Professor Quaker Matchboxes

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Tim Burke, Professor of History, and Melissa Mandos, the Fellowships and Prizes Advisor at the Dean’s office. Photo courtesy of Tim Burke.

It can be difficult to imagine professors as outside the pedagogy of the classroom, especially in the context of marriage and family life. Some members of the faculty and staff of Swarthmore College have relationships with each other and with Valentine’s Day in t-minus two days, we thought we’d share some of their love stories.

Tia Newhall and Martha Townsend, Coworkers then and now

At a time when both were trying to figure out what to do for the rest of their lives, Tia the baker met Martha the cook at a restaurant/bakery in Madison, Wisconsin. Twenty-one years later, these two women are still coworkers at Swarthmore College.

Martha Townsend, a Bookstore employee, and Tia Newhall, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Computer Science, have been together since 1988 and now share a house together near the College.

At her first day on the job as a cook in this Madison restaurant, Martha met Tia and they became good friends. However, after some time, this close friendship blossomed into much more. Tia describes, “It became obvious it was more than just a friendship.”

Tia and Martha were both born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, but when Tia received an opportunity to teach as a Computer Science professor at Swarthmore in 1999, they decided to move to Swarthmore together. Martha first worked as a babysitter and then as a temporary worker at the Registrar’s office before becoming fully-employed at the Bookstore in 2005.

A self-professed “non-traditional couple”, Tia and Martha complement each other well in their interests and passions. Tia loves to garden while Martha is an avid recreational reader. Tia majored in Mathematics and received her PhD in Computer Science, but Martha studied Comparative Religion in college. Tia can make bread in batches of 100 loaves and Martha cooks exceptionally good vegetarian dishes.

“Together, we make a complete, more skilled individual with our separate parts,” Tia describes.

For them, working at Swarthmore College together has all the advantages with no disadvantages. Depending on the weather, Martha and Tia walk or drive to work together. Occasionally, they’ll get lunch at Essie Mae’s but most of the time they do not see each other until after they are done with work.

Says Martha, “I like working in the same place as Tia – it’s just like when we met so it feels very normal. Our lives are happily intertwined.”

Then again, their different schedules sometimes make it difficult for vacation plans. Over the last twenty years, they have traveled to Italy, Greece, Russia, Honduras, and Costa Rica, but it has been a while since they went on their last vacation because of their sometimes incompatible schedules. For instance, Martha has time off during the summer but Tia works with students on CS research.”

Given the success of their long-term relationship, Swatties could glean some wise advice from the couple. On fights, Martha informs Swatties that “I never understand why people advise couples to never go to bed angry⎯the stupidest fights always occur late at night. If you’re angry at night just go to bed. Most of the time you won’t even be angry in the morning, and if you are you will be better able to work things out.”

The couple has no firm plans for Valentine’s day, but we’re sure the two of them will have a lovely time.

Tim Burke and Melissa Mandos, From Wesleyan Hallcest to Marriage

During an age where college students had short flings and month-long flames, these two young college students knew they were in it for the long haul.

Tim Burke, Professor of History, and Melissa Mandos, the Fellowships and Prizes Advisor at the Dean’s office, first met 28 years ago when Tim was a freshman and Melissa was a sophomore on the same hall at Wesleyan University. Four years later, they married. It was the day before Tim graduated from Wesleyan. They now have a beautiful nine year old daughter who frequently visits campus.

In an email, Melissa remarks, “We were one of the most enduring couples at Wesleyan, because every year when I returned to campus, one of the first questions I got was, ‘Are you and Tim still dating?’”

Tim started working at Swarthmore in the History department in 1994 and Melissa in 2006 in the Dean’s office. At first, working at the same place was a novel experience and they were cautious to keep their relationship separate from work. Tim describes, “I tried to be conscious when she started to keep some distance so that faculty and staff came to know her and respect her independently of any connection to me…I think that worked, given that I occasionally still find myself talking to a colleague who has worked with Melissa who is surprised to find out we’re married.”

They rarely run into each other at work but they occasionally have lunches together from time to time.

For Swatties currently in relationships⎯serious and non-serious—Tim offers some advice for dating long-term in college. He counsels, “I don’t know that dating someone on your freshman hall is always a good idea, but it’s worked out pretty well for us. Long relationships run off of a different fuel than short-term passions: I suppose the trick in a lot of cases is managing the transition from the one to the other. (We were pretty clear early on that we were in it for the long haul).”

Tim and Melissa will spend their Valentine’s day at home with a delicious, intimate dinner. They discovered this old tradition of theirs when they realized that “most restaurants do their worse meals” on Valentine’s day, according to Tim.

Furthermore, Tim is a superb cook who does all the cooking in the household. Melissa gushes, “He can put together a gourmet-style dinner very easily… so Valentine’s day is always better at our home than in a restaurant.”

In addition to this special Valentine’s day tradition, Saint Patrick’s Day is a big day in their house and they put on a whole Leprechaun’s treasure hunt each year. As for Christmas, they buy a new tree ornament every year and they especially look for ornaments that look like their dogs Breadsticks, a Boston Terrier, and Tuba, a Basset Hound.

Written by Angela Meng

Cheryl Grood and Jonathan Kochavi, Grad Students to Professors

Cheryl Grood and Jonathan Kochavi with their children. Photo courtesy of Grood.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Cheryl Grood and her husband Assistant Professor of Music Jonathan Kochavi met as mathematics graduate students at the University of Wisconsin.

“We spied each other across a crowded math lounge on the first day of orientation for new graduate students,” said Grood.

Working together is great, she says. But the two are too busy to see each other during the day, especially with two young kids, despite being just a few buildings away. “Sometimes, Jon will call my office on the cell as he drives past and we’ll wave,” Grood said. Working close to each other can come handy, Grood recently surprised Kochavi by decorating his office for his 40th birthday while he was just down the hall lecturing.

“When his students passed by on their way out, they noticed, and sang him “Happy Birthday”. Very harmoniously.”

Written by Monika Zaleska