They are both professors at the UNC School of Law and are married with three sons — Ben, Daniel and Noah.
Deborah teaches courses on intellectual property law, and Michael teaches constitutional law.
Michael and Deborah met in Cleveland after a mutual acquaintance set them up — but Deborah said her grandmother already knew about Michael from a newspaper article she read and wanted them to meet.
Michael didn’t just win over Deborah’s grandmother. He earned the approval of her dog, who disliked many people but loved him.
Deborah’s grandmother died shortly after the two started dating. She said Michael coming into her life was almost like it was meant to be.
“He came into my life just as she was dying,” she said.
The couple met in December 1996 and Michael proposed the following March 7, Deborah’s birthday, in New York. They married in August of 1997.
Deborah said the process was rather fast, but purposefully so, in order to accommodate her grandmother. She died before the wedding but was still able to see her granddaughter’s wedding dress and other preparations.
The couple was hired at UNC in 2005 at the same time. They even started work on the same day.
“No matter what happens at work, I know I always have someone to support me,” Deborah said. “I always have a lunch date.”
Michael said one of the nicest parts of working so closely to his wife is the extra time they get to spend together.
“There is no worst part,” he said.
This year, the couple share a parking permit, which they said can get a bit hectic; they try to schedule their classes around the same time to make things easier.
During class, the two have an abundance of family anecdotes to tell.
Deborah said she likes to relate diaper brands to trademark issues. Michael uses his sons and their differing personalities as a way to relate to equality.
When they are not working, the Gerhardts are usually at an art show, play or musical performance, since Deborah purchases season tickets to every PlayMakers show. The couple also shares a love of local Chapel Hill band, Mipso.
Michael considers himself more of a sports fan and will usually take his sons to UNC games — especially basketball.
“We are both strongly committed Tar Heels,” he said.
Carolyn Detmer is a third-year law student at UNC who has had both Michael and Deborah as professors.
“I think they complement each other well,” she said.
Detmer said although they are different, they are well-respected in the law school, both for their shared last name and respective accomplishments.
“Most of the comments I hear are positive, both them separately and together,” she said.
“I think people are really glad we have them.”