Brad Parquette (right) and Kevin Warner (left), professors in the Department of Theatre and Dance, sit outside Chapel Wilson Hall, where Warner’s office resides Feb. 7, 2024. Parquette’s favorite thing about Warner is attention to detail and ability to truly listen to people when they speak.
Brad Parquette (right) and Kevin Warner (left), professors in the Department of Theatre and Dance, sit outside Chapel Wilson Hall, where Warner’s office resides Feb. 7, 2024. Parquette’s favorite thing about Warner is attention to detail and ability to truly listen to people when they speak.
Ashton Woodruff

Married minds: App State faculty navigate love and careers

In the realm of higher education, where intellectual pursuits flourish, an intriguing dynamic often takes center stage — the world of married college professors. Beyond the lecture halls, office hours and helping students succeed, two App State couples explore the balance between professional careers and personal relationships.

According to a 2008 study from Stanford University, 36% of professors or academics are married to each other. Jeffrey and Rebecca Coats, as well as Kevin Warner and Bradley Parquette, are no exception to this statistic. The two couples shared their “how-we-met” stories, all the unique ways they navigate their careers and marriage as well as advice on how they think college students could approach their own.

 

Jeffrey and Rebecca Coats

For the past seven years, Jeffrey Coats, professor in the honors college and first-year seminar instructor, and Rebecca Coats, director of assessment and accreditation with the Reich College of Education, have worked together at App State, where they have found “their place” in Boone after many years of working in different higher education institutions.

Photo of Jeffrey Coats and Rebecca Coats smiling together, courtesy of Jeffrey Coats.

Their relationship started long before either received their Ph.D., dating back to even before their high school diplomas.
“We met in middle school. I was in the eighth grade and Rebecca was in the sixth, but the timing was off and we were always busy with other things and people,” Jeffrey Coats said.

The would-have-been middle school sweethearts didn’t reconnect until graduate school when they both landed at Auburn University in 1999 and he decided to ask her out on a date. One thing led to another, and the pair got married in 2002.

They have now been married for 22 years, and work together in higher education.

Rebecca Coats noted that typically the last thing they do when they get home is talk about work. For them, defining the line between the relationship as colleagues and as a married couple to people within their professional communities is challenging, but the two emphasized how crucial it is.

“We have always had a rule that we leave the office at the office,” Jeffrey Coats said. “Like in all things, balance is extremely important, and you need that in your marriage.”

After many years of marriage, the couple said one way they nourish their relationship is by recognizing their varied interests and having time for their own hobbies.

“We are very independent people with very different interests,” Jeffrey Coats said. “One of our best date nights is going out to dinner and to the theater, but we will split and see different movies that we’re interested in.”

Through their varied interests, they said they are always learning new things about one another and what they are passionate about.

“I get to learn so many new things from him about the things he has spark for,” Rebecca Coats said. “We aren’t constantly having the same conversations over and over again and it opens your eyes to different experiences.”

The little things are what make a relationship long lasting, and the pair emphasized how much it means to them to find those times amidst their busy lives.

“It’s the little moments every day, like when we are both sitting on the couch and we look at each other knowing exactly what the other is thinking because we’ve known each other for so long,” Rebecca Coats said. “Those, those are the special ones.”

 

Kevin Warner and Bradley Parquette

The art world is small, and ties together artists in little mysterious ways. For Kevin Warner, a professor of dance studies, and Bradley Parquette, an adjunct professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, a connection formed before they crossed paths.

“We knew of one another before we ever met,” Parquette said. “We both worked at an outdoor summer theater but at different times, and everyone we worked with said we were supposedly so similar.”

The pair finally met one summer at a reunion and agreed they were nothing like each other, but wanted to see where things could lead. Parquette said at the time they lived three hours apart and dated long-distance for a year, seeing each other when they could on the weekends.

“There were good things about the distance. It helps you ease into things and not be completely immersed in each other 24 hours a day,” Warner said. “There’s truth to the saying absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Warner and Parquette were domestic partners for many years until 2015 when same-sex marriage became legal. They said they were well into their mid-30s when they met, and it brought them a different mature perspective on their relationship. While marriage didn’t feel like something that was a necessity to them, they decided to get married regardless.

“Kevin came home one day and told me we had to get married one week for our jobs, and he got one of his students who was ordained to marry us,” Parquette said. “We needed a witness and asked our neighbor who just so happened to be outside walking her dog if she and her husband wanted to come.”

Leaping into a sporadic wedding ceremony, the about to be newlyweds decided to seal the deal in a scenic park with hopes of an intimate little ceremony, but the moment went differently than expected.

“Right when we started saying our vows a hawk came and scooped up a squirrel, all we could hear was it just screaming and screaming, we laugh about it now,” Parquette said. 

The pair understand each other’s worlds, but think differently. Parquette said they have the unique opportunity to talk about so many creative aspects of their lives and often hear opposing thoughts and feelings.

“We both are really career-driven and are so busy we don’t typically see each other much during the week,” Parquette said. “This semester Kevin is directing ‘Carrie: The Musical’ on campus and I am helping with the promotional materials for it. It’s cool to be able to collaborate artistically together.”

In Warner’s bright warm office, the pair noted qualities that they love in one another. Warner said it’s easy to find things to love about Parquette, specifically noting his sense of humor and “outgoing and vivacious personality” that Warner thinks complements his more serious and stoic personality.

After a personality-fitting chuckle, Parquette affirmed Warner’s thoughts and shared his favorite thing about his husband. 

“Kevin is just incredibly thoughtful and so totally unlike me it’s unique and intriguing,” Parquette said “I watch the effect it has on other people when he is just truly listening and responding to someone, that’s rare.”

Brad Parquette (right) and Kevin Warner (left), professors in the Department of Theatre and Dance, discuss how they met, what their wedding was like and how they spend time together Feb. 7, 2024. One of Warner’s fondest memories as a couple, was their road trip down to South Carolina because of how relaxing it was to not have an agenda and explore the coast freely together.
(Ashton Woodruff )

Relationship Advice

Through years of cultivating their relationships and navigating life, the two App State couples have collected many nuggets of advice. They gave guidance and suggestions they feel are important to help anyone who is exploring life and relationships.

 

“Communication sounds like a stereotype, but it’s a stereotype for a reason. We don’t bury things, it’s important to talk about it and then move on,” Rebecca Coats said. “Also, recognizing it’s okay to say you need the space to think, and then coming back to talk when you’re ready.”

 

“Don’t lose contact with everyone else in your life, it is very easy to lose yourself in a relationship,” Jeffrey Coats said. “As students, meeting new people and having co-curriculars is so important. Take advantage of every opportunity that is afforded to you.” 

 

“Keep your focus on your work, once you plant your feet professionally and personally you can open yourself up to people,” Parquette said. “You don’t want to spend so much time focusing on trying to find somebody that you’re not really living in the moment.”

 

“Be who you are. We both came out in a very different time and that came with a lot of challenges,” Warner said. “It’s so important to surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are.”

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