This Valentine’s Day, most couples will enlist the services of chocolate, the smooth sounds of D’Angelo or some clingy lingerie. But a special few — namely, Yale professors — turn to their tattered volumes of Herodotus or War and Peace.
This Valentine’s Day, Yale’s undergraduates won’t be the only ones celebrating. In fact, a number of Yale’s professional academics will be toasting love — with each other.
President Richard Levin and Jane Levin, the director of undergraduate studies for Directed Studies, are prime examples. Married for nearly 35 years, their story ought to serve as a gentle warning for freshman: the love of your life could be sitting in your English class.
Such was the case for the Levins, although they didn’t actually meet until later in their undergraduate careers at Stanford University. The two finally became good friends during a semester abroad in Italy.
Living across the country from one another, they both practiced the forgotten art of penning love letters.
“Over the summer I used to write him every day,” Jane Levin said. “Those were the days when long distance phone calls were a big deal.”
They started dating during the fall of their junior year, and were married after graduation.
“The first year we were married we read War and Peace out loud to each other every night,” Jane Levin said.
A few years later, they both pursued PhDs at Yale — and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
“Obviously our entire lives are Yale,” Jane Levin said. “We know all the same people.”
Unlike the Levins, who met as fellow undergraduates, Charles Hill, a distinguished fellow in diplomacy, first met Norma Thompson, a senior lecturer in the humanities, as a student in her class at Georgetown University.
At the time, Hill was working for the State Department. Under the suggestion of Secretary of State George Schultz, Hill decided to take a class in something he had never had time for before: Herodotus.
“He got my attention by writing a brilliant paper,” Thompson said. “It should be said that I don’t marry every student who writes a brilliant paper.”
One Herodotus class grew into 12 years of marriage. Both Thompson and Hill now teach Directed Studies.
While Thompson and Hill credit Herodotus for their marriage, another Yale couple, history professor John Gaddis and theater studies associate professor Toni Dorfman, can thank Bertolt Brecht for their whirlwind romance.
Dorfman and Gaddis met at Ohio University when a colleague suggested their departments collaborate in planning a celebration of Brecht’s 100th birthday. Gaddis invited Dorfman to talk to his history seminar, and she “blew them away.”
Although both were married, they became closer two years later after their respective marriages had ended. Gaddis invited Dorfman out to dinner when he learned about their similar circumstances.
“She put her hand across the table and stroked mine,” Gaddis said. “And I said ‘Maybe we should hang out.'”
Just two weeks later, he proposed.
“I don’t know why it is, but my students seem very surprised by this whole proposing after two weeks thing,” he said. “Against all expectation, it has worked out.”
Dorfman and Gaddis just celebrated their fifth anniversary. They said they remain madly in love.
“I do think it is important to be able to be inspired by your partner,” Dorfman said. “It’s important to find each other amusing. I also think John smells wonderful.”
At Yale, Gaddis and Dorfman said they enjoy knowing the same community of people.
“We’ve got twice as much gossip as a normal faculty member,” Gaddis said.
Far from a whirlwind romance, lecturer of history Ted Bromund and associate professor of classics Shilpa Raval struggled with a long distance relationship for almost seven years before ending up at Yale together.
The two met through mutual friends in graduate school, and like many academics, could only find positions in different states. Raval taught at University of Missouri, while Bromund worked at Yale. They only saw one another a few times a year.
Then Bromund unexpectedly came across a classics job opportunity listing in the Yale Daily News, and persuaded Raval to apply. Knowing the tight job market, neither thought it would come to much. But, the moment Raval returned to Missouri from an interview in New Haven, she received a phone call from Yale.
“It was massively unexpected,” Bromund said. “We are very unusual in that it worked out like this.”
After she moved to New Haven, they were married. Bromund and Raval now not only work in the same state, but at the same institution.
“It is heaven for us,” Raval said.
Bromund said he has plans for Valentine’s Day that include dinner, but didn’t want to reveal too much.
Maybe a little War and Peace?