English faculty speaks language of love

From poetry to sandwiches, professors discuss their married lives on campus

The Spectrum

In 1970, Diane Christian saw a sandwich labeled "astronaut" in the vending machine of UB's English department building. She turned to the man next to her and said, "Have you ever eaten an astronaut?"

Love was born. Four years after the man exclaimed 'Madame!' in response to Christian's question, Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian got married.

There are many married professors who work together on UB's campus, and quite a few teach in the same department. These couples include Jackson and Christian, and Stacey Hubbard and Rick Feero - all of whom teach English. Barbara Bono, also an English professor, is married to James J. Bono, a history and medicine professor.

Christian and Jackson celebrated their 40th anniversary this past year, after their fated meeting by the sandwich vending machine. They now live in a big house filled with flowers, books and two dogs - a Samoyed and an American Staffordshire Terrier-Greyhound mix. They spend a lot of time at home, and one rarely goes out without the other.

"We fell in love immediately," Jackson said. "We just hit it off right away."

Working together has been a source of joy for Christian and Jackson. Similar interests, shared students and opportunities to teach together have made their time at UB happy and full.

"Every day is Valentine's Day with Diane," Jackson said. "She keeps the house filled with flowers ... she's the best thing UB ever did for me."

Hubbard and Feero - who have been together for 33 years and married for 20 - also found love on a college campus, during their time as undergrads. After meeting at a poetry reading, their relationship has remained tied to the university setting; they've worked in the same English department for 20 years and counting.

"We feel very lucky to have jobs at the same university and in the same department - many academic couples have to commute between different cities, which can be difficult and expensive," Hubbard said in an email. "My husband and I have always worked well together, whether at home (where we spend a lot of time doing research and preparing classes in adjacent spaces) or on campus."

Between teaching classes, holding office hours and researching in libraries, a professor's schedule is busy. Although Hubbard and Feero find it difficult to see each other during their workdays, it's always nice for them to unexpectedly bump into each other around campus.

"It's great to walk up a few flights of stairs, knock on her door and chat over a cup of coffee," Feero said in an email. "My favorite part of working together is the chance encounter - coming out of a classroom, turning a corner in the library, walking into the office, looking up and there she is. It never gets old."

Barbara Bono and her husband Jim - married for 44 years - have always worked in close proximity. They also acknowledge the near impossibility in finding time to meet on campus.

"We barely see each other at school. We get home and say, 'So what happened to you today?'" Barbara said.

Despite their busy schedules, the Bonos have found their life in Buffalo to be a happy one. Since coming to UB in 1984, they've both appreciated the university's continuing consideration for the married and unmarried couples within the faculty. Barbara believes this concern is beneficial to the university as an institution, as well as a home for individuals.

"As a feminist and someone who truly believes that the private is political, I think that there needs to be institutional attention to issues like this," Barbara said. "You don't violate privacy, but you have policies that promote love loyalty, family life and long-term commitment. It's a twofer, in that you get the loyalty, devotion and hard work from all these people. These are very important things for the university to keep an eye on."

After spending almost 30 years on campus, Barbara and Jim have made many close friends in the English, history and romance language departments. For almost 14 years, they've been involved in a monthly potluck and hosted alternating Christmas open houses among 12 couples within the faculty.

"We did that because we realized that, as academics, we had - for the most part - all come here from other places or parts of the country and, therefore, our kids were potentially growing up with a very divided sense about where home was," Barbara said. "We simply decided that we wanted to find a way to celebrate our friendship on a regular basis and do it, in part, for our growing kids ... My sense of family, while it's not absolutely co-terminus with work, overlaps some. We have lots and lots of very close friends here."

Despite Buffalo's frigid temperatures, Valentine's Day is a happy occasion for students and professors alike.

From poetry readings to sandwich machines, love is alive at UB.

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