Once again, we’d like the campus community to share its stories of falling in love at Chico State—with a sweetheart, best friends, an interest, or even this beautiful campus. Share them on social media with the hashtag #ChicoLove. Here, three campus couples share their stories.
Newshounds, travel junkies, adventure seekers—Joe Picard and Diana Dwyre share a lot in common. But it was music that forged their first connection.
They met at a Grateful Dead show in Sacramento in the early ’90s. Diana was on a break from graduate school at Syracuse University, visiting her brother who was friends with Joe. And after a night of dancing and talking, they kept in touch.
To avoid the expense of long-distance phone calls between New York and Grass Valley, where Joe was living, they penned letters and wrote emails—a technology that at the time was primarily limited to college campuses and high-tech companies.
Diana visited again, for another Grateful Dead show, and the two continued to bond over their similar backgrounds, big families, and easygoing personalities. Joe remembers being impressed by her activism.
“She protested against the apartheid regime in South Africa, and so did I,” he said.
They married in 1996 with a camping wedding in Big Basin State Park—a good indicator of the travels and adventures to come.
Eventually, Diana moved with him to Grass Valley, where he worked as doing marketing for Grass Valley Group and she finished up her PhD while teaching at Sacramento State. They moved to Baltimore for four years but were missing home when they saw an opening for a political science professor at Chico State.
“We were just, ‘Oh my god, Chico,’” Diana recalled. “Neither of us had ever lived there, but it was just perfect.”
She was hired in 1997 as a tenure-track faculty member. While they anticipated the start of the fall semester, an opening came up for a marketing director in Regional & Continuing Education, and Joe applied. He’s marketed University programs now for 20 years, his longevity on campus surpassing his wife’s by mere months.
And yet, their circles on campus seldom intersect.
“People ask, ‘Don’t you see Joe on campus all the time?’” Diana said with a laugh.
Their schedules are incompatibly hectic. She often works through lunch, especially while teaching 300 students in a single class this semester, and Joe goes to the Wildcat Recreation Center. But as busy as they are, they hold strongly to having dinner as a family every night and breakfast every day with their 17-year-old son, Quinn.
Professionally, they help each other out whenever they can, talking about ways to help students or bouncing off ideas. Joe is Diana’s biggest cheerleader, enthusiastically supportive of all her scholarship. In return, she shares a devoted interest in his work, whether in Continuing Education, advising the women’s and men’s Ultimate teams, or helping establish the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry.
“It’s nice to work with someone where you can identify with what they are doing at work. Although, he doesn’t like to grade papers. I still haven’t gotten him to do that,” she said with a teasing nudge.
It’s also not uncommon for the two to know the same students—though with different last names, few people make the connection.
“I say, ‘Make sure you introduce yourself to Professor Dwyre. She’s my wife,’” Joe said, mimicking how his students’ eyes grow wide at the revelation.
Even their travels circle around former students, making a point to visit alums wherever their vacations take them, be it Washington, DC, or Paris. In 2010, Diana was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award to study in Australia, and they moved abroad for a seven months, forging new friendships and connections overseas.
“I think the most time we spend talking about work is sharing stories about students,” Joe said, noting that they most often share successes or a problem solved. “We are still innocent enough in our jobs that we are continually amazed by our students.”
Art of Affection
In grad school, Matthew and Jami Miller were separated by a single office. Today, they have to walk a little farther—down the hallway in the Performing Arts Center.
The two carpool most days and share a parking permit, talking about their day on the drive to and from work. They also both serve on the executive council of the Department of Music and Theatre, where Matthew is a professor and Jami a lecturer.
“He’s my sounding board. It’s my last chance to sound things off,” Jami said. “And when something exciting happens, I just want to walk over and tell him.”
The pair met in graduate school, while Jami was getting her degree in acting and Matthew was directing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Jami’s roommate was Matthew’s best friend from his undergraduate days.
“We were bound to meet but we just happened to meet over beignets in my best friend’s breakfast nook,” Matthew said.
For the first few months, they tried to keep their relationship at the friendship-only level, so it wouldn’t interfere with the dynamic of their intimate graduate school group.
“We soon realized we weren’t fooling anyone,” Matthew said.
They started dating in fall, were engaged by the beginning of July, and married the following May on graduation weekend 2014, capitalizing on all of their friends and family already being in one place to celebrate.
“Our whole relationship developed in North Carolina. It was like the place our relationship was building and our next chapter got to start,” Matthew said.
The two planned to move to Portland, but when Matthew got a directing job in Illinois, that plan was put on hold. They spent a year in Odessa, Texas, housesitting for a family friend, while planning his professional summer theatre program, and Matthew learned all about Jami’s hometown, roots, and family.
As summer drew near, he started applying for professorships and saw an opening at Chico State, not far from his family in Sacramento. He was hired soon after as a tenure-track faculty member, and Jami was keeping an eye out for acting opportunities until she saw a lecturer opening.
She picked up one class, and then two more, and has another class this semester. She loves the learning environment so much, she’s often on campus five days a week while also working with students at Inspire Charter Academy for the Arts and volunteering at the Blue Room Theatre Company.
“Our fields are similar but far enough removed that we are not swimming in the exact same water all the time,” Matthew said.
Self-admitted workaholics by nature, the Millers say much of their time away from work is spent talking about work in one capacity or another.
“I think it’s hard to shut off work mode when we get home because we are working in this fishbowl of things that we love,” Matthew said.
Jami had recognized the depth and comfort of their compatibility early on. She especially admires what a good listener Matthew is and how he asks inquisitive questions of people.
“It struck a chord with me,” she said. “He’s such a good communicator and very passionate and articulate. I just love to listen to him.”
Listening to one another extends beyond conversation. The two act as their own private book club, reading books aloud to one another or listening to books in the car or while hiking.
They also spend a lot of time with family, with trips to Sacramento for their niece’s soccer game or to visit Matthew’s mom and dad. And they dote on their dog, Waverly, so named for the character Jami played in the first full show in which Matthew was her director.
“She has a light about her that is so refreshing and exciting,” Matthew said. “It’s a good complement to my slightly different disposition. I have it in me but she brings it out of me in a different way.”
Working in Tandem
Ten years ago, Melissa Hormann bought a tandem bicycle on St. Patrick’s Day and sent out a message to the universe: This empty seat is available.
She didn’t have to wait long to fill it. For a while, she had noticed a familiar face as they both walked their dogs at the Genetic Resource Conservation Center in southeast Chico and longed to ask the woman out. With some encouragement from a mutual friend, she and Stephanie Lingsch had their first date on May 13, 2007—Mother’s Day.
The connection was instantaneous. Within a few months, they were living together. A year later, Melissa asked her brother Frederick to help them start a family so both women could have a genetic relation to their baby. Lingsch gave birth less than a year later, and today the two mothers and their 7 ½-year-old son, Cedric, live just over a mile from campus.
“Where else can you bike from kindergarten to college?” Melissa said, noting that they often drop Cedric off at Chico Country Day School before biking to campus, where she works as a registered nurse in the Student Health Center and Lingsch as a planner in Facilities Management and Services (FMS).
Both women agree the University’s fee waiver program is a major perk of their employment. Melissa aspires to earn a master’s in nursing education, and they are hopeful that, with two employees in the house, college education will be more affordable for Cedric at the CSU of his choosing—though, as alums, Melissa (BS, Nursing, ’00) and Stephanie (BA, Art, ’95) would both be happy if he chose Chico.
The two finally married in 2015, wanting to wait until same-sex unions were recognized in all 50 states. After a decade together, their similarities and their differences continue to unite them.
“We are very different and that’s good in many ways,” Melissa said. “I take care of people and she takes care of buildings.”
“It tells you a lot about our personalities,” Stephanie added, with a laugh, noting most everyone knows who’s the introvert and who’s the extrovert in their relationship.
They both share a passion for student success, each doing all they can in their professional realms to help students succeed, whether it’s improving buildings to better their learning environments or keeping them healthy so they can focus on their studies.
“Their success is my goal,” Melissa said. “I love finding out what their majors are and all about their stories.”
Neither staff member takes work home, so their lives outside campus can be contentedly consumed with time together and with Cedric, whether it’s watching movies, playing with their dog, or riding bikes. A two-time AIDS LifeCycle finisher, Melissa hopes this may be the year Cedric starts riding solo.
The two eat lunch together most days, either at Stephanie’s FMS office or at favorite downtown hotspots like Momona or Upper Crust. Sometimes they just stroll along the creek.
“It’s such a beautiful campus,” Melissa said. “It’s like home.”