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In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked some faculty members who are married and collaborate on research to share what brought them together and how they strike a balance when their personal and professional lives overlap. Over the next few days we will share their stories.

Life-Changing Injury Deepened Bond. A Sense of Humor Keeps Them Together.

Doug Kruse, associate director, Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, and Lisa Schur, chair of the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, both in the School of Management and Labor Relations (Photo: Mel Evans) 


She was a Jewish girl from the Upper West Side.

He was a Midwestern minister’s son.

So, what drew 19-year-old Lisa Schur and 18-year-old Doug Kruse together as Harvard undergrads?

“She saw my inherent charm and charisma,” Kruse joked.

Not exactly, counters Schur. Especially since Kruse, a budding economist, was gushing about a statistics class to the sociology student.

“Actually, I thought he was kind of boring when I first met him,” she said with a laugh.

That playful banter underscores what the Rutgers researchers said makes their 31-year-marriage work: shared sense of humor.

“I think that’s tremendously important in the relationship,” said Kruse, a distinguished professor with Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR), whose work in the areas of employee ownership, profit sharing and disability research is cited internationally. “Having the same sense of humor says a lot about your perspective on the world.”

Ultimately, it was a shared disappointment – the results of the 1980 presidential election – that bonded the two romantically, after a year of platonic socializing as part of a student dining cooperative.

“We took a long walk that night, talked a lot and after all those shared meals, something shifted,” said Schur, who chairs Rutgers’ SMLR’s Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations and is a sought-after expert in the area of disability research.

“I guess you could say Reagan brought us together,” said Kruse.

It would take another eight years, a combined six academic degrees and long stretches living thousands of miles apart before the two would say “I do” on June 12, 1988. Memories of those years of maintaining a long-distance relationship make them appreciate that they both landed at Rutgers – Kruse in 1988 and Schur in 1998.

After tying the knot, Kruse settled into his new role as an economics professor at Rutgers, while Schur was finishing up her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was working on a dissertation about women and unions. Then, just a few days shy of their second anniversary, the couple was involved in an accident that forever altered their personal and professional lives. While traveling from a friend’s wedding to Kruse’s parent’s home in Omaha, Neb., their car was struck by a drunk driver. Kruse was thrown from the vehicle and suffered near fatal injuries that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

“Divorce rates shoot up three times in the first few years following a spinal cord injury,” said Kruse. “You can understand that because there are a lot of stressors that a medical disability puts on our lives.”

But rather than tearing them apart, the couple said Kruse’s injury deepened their commitment to one another. The accident also opened their eyes to a largely unexplored area of research that they could mine together: the political and economic challenges facing people living with disabilities.

Shortly after the accident and within weeks of George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Schur changed her thesis to focus on disability issues in political participation and employment. As far as they know, Schur and Kruse are the only married professors in the country working together on disability research in relation to law, economics and politics. Together, they wrote the book People with Disabilities: Sidelined or Mainstreamed? in 2013 and coauthor reports on voter turnout among those with disabilities.

Sharing a home, workplace and field of study could be stifling for some couples, but not for Schur and Kruse.

“We know how to work together and what each other’s strengths are,” said Schur. “Sometimes we spend all our time talking about work and we need to go to a movie or do something else. But I’m kind of amazed. We never run out of things to talk about. We are just interested in so many of the same things.”

– Lisa Intrabartola

 

Inseparable

Julie and Ken Kendall, professors of management at Rutgers School of Business-Camden (Photo: Courtesy of Julie and Ken Kendall)


Julie and Ken Kendall, professors of management at Rutgers School of Business-Camden, learned early in their 43-year marriage the secret to a happy relationship: do things together.

And, oh, have they.

The couple met in a cafeteria line at the University of Minnesota in winter 1975, with Julie urging the young man in front of her to order something soothing for his cold. Love blossomed.

Ken and Julie quickly discovered they both enjoyed musical theater. “One of the first gifts Ken gave me was sheet music to Godspell," Julie said. They wed in June 1976.

Working side by side in their shared home office sparked 40 years of professional collaboration. It began this way: Julie was pursuing a doctorate in organizational communication and bounced ideas off Ken. Ken realized the work also pertained to his specialty, management information systems. They produced a joint paper in 1980 – the first of 59 they have coauthored (34 of those involved additional authors).

“It was hard at first. We each thought that our prose was the best, and that the other should rewrite theirs,” Julie recalled. But they came to appreciate each other’s approach. The paper’s publication in a top MIS journal sealed the writing partnership.

“We enjoy being together and solving problems through our research,” said Julie, noting they present jointly at conferences.

The Kendalls arrived at the School of Business-Camden in 1988, the year their first coauthored textbook, Systems Analysis and Design, was published (on Valentine’s Day). Now in its 10th edition, the book has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Indonesian. One chapter was even translated into Braille.

On one of their many international research excursions, the Kendalls saw their book in a store window in Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo. “That was quite a shock!” Ken said. In addition to writing papers and books together, the couple created an award-winning computer game for students learning systems analysis.

When Rutgers announced a contest in 1990 to update its alma mater, the Kendalls took a crack at it – and won. Their gender-neutral lyrics about Rutgers-Camden are sung at commencement each year.

The Kendalls, who did pro bono work for off-Broadway theaters, count many actors, directors, and playwrights as friends, and attended the Tony Awards a dozen times. During a sabbatical, the Kendalls served as nominators for The Drama League, reviewing more than 70 performances. “That was exhausting!” Ken said.

The Voorhees residents are founding members of The PhD Project, which recruits minority business professionals to earn doctorates and become business school professors and role models. They were inducted into the nonprofit’s hall of fame in 2016.

“We really love doing things together,” said Julie. Ken agreed: “It’s a great life!”

– Margaret McHugh

Groundbreaking Researchers of the Microbiome Have Great Chemistry

Martin Blaser and Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello both investigate the microbiome in their research (Photo: Roy Groething)


This Valentine’s Day, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello and Martin Blaser will likely be at home doing what they do most nights.

She’ll make the soup. He’ll put together the salad. They’ll spend time on their laptops, writing and editing research papers, thinking about their most recent discoveries and feeling lucky that they found each other.

“I was lucky to marry someone as wonderful as Gloria,” says Blaser, the director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and professor of medicine and microbiology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“There’s a lot of respect and love between us,” says Dominguez-Bello, director of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, the Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and in the Department of Anthropology at the School of Arts and Sciences.

The couple, who investigate the microbiome – the massive collection of bodily bacteria that regulate our health – will celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary next month. Both had been married before and started dating a decade after they first met, commuting from 2008-2012 whenever they could between San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Dominguez-Bello worked as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico to New York where Blaser was teaching at New York University.

“I didn’t remember that this woman was so beautiful,” Blaser remembers thinking when their paths crossed again in 2008 at a scientific meeting. “Then I realized how intelligent and how nice she was and what a good character she had.”

Blaser, the author of the 2014 award-winning Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues and named among the “100 most influential people in the world” by Time in 2015, was already prominent in his field when they started dating. Dominguez-Bello liked that he wasn’t a show-off. “I liked his sweetness, his warmth,” she says. “I knew he was handsome and intelligent but was attracted by his modesty and sense of humor.”

By 2012, Dominguez-Bello says the two of them realized “we weren’t getting any younger,” and the long-distance relationship needed to end. So, she got a job at NYU and moved to New York.

Shortly afterwards, Blaser’s father was widowed and the two spent the next six years caring for him until he died at nearly 101.

“If I wasn’t in love with Gloria before, I would have fallen in love with her again because she was so kind to my dad,” says Blaser. “My dad loved me very much but there is no question that Gloria stole his heart.”

The duo has been at Rutgers, she since January 2018, and he since January 2019. They oversee their own labs and most of the time publish separately but collaborate on some projects. She is a microbiologist and researches the microbiomes of babies, examining the effects of cesarean section and effect of urbanization on the microbiome of people, and he, a physician and microbiologist, focuses on the overuse of antibiotics and disease.

They think they complement each other at work and in life. She likes order. He punctuality.

“Marty is very aware of time and space, and has a high pace in doing things,” she says. “I am more laid back but like when things are in place.”

Coming to Rutgers was a good move for both. They commute to work each morning together, sometimes go to the gym together after work.

“Our workdays are so full,” says Blaser.  “Sometimes we go home for the weekend, don’t see other people and just spend the time together.”

– Robin Lally