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She likes Norwegian goat cheese. He hates it.
He likes cruise control. She doesn't.
They do not serve on the same faculty committees, and they do not always vote the same way on faculty issues. He's more historical. She's more political.
But Professors Dick and Mary Jane Androne have a partnership that has worked well for 40 years, in their teaching careers—and their marriage.
Freshmen who have Professor Androne for English understandably don't always realize that there is another Professor Androne because there are strong similarities. Both Andrones hold doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania (where they met). Both have won distinguished teaching awards.
Both Professors Androne have encyclopedic knowledge of their discipline, are known for being exceptionally caring and supportive of their students, and are deeply involved in and devoted to Albright and its liberal arts mission.
They are also both originally Midwesterners and members of what they call, tongue in cheek, Albright's"Norwegian Mafia." (She's half, he's a quarter.)
But in person the Andrones immediately impress you with their differences in personality and scholarly styles and interests. While both are tall and elegant, she is pale and platinum-haired, and he is dark-haired. Sporting his trademark bow tie and bucket hat, he is more gregarious, with a ready wit. He specializes in American lit and she specializes in British. He enjoys fantasy, science fiction and the supernatural. She prefers realism.
In conversation they fill in each other's thoughts and pauses like, well, people who have been married and working together for more than 40 years. And one thing they agree on is that living and working in a liberal arts college community is a wonderful thing.
Dick calls the liberal arts college a center for intellectual, social and cultural life. Mary Jane notes that the interdisciplinary focus at Albright
The gallery, theatre and the visual arts, diversity, African and Caribbean literature, and gender studies are passions for Mary Jane. Founder of the Women's Center in 1989 and director until 2010, she has taught courses including "Sex Roles," an interdisciplinary course taught with Professor Marsha Green '63, since 1974. Along with men's and women's roles, they discuss hot button topics like abortion, homosexuality, transgendering and domestic violence. "It is the most controversial course I teach, but it is also the one that students remember and comment on when I run into them after graduation."
"The most important thing is working with students and seeing them come alive, finding their way through cultural development." - Dick Androne
Conversations with students Mukoma Wa Ngugi '94 and Kanyo Gqulu '95 inspired Mary Jane's interest in African writers and her drive to have African literature courses included in the English curriculum. Noted novelist, poet and essayist Ngugi says, "I would be a different writer and scholar if I had not met Mary Jane – that I can say without a doubt. It was Mary Jane who introduced me to the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Stendhal, James Joyce and of course Tolstoy and many others… At the same time Kanyo Gqulu and I were interested in African literature but there were no such courses at the time. Mary Jane would ask us to suggest the books we were interested in. We would read them and then have great discussions."
In 2009 she received a grant for a Fulbright-Hays Seminar in Dakar, Senegal. Her recent publications are on the roles of men and women in fiction by African women writers.
For Dick, 19th and 20th century American literature is only a portion of his knowledge. ("How much that man knows, it's not normal," laughs Rachel Keefer '12.) In the past few years he has created new courses including "The Vampyre," which he says appeals to his love of literature's "darker side," and the freshman seminars "Coming of Age in America" and "Netherlands, Otherlands," which includes works like Gilgamesh and The Odyssey.
Living in Reading has influenced his scholarship, including his creation of "Reading/Reading Rabbit," a course on John Updike, perhaps Reading's most famous native son. An interest in American architecture and material culture started early (Dick designed the house his parents built when he was 12), and Reading's magnificent Victorian architecture was a natural attraction. He produced an architectural guide to the city and, as part of the city's 250th anniversary celebration, a history of Christ Church. Albright President Lex McMillan also relied on his expertise in researching the Victorian style (Stick and Shingle) and original colors of White Chapel, built in 1882. He is also interested in ancient literature and translation.
Students and former students alike cherish their experiences with the Andrones in and out of class. Sean Fuoti '12 says they are the ones you go to when you have a question. "I find that they teach differently. She's more elegant, even in the books she chooses. He's more comical with it."
Leah Deeham '14 says simply, they are"passionate" about their work and their students.
Jeff Joyce '83, Albright trustee and partner and chief financial officer, Booth Creek Management Corporation, Atlanta, Ga., says he enjoyed classes with both Andrones, but his favorite experience was an Interim trip to England. "The combination of their own passion for the subjects and authors along with the opportunity to actually experience the places where literature was written and written about was truly one of the highlights of my time at Albright."
Lauren Ashburn '89, president of Ashburn Media Company and executive editor and CEO of the online "The Daily Download," credits Mary Jane for "making me the writer I am today." Ashburn calls Mary Jane's teaching style "gripping," and recalls many broad reaching conversations about literature, women's issues, current events and more. Recalling Dick and his bow tie, Ashburn says, "How could you not laugh along with Dick?" she says. "He is an intellectual giant who brings literature to life in a way that students can understand and get excited about."
Ngugi also vividly remembers students' "keg literary salons" with the Andrones and other faculty. "Looking back now, Mary Jane and Dick Androne modeled serious literary scholarship that was at the same time fun and, eh, humane. As I begin an assistant professorship of English in African literature at Cornell University in the fall you can be sure they will be central to my pedagogy."
At home, just a few hundred yards from their offices in Masters Hall, the Andrones discuss news and issues over their daily copies of The New York Times. "It's an advantage to have someone very close to talk to about issues. Relationships are stronger where people hash things out," Dick says.
He says he learned most of what he knows about gender issues from Mary Jane. She says she sees"the world in new ways because of his influence. His interests in architecture, history, art and music have enriched my vision of the world, and I think my perspectives on women and gender and non-western literature have influenced him."
They both will always choose chocolate over vanilla. And they are in total agreement that the accomplishments of their students are paramount.
"The most important thing is working with students and seeing them come alive, finding their way through cultural development," Dick says. Mary Jane adds, "Although we do not always agree on political issues at Albright… we do share the same vision of what a liberal arts college should be, and we share the same hopes for Albright's future."
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