February 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day to Our Colonial Couples

Clockwise from top left: Mary Ellen and Courtney Mobley, Donna Scarboro and Ralph Steinhardt, Peter Konwerski and Leah Rosen, and Carol and Lee Sigelman.

By Jamie L. Freedman

GW is generally regarded as a family-friendly place. As one of Washington’s largest private employers, it’s no surprise that the University employs a considerable number of husband-wife teams. While GW does not officially track married couples, ByGeorge! easily located more than 20 Colonial pairs while researching this article, and that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of the couples we spoke to met at GW; others traveled here as a pair. A number of them cross paths frequently on campus, while others never see each other during the workday. All share an appreciation for working at the same institution. On these pages, we tell a few of their stories.

Mary Ellen and Courtney Mobley
Life has changed tremendously this past decade for Mary Ellen and Courtney Mobley, thanks to GW.

Their story began in 1991, when Mary Ellen moved to Washington from Massachusetts after her first husband passed away. She landed a job at GW as a receptionist in University Relations and was soon promoted to office manager. Tasked with overseeing her department’s rapidly expanding telecommunications needs, she came to rely on the expertise of Courtney Mobley.

A GW telecommunications technician (now information systems coordinator), Courtney came to GW in 1995 in search of “a quiet job” after a stressful stint at AT&T. “In the early days, there were lots of bugs in the system, so we often called over to tech support with questions and problems,” Mary Ellen says. “Every time Courtney saw a ticket come up with my name on it, he would volunteer to come over.”

After six years as friends and colleagues, Mary Ellen decided “to take the bull by the horns” and asked Courtney out to lunch in 2001. They dined at the former Tequila Grill on 20th and K streets, where “Courtney was so nervous that he couldn’t eat his lunch,” she recalls with a laugh. They dated for the next two years and were married in 2003, cheered on by three tables of GW friends.

Both chuckle when they think back to their GW courtship. “The guys in telecommunications couldn’t believe that we were going out,” reflects Mary Ellen. “They viewed us as oil and vinegar—Courtney as a tool belt tech and me as the lady over in Rice Hall walking around in three-inch heels!”

After four years of marriage, they both value working at the same institution. “It’s helpful to bounce thoughts and ideas off each other since we both know the people and issues involved,” says Mary Ellen. Courtney agrees, stating, “When discussing both good and bad things that happen during the workday, it’s useful that we both understand and relate to how GW operates.”

The couple shares a devotion to GW’s students. “We treat them like they are our own children,” says Mary Ellen, who has supervised dozens of work-study students during her tenure at the University.

They are careful not to discuss GW too much outside the office. “On holidays and weekends, we leave GW behind us and concentrate on our private lives,” Mary Ellen says. The couple enjoys vacationing, spending time with their families, and just being together. “Courtney has such a great sense of humor,” says Mary Ellen. “We just laugh and talk all the time!”

“Before Mary Ellen, I had a house, but it wasn’t a home,” says Courtney. “She has organized and enhanced my life. So many people these days get consumed or disappointed by their jobs, but I have to say that going to work is not so bad. I met Mary Ellen! GW has been good to me.”

Donna Scarboro and Ralph Steinhardt
It’s indeed a small world when it comes to the professional lives of longtime GW couple Donna Scarboro and Ralph Steinhardt.

As GW’s assistant vice president for special and international programs, Scarboro crisscrosses the globe overseeing the University’s extensive network of study abroad programs and international partnerships. Steinhardt, professor of law and international affairs, spends his summers in Oxford, England, co-directing the acclaimed GW-Oxford program in international human rights law, which he founded in 1994.

Scarboro began her GW career in 1983 as an adjunct professor of English and Steinhardt followed in 1985—making the leap from private law practice to academia. “I haven’t looked back since,” he says.

Over the years, both have racked up an array of professional accomplishments at GW. Scarboro is credited with launching numerous study abroad and summer abroad programs, as well as the Summer Scholars program for high school students and the U.S. Foreign Policy Institute. In addition to establishing the GW-Oxford program, Steinhardt has dedicated some 25 years to litigating international human rights cases pro bono in U.S. courts.

While they each have their own unique niche at the University, they take pleasure in collaborating on joint projects from time to time. “Donna was essential in making the Oxford program a reality,” Steinhardt notes. “We also co-taught a course on Western civilization in the early ’90s, which was a pretty wonderful experience.”

In 1995, Steinhardt received a Fulbright fellowship, which took the entire family to Galway, Ireland, for a year. “GW allowed Donna to telecommute from Ireland, which was great,” says Steinhardt.

When they’re both in town, they enjoy carpooling to work and periodically meeting for lunch. “We’ve commuted together for a quarter century, which is a real plus,” says Scarboro. “As our daughter and son were growing up, we’d drive them to school and then continue on to GW, which gave us many extra hours of ‘married people talk,’ as well as environmental benefits.”

Scarboro calls their situation perfect. “Our jobs are different enough that we have lots of space, but there’s enough overlap that we can jump through all the who’s who because we both know all the history and the characters,” she says.

“It’s almost like GW is a member of the family,” she adds. “The University is such a big part of our lives that we talk about it regularly and with the same concern, appreciation, and pleasure typically reserved for talking about a member of the extended family.”

Steinhardt agrees. “We have a special understanding because we work at the same institution,” he says. “Getting two academic positions at the same university was like a lightning strike, and we feel especially blessed.”

Peter Konwerski and Leah Rosen
By all accounts, Peter Konwerski, B.A. ’91, M.A. ’93, Ed.D. ’97, and Leah Rosen, B.B.A. ’96, M.T.A. ’02, are the quintessential GW couple. Both arrived in Foggy Bottom as undergraduates— Konwerski in 1987 and Rosen in 1992—and never left. Along the way, they met and built a life together.

Both began their GW careers as student leaders, Rosen as president of the Panhellenic Association and Konwerski as an RA in Thurston Hall. After earning a bachelor’s degree in human services, he stayed on at GW to earn an M.A. in higher education administration and a doctorate in education and human development. While pursuing his graduate degrees, Konwerski served as associate director of the Student Activities Center, where he was responsible for on-campus initiatives including Greek life and Colonial Inauguration. There, he first met Rosen in 1994.

“My Panhellenic office was on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center, and we would see each other in the hall all the time,” she says, recalling that she even recruited Konwerski to model formal wear in the Panhellenic Association fashion show. After earning her degree in business and marketing, Rosen was initially hired by GW to work in the Office of Special Events. About a year later, a position opened in the Student and Academic Support Services (SASS) Office of Communication and Creative Services, and Rosen took it. She worked closely with Konwerski in her new position. “We met every Thursday for several years to discuss marketing strategies for student programs and developed a good working relationship,” recalls Konwerski.

At the time, their two offices frequently socialized together after work—enjoying happy hours, basketball games, and dinners. “We never really had a first date in the traditional sense, since we were part of the same social group, but we eventually realized that we liked each other as more than friends,” says Rosen. They officially began dating in 1998 and were married in Rosen’s native Philadelphia in 2003. The couple wrote their own interfaith ceremony, and in Pennsylvania’s Quaker tradition of religious tolerance, they were married by their friends in an egalitarian ceremony emceed by their good friend and fellow alumnus Scott Mory, GW’s former assistant vice president of alumni relations and annual giving. “The Colonials mascot even made an appearance at our wedding,” says Rosen.

Through the years, they both assumed positions of increasing responsibility at GW. Konwerski now serves as assistant vice president for SASS, and Rosen is executive director of communication and creative services for SASS and Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer. While they don’t work as closely together as in the past, they typically wind up at the same meeting once or twice a week. “We rarely sit together, though,” says Rosen. “We try to keep our personal lives separate from our work lives. People often gasp when they find out that we’re married.”

The couple’s New Year’s resolution was to begin commuting to work together from their Bethesda, Md., home. “It seemed worth it environmentally and economically,” Rosen says. The biggest challenge so far has been agreeing on a radio station, says Konwerski, who is a fan of NPR. “I can’t focus on all that bad news so early in the day!” counters Rosen.

Late nights on campus are the norm for them both, but it’s rarely a source of conflict. “Since we both work in the same division, we understand each other’s responsibilities and are committed to the same values and mission,” states Rosen. “Our jobs may keep us on campus a lot, but they keep us on campus together.”

Carol and Lee Sigelman
Carol and Lee Sigelman came to GW as a pair in the early 1990s from the University of Arizona. A longtime academic couple, Lee was recruited to GW as chair of the Department of Political Science and Carol as a professor of psychology.

“Lee came to GW a year ahead of me in 1991, and found us a house in Washington, and I packed everything up and followed in 1992,” says Carol. “We felt very fortunate that GW had the flexibility to offer both of us jobs.”

Both have carved out niches for themselves at the University, where Lee chaired the Department of Political Science for seven years and continues to serve as a prominent professor. An expert on American politics and elections, he has written nearly 300 articles and six books on the American political system and is the former editor of The American Political Review. Carol is associate vice president for graduate studies and academic affairs, approving new courses and programs; conducting academic program reviews; and overseeing graduate student enrollment management, graduate student assistantships and fellowships, special and international programs, and the University Honors Program.

Now married 38 years, they’ve enjoyed their time at GW. “We have a fairly wide circle of friends here and feel a real sense of loyalty to the institution, which comes from being very well treated,” says Carol. “Both of us working here has made GW a central part of our lives. It’s what we talk about, what we think about, and what we do.”

Although their paths rarely cross on campus, they commute and attend basketball games together. “Carol reads memos, while I watch the games,” laughs Lee. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Carol exclaims, “I like to say that I’ve achieved the perfect integration of life and work. GW has become more important to us because it’s something that we share.”

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