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Friday June 9th

Isn’t it (academia) romantic? Fall in love with these professor couples at UNC

Love is in the air today at UNC, and students aren’t the only ones who will be celebrating the romance. Here are the stories of two professor couples and the roads that led them to the loves of their lives. Let them bring hope to everyone, single, taken or confused, that true love is out there.

'I photographed the love of my life 27 years before I met her'

Jock Lauterer, a lecturer in the School of Media and Journalism, has nothing but compliments for his wife, Lynne Vernon-Feagans, a researcher in the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Lauterer charmingly describes his wife as a “rockstar in her field” and the “love of his life.”

After meeting nearly 26 years ago in 1993, Lauterer recounts the tale of their history and what brought them together, darn near fate. 

“We were undergrads together that didn’t know each other. I was a rather prominent (Daily Tar Heel) photographer," Lauterer said.

In 1966, Lauterer was photographing a protest against what was known as Speaker Ban bill, where he took a picture of a crowd of students. 

"On the night that we met at a faculty bar in the town of State College, (Pennsylvania), we quickly realized that we had a shared past, and on our second date I showed her the photograph of the crowd," Lauterer said. "And she says, ‘There I am!’ I photographed the love of my life 27 years before I met her.”

Lauterer's photo of the Speaker Ban protests at McCorkle Place. Circled is Vernon-Feagans. Contributed by Lauterer.

The two UNC graduates eventually ended up back in Chapel Hill.

“We were teaching at Penn State together in the '90s, and as we approached a certain age we looked at each other and said 'What are we doing here? We are both Class of '67,'" Lauterer said. "We said, 'Let’s go home!'” 

And so they did. 

'We figured it out together'

Up next is Kate Sheppard and Deen Freelon, both professors in the School of Media and Journalism, with a story that might sound familiar for college students looking for love online.

Freelon and Sheppard met in Seattle, Wa., in 2006, when they both moved to the area within the same two-week period. Sheppard had moved there to start an internship at Grist, an environmental magazine, and Freelon was beginning his graduate program in communications at the University of Washington.

Freelon turned to the Tinder of the time – Craigslist, which they both laugh about to this day. Sheppard responded to his ad, and after exchanging emails, the two decided to explore Seattle together.

“Neither of us had cars – we were a broke grad student and a broke intern, so we spent a lot of the time riding the bus around Seattle going to neighborhoods and exploring new parks, so I have a fond memory of this time," Sheppard said. “Neither of us knew anyone, so we didn’t have any friends, so we figured it out together."

Sheppard said that with both being new to the city, it was nice to have someone to adventure with. The couple has now been married six years.

"We started dating on Halloween. That's when we were both like, 'I kind of like you,'" Sheppard said. "My son was due sometime around Halloween and I went into labor on Halloween, and my daughter was due on Halloween. It's also my favorite holiday, so Halloween is our general time of celebration."

Sheppard and Freelon on Halloween with their children. Contributed by Sheppard.

The couple even took their relationship long-distance for four years at one point. After Sheppard got a job in Washington, D.C., she moved there while Freelon finished his Ph.D. in Seattle.

“It sucks, but you can make it work,” Sheppard said – words of wisdom to keep in mind for all those long-distance Valentines out there. 

With two small children, a three-year-old son and a four-month-old daughter, life now is a bit more hectic. They switch off days at work to look after the children, and as for their favorite activity, well, it's exactly what you'd expect from an early-2000s Craigslist couple.

“We are young parents, so our favorite activity is basically to literal 'Netflix and chill' — not 'ya know' — but like literally watch Netflix and chill," Freelon said. "Just watching something on the couch, chilling out because we are usually tired out. That's kinda what we like to do at this point.”

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