love about him/her?

IS: Her energy. She just embraces life. She has a motorcycle, she built a sports car when our daughter was a baby, almost 25 years ago, and she still uses it. She ski races on Fridays (we spend a lot of time outdoors), and she ice fishes, one of the activities I don’t join her for.

LS: We lived in Israel for 5 years. We loved everything about our life there. But I had an Uncle in Philadelphia who I was very close with. He was ailing, and I wanted to be with him. I decided to shift back for a little while, to be closer to him, and told Ira I would travel back and forth. Even though he really loved Israel and we were very happy, he decided to move back to the US with me. He said, “No, we’re family and that’s not the way to do it. If one of us goes, we all go.” That’s what I love about him. He understands the importance of family.

MC: What annoys you about him/her?

IS: I don’t hate anything about her. We’ve made life a fun adventure together.

LS: Sometimes he nags. It drives me crazy. I’m like, I get it Ira. But after 33 years of being together, you get used to it.

Associate Professor of English and American Literatures Antonia Losano and Associate Professor of English and American Literatures Daniel Brayton by Julia John

MC: How did you meet?

Daniel Brayton (DB): We met in my first class at graduate school, in her second year.

Antonio Losano (AL): Dan and I met in a grad school class – Victorian Non-Fiction Literature – in August 1992 at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where we were getting our M.A.s. We moved from Chapel Hill two years later to Ithaca, NY to get our Ph.D.s at Cornell University.

MC: When was and where did you go on your first date?

DB: We went to a Halloween party together. She was Nefertiti and I was a mendicant friar.

AL: We were friends for a while before we started dating, so I can’t really remember a “first” date.

MC: How long have you been married?

DB: We’ve been married since May of 2001.

AL: We got married in 2001, at Mead Chapel on campus.

MC: What is one of your spouse’s quirks?

DB: Antonia is a great disco dancer, but she likes to lead.

AL:  Dan has no quirks. He’s perfect!

MC: What do you love about him/her?

DB: I love absolutely everything about her, including all her foibles, neuroses, quirks, and bad habits.

AL: See above.

Chair of the Math Department Frank Swenton and Assistant Professor of German Florence Feireisen by Emma MacDonald

MC: How did you meet?

Frank Swenton (FS): We met when Florence moved into the apartment beneath mine when she started at Middlebury—I think our first actual meeting was when she came up to ask about paying something since she was using my wireless (I told her not to worry about it).

Florence Feireisen (FF):  We met “through the internet”, but not online. When I moved from Western Mass to Vermont, I moved into the apartment underneath Frank’s and used his wireless connection for a few days until I decided to go upstairs, introduce myself and offer to chip in for the wireless connection.

MC: What was your first date?

FS:  It’s hard to identify a first date as such.  She invited me to watch the whole series Six Feet Under through Netflix (actual DVD’s, not online)…I think that initially she was looking for a group, but it ended up being just the two of us watching the series from start to finish over the course of some number of months.

FF: Never really had a first date. We were friends and all of a sudden realized that we had been living in both apartments together for a while. I’d say it’s pretty typical for Germans to be friends and then have that develop into something more.

MC: How long have you been married?

FS: It’ll be five years in August.

FF: 4.5 years.

MC: What is one of your spouse’s quirks?

FS: Well, being German, the strangest thing about her is that she really doesn’t have a German accent (most people ask her if she’s Canadian or something, just because she tends to over-enunciate relative to an American).

FF: Frank has a schizophrenic palate: he loves kids’ things like orange Kraft’s mac and cheese and fruit snacks, but he also appreciates elaborate fancy dinners with grown up ingredients. When we eat out, he often takes risks by trying something completely new. But then he also eats pop tarts.

MC: What is one thing you love about your spouse?

FS: That she’s smart and nice are a little trite, so I’ll say I’m impressed with her hockey skills.

FF: Obviously many things, but you asked about one thing? Ok. I love that this semester Frank is taking an unpaid leave from teaching to be [our son] Max’s primary care giver (Max is 5 months old). He still has chair duties and some advising to do, so he just scoops up Max and takes him to Warner Hall. Max has been called the co-chair of math! He has his own travel bed in Frank’s office. Anyways, I love this about Frank: he did not have to do this, Max could have easily gone to daycare once my maternity leave was over, but it was really important to him to be with both of his boys when they were little.

MC: What is one thing you don’t particularly like about your spouse?

FS: Related to the above, she sort of plays down when she plays hockey, rather than pushing herself and playing with groups that are nearer her potential skill level…she’s just not that competitive in hockey, which is sort of a shame!

FF: Not a big fan of Frank competing in programming contests when we are on vacation.

Associate Professor of Spanish Juana Gamero de Coca and Visiting Lecturer in Spanish Ricardo Chavez-Castenada by Emilie Munson

MC: How did you meet?

Juana Gamero de Coca (JG): In New Mexico State University.

MC: What was your first date?

Ricardo Chavez-Castenada (RC): We never really had a first date.

JG: Many years after we first met, in Mexico City.

MC: What is one of your spouses quirks?

JG: He lives out of this world. Always inside the worlds in his novels.

RC: Her extreme empathy with everything around her.

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

RC: The world that comes out of her eyes, her mouth, her heart.  It is really the world in which I live.

JG: He is a very good person.

MC: What is their most annoying habit?

JG: He does not know how to stop working.

RC: She takes too, too long cleaning her teeth before going to bed.

MC: What is your spouse’s favorite food?

JG: He loves rice and beans.  I love shrimps and all kinds of seafood.

RC: Her favorite food is seafood. For me [it] is earth food.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Andrew Smith and Visiting Lecturer in Theater Lisa Velten-Smith by Emilie Munson.

MC: How did you meet?

Andrew Smith (AS): We first met as we entered an MFA Acting Program at the University of California, San Diego in 2002.  It was my first night in San Diego, having arrived with my Uhaul that day with my girlfriend at the time.  Lisa knocked on my door because she was meeting my roommate to go see a show at the La Jolla Playhouse. We all met and introduced ourselves as members of the same acting class. I remember thinking: “Cool!  She seems great.”  But my girlfriend at the time, once Lisa left the room, immediately turned to me and said:  “Wow.  Good luck with that one.”

MC: What was your first date?

Lisa Velten-Smith (LV): Thinking. Thinking. Yep, no idea.

AS: As members of the same acting class of nine in a very intensive program, neither Lisa nor I came to graduate school to date our classmates.  We came there for the work and to learn.  So, we denied for a bit the mutual attraction that was developing, even though the directors in the program saw the chemistry, and immediately began casting us together in classwork and productions.  We have played opposite each other on stage many, many times.  Eventually it became more of a distraction to deny what was so evident to all around us, so we started dating.  We didn’t have the normal “let’s go on a date” kind of start.

MC: How long have you been married?

AS: We got married on July 3, 2006.

MC: What is one of your spouse’s quirks?

LV: He is really obsessed with making sure the keys are put back on the key holder.

AS: When Lisa gets really excited about something, especially an intellectual idea, her diction becomes pronounced.

MC: What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

AS: She is relentless in pursuit of truth.  It is inspiring.

LV: His humility and generosity. Sorry that’s two but he has a lot of favorable qualities.  S’why I married the guy.

MC: What is their most annoying habit?

AS: I get annoyed at myself when I get annoyed at her.  She is free to have her habits without me judging her.

LV: Leaving the wet bath towel on the bed.  Though, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it happen so perhaps we are experiencing a breakthrough.

MC: What is your spouse’s favorite local restaurant?

AS: My favorite local restaurant:  the grill on my front porch.  If not that, then maybe Fire and Ice?  She likes Fire and Ice too.  Any place that has a boat for a salad bar deserves our business.

LV: I don’t necessarily favor one restaurant over another, but I will say the salmon from Costello’s or the chicken from Misty Knoll’s on the grill is outstanding. He might say Fire and Ice because we always seem to have a good time there, but when he sees my answer, he’ll go “oh, yeah, no —what Lisa said.”