COURTESY WAYNE DAVIS & KATHRYN OLESKO Professors Wayne Davis and Kathryn Olesko on their 25th wedding anniversary. The pair have been a married couple teaching at Georgetown for over 30 years.
COURTESY WAYNE DAVIS & KATHRYN OLESKO
Professors Wayne Davis and Kathryn Olesko on their 25th wedding anniversary. The pair have been a married couple teaching at Georgetown for over 30 years.

Kathryn Olesko and Wayne Davis have many things in common. Both professors hold leadership positions within their respective departments. Both are heavily involved in the campus community. But what many of their students never knew is that they have been married for more than three decades.

There are at least five known professor couples on campus, but according to Georgetown professors, the number of couples among their ranks often remains hidden — for better or for worse.

Olesko teaches in the history department and is the director of the Master of Arts in German and European Studies program. Davis chairs the philosophy department, teaches and has served as president of the Faculty Senate since 2001. Although they have been together for nearly 35 years, Olesko and Davis said that many on campus have no idea they are married.

“Since we had different last names, no one really linked us together,” Olesko said.

For Pietra Rivoli, a professor of finance and international business professor, the Hilltop was where she met her husband, Dennis Quinn, after he started teaching at the McDonough School of Business in 1987. For Rivoli, the benefits of being married to a fellow professor far outweigh the challenges.

“There are many practical benefits,” she said. “You can almost always get a ride to work if you need one, and our vacations always match. Negatives? Not yet. But you can ask us in 2020, which will be our 30th anniversary.”

For reasons of scholarly publication, Olesko explained, many female professors often keep their maiden names. Olesko said that because she and her husband work in separate departments, they rarely eat lunch together. Different schedules also prevent them from commuting together.

Catherine Tinsley, a professor in the MSB and director of the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative, often finds herself in the same predicament. Although she is married to fellow MSB professor John Mayo, Tinsley said it’s unusual for them to spend time together at school.

“It is surprising how infrequently we can even carpool together,” Tinsley said.

For Olesko though, this is all part of a conscious choice. While she and her husband have served on a few committees together, she said they have worked hard to cultivate separate lives.

Davis began teaching at Georgetown in 1979, and Olesko joined him a year later when a position in the history department opened up. For Olesko, getting her first academic job during that time was more difficult than she expected.

“They asked, ‘What will your husband do if you get the job?'” she said, adding that she took off her wedding ring for the interview. “Nobody asked a male professor that.”

Recounting their early years as a couple, Davis and Olesko described years of long-distance communication and traveling to stay close.

“We supported Ma Bell [a phone company] and Allegheny Airlines,” Olesko said. “Those companies don’t even exist anymore. God, we sound so old.”

Accommodating spouses remains an important part of increasing female faculty in full-time and tenure-track positions at research universities, according to a 2010 report published by the American Association of University Professors.

As president of the faculty senate, Davis spearheaded an initiative to implement more family-friendly policies after Olesko’s experiences highlighted problems with maternity policies at the university.

According to Olesko, she got less than two weeks off for maternity leave under the old policy.

“I’m still tired,” she said, laughing.

At present, the university follows a family care leave policy which also allows for paternity leave, but issues regarding maternity leave remain for Medical School and Law Center faculty, along with graduate students, according to Davis.

Despite the obstacles, both Olesko and Davis said that their family life and their campus lives have become intertwined.

“Occasionally our dinner conversations were interrupted by shop talk,” Davis said.

“Our son grew up hearing the politics of Georgetown,” Olesko added.

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