UT is one of the world’s leading research universities, populated by some mind-blowingly smart and accomplished scholars. But that doesn’t mean we’re not in tune with matters of the heart as much as the mind.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re looking at some heart-warming love stories from the Forty Acres. Originally published in the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, these 10 stories about “Longhorns in Love” will make Cupid put down his arrows and put up his horns.
International students’ love endures transpacific crossing
Wei-Hsiang Huang always dreamed of coming to the U.S., but the thought of leaving everything he knew scared him. There was only one person with whom he could think of beginning this new chapter of his life.
“Seeing her, I immediately knew that she was the one for me,” Huang said. “It’s just a feeling that you get. Now, coming here, it’s the next big step in our lives.”
Wei-Hsiang Huang and Yu-Ting Lin, both operations research and industrial engineering graduate students, met in 2011 playing basketball for their university’s engineering department in their home country of Taiwan. Lin had a boyfriend when they first met, so they began their relationship as good friends, but they soon discovered they had deeper feelings for one another. Huang, who is two years Lin’s senior, would always try to find little excuses to talk to Lin.
“I always knew before because he would ask me stuff like when due dates were for assignments, even though he had plenty of other friends that he was closer with in that class,” Lin said. “[Then] he went away from Taiwan for a week and I was like ‘Wait, am I missing him? Am I really falling in love with him?’”
Professors’ love bridges cultural gap
They started as neighbors living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with little connection to their Latin American roots — besides each other. Soon, their friendship blossomed into a romance neither could have planned.
Latin American sociology professor Javier Auyero and Spanish and Portuguese associate professor Gabriela Polit met in 1992 when they were both studying in New York City. While at a reception for Latin American students, the two began talking. From the start, they bonded over politics, books and their shared experience as foreigners caught in the hustle and bustle of the city.
“We had a lot of common interests that we didn’t know about but were discovering,” Auyero said. “We would spend hours in a coffee shop just talking about a book we were reading.”
Destiny unites professors in Brazil
In the midst of doing research for their doctoral dissertations, government professors Wendy Hunter and Kurt Weyland found one another while exploring the unknown wonders of Brazil.
“When you go to a country, especially a country that is so different from your home country, you almost feel like an anthropologist — and you try to figure out the ways people do things, what the rules of the game are,” Weyland said. “It was nice to have a fellow anthropologist. We essentially experienced the country together.”
Although Hunter was born in the U.S. and Weyland in Germany, destiny found a way to unite them. They narrowly missed one another several times on previous trips to Brazil and outings with mutual friends. One afternoon, when Hunter was studying at a social sciences library in Rio de Janeiro, she saw a man resembling a Stanford Ph.D. student her advisor told her would also be doing research with her in Brazil.
She didn’t know for certain if it was him, but she figured she would take a chance to ask.
From roommates to best friends and girlfriends
When they were roommates, Prity Kahn and Lisa Bei were so close they would often joke about being in a relationship. But when they first met, Kahn was unsure if they would ever get along.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, are we ever going to laugh together when I’m living with this person?’” sociology sophomore Kahn said. “This person isn’t making any facial reactions to what I’m saying, and I’m the type of person that feels like they have to compensate with loudness if the person they’re talking to is quiet.”
Kahn and sociology junior Bei are a gay couple who met in 2014. Both had put off finding roommates until the last minute and were desperate to find someone. Despite first impressions, they moved in together.
As they got to know each other better, they discovered they shared many common interests to the point where it felt uncanny.
Professors find love between the pages
English professor Patricia Garcia wasn’t expecting to be introduced to the love of her life at a book release party. As the night progressed, she began to realize this was the kind of person she had been looking for all of her life.
“We have a lot of similar growing up experiences,” Garcia said. “But the fates just didn’t happen to pull us together until that particular moment.”
Garcia and her husband John Gonzales, associate professor and CMAS director John Gonzales, met at a book release party in 2004. They immediately began to bond over their deep love for their South Texas roots and their love of literature, specifically, for the work of the great bard — Shakespeare. They were hooked.
Geography professors share love story
They met in the flat planes of Botswana, sleeping in tents, cooking over a fire pit and living out of their suitcases.
Geography and the environment associate professor Kelley Crews and lecturer Thoralf Meyer met in 2006 when Crews arrived at the University of Botswana for research, where Meyer was running a lab.
Although Meyer had lived in Africa for the past 20 years, he felt unsure of himself when his future wife walked into the lab.
Amidst literary debate, professors find love
It was a crisp, fall day at Columbia University when English associate professor David Kornhaber was running late realizing he had misread the time of his orientation just as English assistant professor Donna Kornhaber was exiting her graduate school orientation meeting.
“She was beautiful and alone. My first words to her were ‘Is your ID as bad as [mine]’ and she said ‘no,’” said David Kornhaber. “What amazed me was that she kept talking to me. I remember jabbering about I don’t know what but in my head thinking ‘Oh my god she is still talking to me.’”
Incidentally, they later found themselves placed in the same graduate seminar. While she studied theater and film, he concentrated solely on theater. In a tiny room with a small group of fellow classmates, a friendship began to bloom as they engaged in passionate discourse about the artistic discrepancies between film and theater, a discussion they have yet to resolve.
Professors find love at Brazilian carnival
Paloma Diaz and Raul Madrid were born countries apart, but it only took one Brazilian carnival in Bahia to bring them together.
“Sometimes you just know,” Madrid said. “I remember in Rio when we were together with my friend Mike from the Peace Corps, I turned to Mike and said, ‘Maybe I should bring this one back with me to the United States.’ It was a joke but … it wasn’t really a joke.”
Today, Latin American studies program director Paloma Diaz and government and Mexican American studies professor Raul Madrid have settled down in Austin with their family. But the memories of their backpacking days live on in the story of how they met.
Professors share love for teaching and each other
Working in a male-dominated field, computer science professor Alan Cline was primarily used to being around men. But when professor Elaine Rich made waves as one of the first women joining the department, he knew he found the one for him.
“I was a single father of two little girls, and it was not the case that I was shopping around for someone to be a stepmother,” Cline said. “I wasn’t looking, but having around a female I could pose questions to was great, and it just fell together.”
Rich and Cline met in 1979 when Rich came to UT. Cline started working at UT in 1975, and when Rich joined, she caught Cline’s attention with her humor and intelligence.
Professors find love in Parlin basement
On a late-October evening, a noise coming from the hallways in Parlin Hall’s basement brought professors Thomas Garza and Elizabeth Richmond-Garza out from their adjacent offices and together for the first time.
They were new hires. Garza had been working in the state department in D.C. and Richmond-Garza had just moved from New York and was finishing her dissertation in comparative literature.
“We both ended up in the exile offices with all the people who weren’t important yet,” said Garza, now an associate professor in the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies.
But he had taken notice of the “cool” professor across the hall and hoped for an opportunity to speak to her.
One night, when Garza stayed late to grade papers, his opportunity came when he heard a sound outside his office.
That sound, Garza discovered, was the beating wings of Mexican free-tailed bats. They had gotten into the ceiling from an unsealed vent and turned the space into a home similar to the one underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Longhorns!