Faculty Couples Keep Love Alive at Work





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Behind every smart woman is a smart man, says UC Berkeley professor Christina Romer. And she should know.

She keeps tabs on her husband, fellow economics professor David Romer, from her adjacent office in Evans Hall.

David and Christina Romer are spending Valentine's Day together-at work-as are other faculty couples on campus.

In fact, there are many faculty couples on campus-some were by design and others were accidental.

The Romers met at graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then after marrying in 1983, marketed themselves as a skilled duo to UC Berkeley.

"We made sure all of the recruiters knew that we were a couple," says Christina Romer. "We're lucky to be teaching in the same department."

The couple came to Berkeley in 1988, and since then have grown fond of spending time together at work.

In fact, the Romers eschewed a movie after dinner on their anniversary and instead headed to the office.

"It's fabulous to work together-fabulous to share something together," says David Romer, who makes an annual cameo in his wife's introductory economics course because she mentions him frequently throughout the semester.

Professors James Demmel and Katherine Yelick met when they were both hired to work in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department 10 years ago, and even shared housing at Clark Kerr Campus.

They were married in 1993 and have two kids, and their five-year-old daughter is even on the cover of Demmel's textbook this semester.

When they are at home, Demmel and Yelick have computers connected to separate networks so they can use the UC Berkeley Web site without interrupting each other, Demmel says.

But they make sure to not talk too much about work during dinner.

"The kids start to object when there is too much technical talk at the dinner table," Demmel says.

Though the two have worked on projects together and even share grants, they say their work relationship does not lend itself to competition.

"We do not compete. We cooperate," Demmel says.

He adds the biggest issue the couple deals with is "balancing work and family."

Most of Paula Fass and John Lesch's colleagues don't know they are married, even though the two UC Berkeley history professors exchanged vows 21 years ago.  Their students are equally surprised to learn about their marriage.

"Once, a student in my research seminar came in and saw the picture of John on the shelf. He was surprised to find out that we were married because he had had John for a class," Fass says.

Fass says a lot of people are surprised to find out the colleagues are married because "they don't expect two professors in the same department to be married to each other."

Cupid struck Fass and Lesch when Lesch was new to the university.

"He had asked me to lunch so we could discuss a grad student that we had in common, but I stood him up," Fass says. "I didn't mean to. I just forgot."

She made it up to him by getting a drink with him later, and the rest is history.

Fass and Lesch try not to let their personal lives interfere with their professional lives. Fass says it must be tough for other spouses to live normal lives working apart.

"It's been great. Working in the same place has allowed us to have personal lives and raise two kids," she says. "Our life is very normal."

When Professor Robert Brentano and his wife Carroll Brentano were first married, they taught at different universities. It was hard for the young family when his wife worked at San Jose, Robert Brentano says.

"It was bad. I didn't cook, so I had to wait for her to come home because she didn't trust me in the kitchen," he says.

The pair live in Berkeley and has three children, one of whom taught light design in the drama department on campus, Robert Brentano says.

There is a growing trend of faculty couples on campuses across the country, and as Christina Romer says, "the universities will have to deal with hiring couples."

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