Those who have been lucky enough to find love in the workplace can easily imagine the unique dynamic that comes with professional together time. For two married pairs of professors, though, spousal bonding goes beyond making dinner together side-by-side.
Nancy Boykin and Dan Kern of the theater department and Mary Myers and Daryl Carrington of the landscape architecture and architecture departments discuss their work at Temple and students’ reactions to their partnerships, the principles of sustainable design and the discomfort of trashcan-dwelling.
Mary Myers and Daryl Carrington
Students of the sustainable design gen-ed may be surprised on the first day of class to see more than one professor at the front of the room.
“Usually we’ll introduce all the teachers, and I’ll say, ‘By the way, we’re spouses, we have different last names,’” Myers said.
Myers and Carrington met while working at a landscape architecture and planning firm in New York City, their first jobs after graduate school. They came to Temple 10 and six years ago, respectively, from North Carolina State University, and now serve as associate and adjunct professors in the landscape architecture and architecture departments.
They co-created sustainable design with the intention of it always having three professors – a landscape architect, an architect and a planner.
“[Sustainable design] operates on these three different levels,” Carrington said. “Planning is large-scale and policy oriented. How you set it up results in degrees of sustainability, how you use the landscape, how you build upon the land. Planning, landscape architecture and architecture make a very strong structure for triangulating the issues.”
Carrington added, “When the gen-ed opportunity came along, it was a great opportunity for us to work together, but to work together in a way that could enrich the experience of the course for the students because of our different points of view and how we came from different schools to arrive at the same conclusion, or similar conclusions.”
The two of them are joined this spring by planner Jeff Harris.
Outside of Temple, Carrington works as the director of sustainable design at J. Davis Architects. Myers is no longer in practice, but teaches and conducts research at Temple.
While students’ reactions to hearing their teachers’ marital status is never dramatic, Myers and Carrington said they believe the disclosure serves a useful purpose in the classroom.
“It gets a smile and it gets it personal,” Carrington said. “The point is that we’re trying to get a large class engaged, so to have a kind of rapport with the class…Their knowing that we have a rapport [with each other] helps that.”
Myers added, “It’s a really open atmosphere where we value different perspectives. They can see that we don’t agree on every issue, perhaps, or that our particular professional slant is one that the other person hasn’t thought of. The conversation might be different from one semester to the next. And for us it keeps it interesting as well. It’s a class we really enjoy teaching.”
Although working and living together could seem daunting to some, Myers said the work environment adds something new to their relationship.
“It is a lot of together time, but it’s a special time because you know in your other together time you might be thinking about domestic things,” Myers said. “You’re in a different mindset and this is incredibly intellectually stimulating. It’s really fun.”
Nancy Boykin and Dan Kern
When Dan Kern saw Nancy Boykin’s headshot at the Alabama Shakespeare festival they were both acting in 25 years ago, he knew he had to find a way to make her fall for him. His prospects were not good, he said.
“She was already living with somebody in New York,” Kern said. “She was not particularly open to my overtures, in the beginning. But I was persistent.”
The quickly changed – the two later married.
In 2001, Boykin and Kern left California State University in Los Angeles to teach at Temple and seek better education opportunities for their then middle-school-age son.
They have since taught assorted acting, musical theater and directing classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and Kern has been named head of graduate acting. Outside of Temple, they both work as professional actors, including in the Arden Theatre Company’s current production of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame,” in which they play a legless elderly couple restrained to dustbins.
“It’s about losing your ability to connect, losing your sight, losing your hearing, having very little to hold on to,” Boykin said about the play. “It’s a rather absurdist set of images. He’s eating a dog biscuit, and we’re in the two trashcans, so we can’t quite kiss.”
“It’s not what you would call commercial fare,” Kern added.
Kern’s directing career has allowed them to work together in other capacities, too.
“I’ve actually directed her in a number of shows,” Kern said. “It’s hard in one sense. Acting is a very personal thing, and then you have your personal life, you live together, so I think talking about the work and separating it from who’s doing the dishes or cooking the meals or whatnot is not always easy. But I think we’ve managed pretty well.”
Boykin and Kern have made it a point not to publicize their marital status to students.
“I’ve always tried to keep that quiet,” Boykin said. “I know now that by the time the students reach their junior and senior level, they usually know, but in acting I and acting II and he’s around, I don’t usually say, ‘Oh you can go and see my husband.’ I say, ‘Dan Kern is in charge of acting and you can make an appointment.’ And I have had students, when they’ve finally realized, come running up and say, ‘Oh my gosh I didn’t realize!’ But I don’t really publicize it because I think it makes it easier to have two separate [identities].”
Theirs is now a Temple family, as their son now takes acting classes at the university as well.
Julie Zeglen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.