Their Hearts Bleed Violet: Meet Six NYU Faculty Couples

Happily-ever-after stories for Valentine's Day.
photo; felt hearts stuck in the pages of a book
thinkstock/jupiter55

Two married Courant professors jokingly refer to it as the "two-body problem": how to find not one but two jobs at the same prestigious university? This is the dilemma that many academic couples face, and yet despite the odds several have found a home among the NYU faculty.

With Valentine's Day upon us, we on the NYU News team asked just a few of those married NYU couples—some who research in totally separate fields and others who work in the very same department—to share their stories. Many thanks to all who humored us, and to art therapy master's student Grace Noh for the adorable illustrations.

Kristen Day (Tandon) and Keith Woerpel (FAS, chemistry)

charicature of Kristen Day and Keith Woerpel at the movies

Illustration by Grace Noh.

How long have you been married?
Since 2000, so it is easy for us to remember how long!

How did you meet?
Kristen: We met at a new faculty orientation at the University of California, Irvine, where we were both hired as new assistant professors. We were seated at the same table. We have always joked that the university takes care of every aspect of your life—even provides you with a partner!
Keith: I always advise my new colleagues to attend those orientations!

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
Kristen: We have never collaborated professionally. In fact, we have never even served on a committee together. That said, I have found it tremendously helpful to have insights from my faculty partner in another department and in a totally different field. This often shows me that there are multiple ways of doing things, or strategies (regarding student recruiting, faculty evaluation, or other topics) that we may want to try in our own department or school.
Keith: I have learned a considerable amount from Kristen about how things are handled in other disciplines and in other departments. My wife has also given me a tremendous education in gender issues, which I think has helped me be a more effective teacher and research advisor (and person).

Who hogs the bookshelf?
Kristen: Well, I would say that Keith is the reader of great literature among the two of us.  He is proof that scientists can also have an enormous appreciation for art and literature and the humanities.  Keith’s books are all the important writers, and are typically fiction.  My books are more likely non-fiction, and I’m a big fan of food writing, so those books are mine.  We are both guilty of hogging the bookshelf, and we almost never read the same books.
Keith: I read thick books very slowly. In the case of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, it was a series of thick books, all of which had to be read very, very slowly. Kris reads a wider variety of books, and she’s the fastest reader I have ever met. As a result, our bookshelves are insanely overflowing.

Petra Tosovska (FAS, chemistry) and Marcus Weck (FAS, chemistry)

How long have you been married?
Petra: We have been married for 8 years in May.
Marcus: I had to ask her multiple times before she said yes. Must be German persistency. 

How did you meet?
Petra: We met at NYU. The chemistry department was trying to recruit Marcus from Georgia Tech. He requested to meet with some departmental members and I met with him for lunch. (I always tell him that I was the reason why he decided to come to NYU but he keeps denying it!)
Marcus: I fully agree. It was TOTALLY Petra who got me to NYU. Not the colleagues, the opportunities of doing great science, the location, or the Met opera.

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
Petra: We ended up teaching a class together (Organic Chemistry I in 2015). Marcus was the lecture instructor and I was the lab instructor. It was fun to see the faces of our students when they learned we were married (which took a while.) This semester we teach together again but we made the "announcement" early on so the students don't feel embarrassed/confused/bad after they complain to me about Marcus. I don't know why since I really enjoy when they do.
Marcus: The first time we were teaching together, the students had no idea that we were married. Petra started to feel uncomfortable after a couple of weeks so I visited her with our two troublemakers (our sons, ages 1 and 3 at that time) after a class on spectroscopy and let the boys run into the lecture hall at the end of her class. It got the point across.

Who hogs the bookshelf?
Petra: Definitely Marcus and our two kids. Marcus is very "difficult" (I cannot find the proper word) when it comes to his books. Don't be fooled—they are definitely not scientific books, and they are organized, but I'm still trying to figure out how. 
Marcus: The kids' books are organized by language (the first row is for German, the next for English, and far left corner for Czech). The rest are organized by author, language, period, and topic. Goethe is next to Schiller and not Tolkien.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Gallatin) and Paula Chakravartty (Gallatin, Steinhardt)

charicature of Paula Chakravartty and Gianpaolo Baiocchi paddling a boat

Illustration by Grace Noh.

How long have you been married?
We can't tell you!

How did you meet?
In grad school—where else? In a seminar on “Theories of the State” taught by Erik Wright at University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
Yes, but not that often. We worked on a project for the San Diego Labor Center on the experience of temp workers, but only published a report from it. We collaborate on political issues, though, so this is a busy time.

Who hogs the bookshelf?
Paula!
 

Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh (Stern) and Laura Veldkamp (Stern)

How long have you been married?
13.5 years.​

How did you meet?
In our advisor's research seminar in the economics department at Stanford (really nerdy, we know).​

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
Yes, we wrote many papers together. A favorite was a paper on the home bias—or why people invest primarily in assets from their home country. ​More generally, it's about why people should specialize in doing something they initially do well. As academics, we're very specialized, so it speaks to us.

Who hogs the bookshelf?
Our kids. They have way more books than either of us.​
 

Christine Kovner (Meyers) and Anthony Kovner (Wagner)

caricature of Anthon Kovner bringing flowers to Christine Kovner (seated on a bench)

Illustration by Grace Noh.

[Answered by Christine]
How long have you been married?
Tony Kovner and I have been married for 45 years and have two children each with a PhD—one in economics and one in modern Japanese history. 

How did you meet?
We met at the University of Pennsylvania.  

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
We have collaborated many times. When I was a PhD student he was more helpful than any of my advisers. For a few editions of his best-selling book, Health Care Delivery in the United States, I wrote the chapter on health workforce. We frequently edit each other's work and of course are very free with our comments about it.

Who hogs the bookshelf?
Tony—no question. He is the author/editor of about 11 books and I have authored only one. I mostly publish in journals. He also hogs the bookshelves with books he is reading or has read. I now use a Kindle; he likes paper. 
 

Anat Lubetzky (Steinhardt) and Eyal Lubetzky (Courant)

caricature of Anat and Eyal Lubetzy inside a heart. Eyal holds a sign that reads "to me, you're perfect"

Illustration by Grace Noh.

How long have you been married?
It will be 10 years this March.

How did you meet?
Through a mutual friend, who used to host a group of friends (us included) every Saturday night to watch soccer games. We each rooted for teams that were bitter rivals, and used to constantly tease and really annoy each other!

Have you ever collaborated professionally?
Not as coauthors on a paper, but we are very much involved in each other's work and constantly consult with one another.

Who hogs the bookshelf?
The kids, by far; there is little room for any other books at home. They do have a couple of anatomy books that could technically qualify as professional books of Anat.

Know any couples we missed? Send tips to nyustories@nyu.edu.