by Rose Brennan & Shannon Gleba, Senior Writer & Staff Writer
When William “Mac” Furey, Ph.D, and Heidi Furey, Ph.D. first met in 2011, it was exactly like one would expect two academics to connect- in a coffee shop while writing and reading. At the time, Mac was working as an elementary school teacher and Heidi was in her doctoral program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Heidi had taken her spot in the shop in Northampton, Mass. to work on her dissertation when Mac walked in. He had a choice between sitting in a spot with access to an electrical outlet, or as he described Heidi, a “cute girl.”
In response to Mac making this choice, Heidi said, “Which you know, that’s love, he gives up an outlet.”
Once Mac sat down, Heidi knew she needed to make a move so she asked him for a pen, although she did not really need it. Heidi said, “I was reading an article and I tried to flip to the most impressive-looking page. And then I borrowed the pen and made a lot of notes that meant nothing.”
After sitting next to another, a forced conversation about her IPad and an exchange of emails, Mac was faced with another decision- whether or not to email Heidi right away, or wait the socially accepted three days between correspondence.
“It was scary. And I think I wrote an email saying like, I know I’m supposed to technically wait, what like three days, whatever though. Yeah, it was exactly five minutes,” said Mac.
After that email, the two set up a date, and as Heidi described it, they decided they wanted to hang out every day for the rest of their lives and got married four years later in May 2015.
However, for the 2016-2017 school year, Heidi and Mac were unable to get jobs as professors at the same institution.
Heidi said, “The way it works for academic couples is that you need to go on the market and apply to as many jobs as possible in the hopes that you get one in the same place.” They described the chances of being able to work at the same college as the “two-body problem” which affects couples in academia.
As a result, they lived apart for one year while Mac taught in Toledo, Ohio and Heidi became a professor of philosophy at Manhattan College.
Fortunately, the next year, Mac applied and was offered the position as assistant professor of education at MC and started during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Now, Heidi and Mac are able to schedule their classes on the same days of the week, and are able to commute 45 minutes together each day. Surprisingly, they do not see each other during the day and most of their conversations occur on their drive to campus and their walk to their offices.
But the Fureys are not the only married couple among Manhattan College’s faculty. Bridget and Brian Chalk, both English professors in the School of Liberal Arts, came to the college at the same time as each other.
The Chalks met during graduate school at Brandeis University. They began dating and got engaged on their one-year anniversary entering the job market as a married couple newly armed with Ph.Ds.
Bridget was the first to come to MC in 2009. Brian, however, won a fellowship so he could finish his dissertation. And so the couple packed up and moved to the Bronx in hopes they would be able to stay.
“Just as we moved to the Bronx and I worked from home, I went on the job market and a job became open for a Shakesperian that winter, so I applied.for the job. And I was very fortunate to get the job and I started the next year, in 2010,” Brian said.
Unlike the Fureys, the Chalks usually work on opposite days: Bridget on Mondays and Thursdays and Brian on Tuesdays and Fridays. They do have one day of overlap on Wednesdays.
There was a short period of time, however, when the Chalks did work on the same days. And it was during this time they learned a piece of life-changing news.
“We got pregnant with our first child, I think, a week into my first semester here,” Brian said. “We lived right near Horace Mann School and we were walking to school together and she had taken a test, and it was like, ‘You know, you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Either you are or you’re not. And it turns out she was pregnant with our son, Colin.”
After Colin was born, they began staggering the days they would come into work, so one parent could stay home with the children each day.
Unlike the Fureys, the Chalks work in the same department, resulting in a fair amount of student overlap between the two.
“A lot of times, people say very positive things about my wife’s class to me, which I appreciate. I don’t know if that happens to her as much,” Brian joked. “In any case, it’s always wonderful to hear those things, especially from a lot of women students. They tell me that and I think she’s a very positive role model for all of her students, but especially young women.”
The Chalks’ relationship is one which is supported by colleagues and MC as a whole. However, if that were not the case, Brian Chalk can see how it would present challenges in terms of working with his spouse.
“If we didn’t see eye-to-eye on our approach toward work, then certainly obstacles could arise, as they might for any couple, especially a couple raising a family. The challenges of raising a family collapse themselves with the challenges of being at work,” he said.
Being a married couple in academia definitely has its benefits and drawbacks, but it’s always worth asking the guy next to you in the cafe for a pen.