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Professor Couples at Princeton University

Adele Goldberg and Ali Yazdani

On the surface, University professors Adele Goldberg and Ali Yazdani seem like an unlikely pair. Goldberg, a professor of linguistics, spends most of her time upcampus in Green Hall, the home of the psychology department. Her husband, Yazdani, can usually be found a long way down Washington Road in Jadwin Hall with the rest of the physics department.

Goldberg and Yazdani’s relationship is the story of two worlds collided. The professors met at the University of California at Berkeley, when Goldberg was a first-year doctoral student focusing on linguistics and Yazdani was in his last year studying physics as an undergraduate student. Although they faced their first minor bout of physical separation when Yazdani began his doctoral program at Stanford, they managed to keep their relationship strong. “The advice we give other couples is always to get the best training you can early on, even if you have to live apart for a while,” Goldberg said.

After receiving Ph.Ds in their respective fields, Goldberg and Yazdani were separated again, this time moving farther apart than just across the San Francisco Bay, to pursue different career paths. Goldberg began working as an assistant professor at University of California, San Diego, while Yazdani conducted research in the Bay Area at IBM. “We’re grateful to Southwest Airlines for the cheap tickets that allowed us to meet every weekend during those years,” Goldberg said. After both worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for several years, Goldberg and Yazdani moved to Princeton together. Next year marks their ten-year anniversary working at the University.

In each professor’s opinion, there are only benefits to working on the same campus. “We feel very lucky to have positions at the same University doing what we love … and shar[ing] the same general schedules and pleasures,” Yazdani explained. “There are actually a fair number of couples on campus, many of whom we’ve become friends with. It’s hard to think of a downside to being part of the same larger community”.

Though working at the same university ensures that Goldberg and her husband usually share enough common experiences to substantively discuss community matters related to the school and the township, she admits there isn’t much collaboration between the two in terms of work. “We don’t have any background in each other’s areas, so we only talk about our ideas or new findings in our fields in a very general way. But, we spend a lot of time talking about the sociology of our respective fields together,” Goldberg said.

Indeed, it would be quite difficult to think of two more strikingly different academic fields than those of Goldberg and Yazdani. However, these two professors prove that a humanities and science major can surely find love in each other — maybe even at Princeton.

Harriet and Michael Flower

On Harriet Dealtry’s second day at Oxford University, she was at a cocktail party when Michael Flower, a graduate student in her department, arrived and caused a small commotion.

“I noticed him because everyone was saying, ‘You weren’t invited! Why are you here?’ ” she recalled during a recent joint interview.

“I guess when we met at the cocktail party, you were also struck because I was wearing a red plaid shirt. It was a very sort of un-English thing to wear,” he added. “So maybe the outlandish piece of clothing is what gets the girl!”

That Dealtry noticed Flower at all was remarkable. She was part of the inaugural class of women at Oxford. In that first year, she was one of 29 women on a campus with over 450 men.

Harriet Dealtry is now Harriet Flower, professor of classics and master of Mathey College. Michael Flower, her husband, is also a classics professor. After hitting it off at the cocktail party, they began dating and stayed together even after Michael Flower left England to begin working toward his Ph.D. at Brown.

At times, the distance made maintaining the relationship a challenge. “Before Skype, before email, it was letters. It was the occasional telephone call, which was expensive,” Michael Flower said. “It’s a very different experience.” He later added, “I think a lot of our friends thought that we would eventually probably not stay together because of the distance, those two years, and the difficulties of bridging that.”

The couple did stay together, however, and they were married at Oxford once Harriet Flower completed her B.A. In fact, Michael Flower recalled, his wife was organizing the wedding while studying for her final exams at Oxford.

After Harriet Flower received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, the couple began job-sharing at Franklin & Marshall College, dividing between them the responsibilities of Michael Flower’s existing position at the school. Harriet Flower, who specializes in Greek history, began teaching the Greek history courses that her husband had previously taught, while Michael Flower continued teaching the courses in Roman history, which is his area of expertise.

They were one of the first couples at Franklin & Marshall to job-share, though Harriet Flower noted that now professors who are not married sometimes job-share in order to spend more time at home. Some of their colleagues questioned their choice, but for the Flowers, balancing their academic duties and the job of raising a family has always been a priority.

“It was always trading off,” Harriet Flower said. “Our kids didn’t go to daycare until they were 18 months old; we didn’t even have nannies. We just kept switching off.” Their older daughter, who was a sophomore in Mathey College when Harriet Flower first became master, graduated from the University last spring. Their younger daughter is currently studying at Bard College.

Though the Flowers have never officially collaborated on a project, they read each other’s work and enjoy bouncing their ideas off of one another. As Michael Flower put it, “One of our friends said to me, ‘You’re so fortunate because when you’re at home over the dinner table, you can discuss ancient history with someone!’”

“I think it’s really worked out,” Harriet Flower said. “We love having a relationship that has so many different facets to it and where we can share everything.”

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