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Higher Learning and Love: Married Couples at Westminster College

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Posted on Monday, February 12, 2001

By Dee Natale, a public relations major from New Castle
Bullfrogs in a box and car windows smeared with shaving cream may not sound romantic, but those images are among the wedding day memories of a group of 15 married couples who are employed by Westminster College.

"I was surprised we had that many married couples working here," Suzanne Carter Barner, payroll coordinator, said. "Of course, my husband, David, and I fit the profile."

Barner met her husband, Dr. David Barner, while she was a Lifelong Learning Program student in his speech class. A gift certificate to Rachel's Roadhouse set the stage for their friendship.

"Bill Birkhead, vice president of finance, offered the gift certificate as a prize for guessing the score of the Clarion vs. Westminster football game," Barner said. "I won. We went to dinner and had a great time."

Although they did not date until after the class was over, Barner said that her husband is very thankful to Birkhead.

Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Carolyn Cuff met her husband, Tim (assistant professor of humanities), on campus while interviewing for a scholarship.

"We got to know each other by passing notes in our first semester calculus course," Cuff said. "We shared some volunteer activities and fell in love when he was Jimmy Carter's campaign manager during the mock convention and needed help."

Cuff added they used the campaign poster, which was made with sheets, as drop cloths for painting every time they moved.

Darwin (chair of the Department of Education, director of the Graduate Program, and associate professor of education) and Sarah Huey (director of the Learning Center) had mutual friends, but never had a conversation until the day he called for a date. It was a call she almost missed. She had just finished her last day of student teaching during her senior year.

"Exhausted, I had gone to bed at 7:30 and was awakened by (Darwin's) phone call about 9 o'clock," Sarah said. "Any couple whose first date is to see the play, Romeo and Juliet' is bound to get married."

Dr. Mandy Medvin, associate professor of psychology and Gibson-Drinko Distinguished Chair of Psychology, decided, at age 30, to settle down after reading a newspaper article about a shortage of eligible males.

"I went to a contra dance (an old form of English dancing) with a list of the top three characteristics I was looking for in a guy," Medvin said. "The first person I asked to dance, Tom Taylor (development officer/foundation relations), became my husband a year and a half later."

A romantic setting brought Dr. David Swerdlow, associate professor of English, and Milagros, modern languages lecturer, together. The wedding of his brother to her sister took place in Peru and was the first time they saw each other.

"Though Milagros didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish at the time, we managed to get along&some how," Swerdlow said. "Two years later, we became engaged on a beach in Peru as the Pacific washed over our feet. Too bad I still had my shoes on."

Dr. Benita Muth, visiting assistant professor of humanities, and husband Mike, instructor of philosophy, met at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. They sang the chorus of "The Mikado" together. Their wedding day turned out to be a bit soggy.

"Our car was decorated with so much shaving cream that we couldn't see to drive," Muth said. "When we stopped to wash it off, we forgot to roll up the windows and drenched the inside of the car."

A different dilemma involving a car faced the Hueys. They were so concerned about the wedding party getting to the reception, they forgot to plan their own transportation.

"At one point, Darwin and I realized that we were alone at the church, with no car," Huey said. "Eventually, we were missed and a friend drove us back to the church to retrieve us."

D. Scott Renninger, chair of the Physical Education Department, and wife Phyllis, bulkmail clerk, shared a most unusual gift. "When opening our gifts, a couple of friends had gone frog hunting and caught 6 huge bullfrogs," Renninger said. "When Phyllis opened the box, there they were staring at her."

The couples agree the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of working together. Several stated that there were no disadvantages to the arrangement.

"We both know each other's jobs and appreciate the time that goes into our work," said Cindy Dafler, development event coordinator. "Jim (Dafler), director of athletics and men's basketball coach) has driven a golf cart for me to help out during commencement and I've helped him plan athletic social events."

Dr. Jesse Mann, associate dean of the college and chair of the Modern Languages Department, finds students have two misconceptions about his relationship with his wife, Vickie, music faculty.

"It's always fun when students are surprised that we are married." Mann said. "People think we talk about work at home, but we don't."

The Barners, married three years, are the newlyweds of the group. The Renningers surpassed all other couples with their marriage of 32 years.

"Phyllis isn't only my wife/roommate, but also my best friend and the center of my life," Renninger said.

Westminster College Married Couples:
· David Barner, chair of communication studies, theatre and art and Suzanne Barner, payroll coordinator
· Timothy Cuff, visiting assistant professor of history and Carolyn Cuff, associate professor of math
· Jim Dafler, director of athletics and Cindy Dafler, coordinator of development and alumni events
· Darwin Huey, associate professor and chair of the education department and Sarah Huey, learning center
· Jesse Mann, associate dean and chair of the modern languages department and Vickie Mann, music department faculty
· David Swerdlow, associate professor of English and Milagros Swerdlow, lecturer, modern languages.
· Tom Taylor, development officer and Mandy Medvin, associate professor of psychology.
· Mike Muth, instructor of philosophy and Benita Muth, visiting assistant professor of English.
· Scott Renninger, associate professor and chair of the physical education department and Phyllis Renninger, clerk in the bulk mailroom.
· John Gerber, boiler room mechanic and Cheryl Gerber, assistant director of financial aid.
· John Robertson, assistant professor of biology and Carla Blum, assistant professor of psychology.
· David Shaffer, assistant professor of computer science and Kathy Shaffer, adjunct professor of chemistry.
· Ronald Webster, network tech specialist and Sandra Webster, professor of psychology.
· Tim Wooster, associate professor and chair of the chemistry department and Elizabeth Wooster, faculty, music department.