The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday September 25th

UNC English professors have a fairy tale romance

Jessica Wolfe (Director of Comparative Literature
Professor, English and Comparative Literature) and Reid Barbour (Professor of English) look over the first half of Reid's thesis that he wrote in 1982.
Buy Photos Jessica Wolfe (Director of Comparative Literature Professor, English and Comparative Literature) and Reid Barbour (Professor of English) look over the first half of Reid's thesis that he wrote in 1982.

She was wearing a bandana and smoking a cigarette and, more importantly, she was walking toward him.

He looked at her.

She looked at the wall.

And that’s when Professor Reid Barbour fell for Professor Jessica Wolfe.

“You’ve got to understand that Jessica Wolfe is one of the most learned, amazing, talented people you’ll ever meet,” Barbour said. “I thought, ‘Oh, this girl cares nothing for me.’”

Barbour said he met Wolfe earlier when he was on the search committee for a new professor in the English department.

She interviewed and got the job.

“There was no arm-pulling on my part, nothing,” Barbour said. “Everybody agreed she was the best on the market.”

But the truth is Barbour liked Wolfe from the first time he ever saw her.

“It never would have occurred to me that I would do anything about it because we’re hiring her,” he said. “So I kept it to myself.”

And there was the fact that she was from New York, and he was from North Carolina.

“It’s like North versus South, Yankee versus Dixie,” Barbour said. “But, we share the most essential bond — we love the same subject. So we started dating.”

Now, the married couple has been together for 16 years.

Wolfe said she remembers Barbour from the interview where they first met.

She said he was the one who asked the toughest questions.

“I remember thinking, ‘I want a whole day just to spend answering those questions,’” she said.

Wolfe said she thought Barbour was the hardest to impress, but he was the one she wanted to impress most.

“That’s what love at first sight between academics is,” she said.

After her curls, Barbour said the thing he loves most about his wife is that she’s an incredible teacher. Wolfe said everything she knows about teaching, she learned from him.

“He changes the lives of students, not just by making them love his subject, but by making them realize that you’re truly alive when you’ve found something that you have that much passion about as he has towards his subject,” she said.

Wolfe said she values the way she and Barbour work together as teachers.

“It’s not that we couldn’t each do this on our own, but to do it together provides different perspectives, different experiences, and I think the sum is more than each of the parts there,” she said.

Hassan Melehy, a colleague in the English department, said their teamwork is an asset to the English department.

“They work closely together, they help a lot of students together, they plan professional events together, and I think we wouldn’t have the same quality of special events and healthy students unless they did work together like that,” he said.

Since they got together 16 years ago, Barbour said their life together has been blissful.

Barbour insists his wife is the best woman in the world, but she insists it’s him who’s the better of the two.

“That’s what a good marriage is made of right there, when each party thinks they are the lucky one,” Wolfe said.

“Each of us thinks we got the lucky end of the deal.”

arts@dailytarheel.com



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