Three sets of campus sweethearts share their stories about what life is like when the one you love also works where you work. For Nick Lynch and Janet McCue, Ray and Terry Quinto, and Catrina Himberg and John Roussell—whether they met on campus or found their way here together—each has their own story about how they marry their personal and professional lives.
Friends First, Friends Forever
They both loved adventure. Each had a pet pit bull. And both had an uncanny knack for random facts.
And yet, Nick Lynch and Janet McCue were strangers the night they sat at an open table at a trivia night in Savannah, Georgia. Their team didn’t win, but the couple’s introduction led to a more valuable victory. Nick, then teaching at Georgia Southern University, and Janet, who was working in banking, soon were spending weekends together taking their dogs Diesel and Tank on outings, tasting their way through new restaurants, and exploring the outdoors.
The friendship came fast, and for two years, they discovered how much they enjoyed each other’s company and more that they had in common.
“We knew everything about each other and knew those ‘friend secrets,’” Janet said. “We could read each other’s mind and know what the other is thinking before they said it.”
On a weekend snowboarding trip to Tahoe in March 2011, they realized they cared more deeply than they perhaps had realized. Six months later, Janet moved in. And within 18 months, they decided it was time to relocate—together.
As Nick searched for work near the snowy Sierras, they discovered Chico. Excited to join a university with an emphasis on teaching, he accepted a job teaching in the Department of Accounting, and the East Coast transplants moved across the country in 2013, “just us, our dogs, and a Toyota Tacoma,” Janet said.
She was soon working as a temporary hire in the College of Business, and then in the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement. It wasn’t long before Janet was hired for a full-time position. Three years ago, she accepted a job as an administrative support coordinator in the Department of Child Development, where she enjoys supporting students, faculty, and staff while also pursuing her long-awaited degree.
When she earns her bachelor’s in sociology in spring 2021, it will be six years in the making. Her renewed interest in college is not only stimulating her intellectually, but it has given her and Nick something new to connect over.
“We don’t talk work too much,” he said. “But I always want to know how Janet’s classes are going.”
“He’s been really supportive of me going back to school, where my degree can go, and what a master’s will look like,” Janet added.
Nick often uses Janet’s unique perspective to see how he can do better in his own classroom. As a first-generation, re-entry student, she has a lot of ideas to share. They also like to celebrate successes with one another, when Nick has a breakthrough moment with a student or Janet is reveling in a child development major’s or faculty member’s recent award.
For a while, Janet had a class in Butte Hall that ended at the same time as one of Nick’s nearby classes. They’d meet at Butte Station and she’d walk him to his next class. His coworkers began to tease them about their regular rendezvous, but it was a rare connection. Their jobs are so different and schedules so varied, they seldom interact on campus, especially because they work at opposite ends—Janet in Modoc Hall and Nick in Tehama Hall.
Instead, they enjoy quality time away from Chico State. At home, they compete with board games, currently embroiled in a Monopoly battle, and play along with Jeopardy! contestants each night. They spend as many winter weekends as possible at Tahoe, where they are season passholders at a ski and snowboard resort. In nice weather, they mountain bike. For Christmas, they started a “couple’s bucket list,” and one of the first goals is to snowboard and mountain bike in the same day—which should be easy in California, they said.
In summer 2017, Nick proposed under their favorite juniper tree in Tahoe. They married last summer in Narraganset, Rhode Island (Nick’s home state). After a decade together, they are still adjusting to the newness and excitement of referring to one another as “husband” and “wife,” but agree they have never felt closer.
“She’s strong, hardworking, and supportive of me and herself,” Nick said. “It doesn’t matter whether she is at work, or at school, or making dinner, she gets it done. I don’t know how she does it but she never stops.”
“I wouldn’t go as hard if you didn’t push me,” Janet replies. “You make me a better person.”
She said she also loves Nick for his incredible support and how he makes her laugh. They’ve had their highs and lows in the last several years, and they know what it’s like to care for one another through it all.
“All our family is on the East Coast, so we only have each other,” Janet said. “We are each other’s family, and we do it with respect and love.”
Like so many love stories, Ray and Terry Quinto’s begins in a ballroom dance class taught by legendary Chico State instructor Willie Simmons in 1984.
Male partners were rare to come by, especially those who could two-step without stepping on any toes. As the class worked to perfect their waltz and foxtrot, “when there was a partner choice, you could see me hightail it across the dance floor to dance with him,” Terry said.
Thirty-six years—and 31 years of marriage—later, they still love spinning one another across the dance floor. Their introductory semester was followed by run-ins on campus or at the occasional party, and in 1985, they went to the movies for their first official date.
After Ray graduated with his bachelor’s in industrial technology in 1987, he and Terry moved to San Jose and married the following year. While he worked for a small startup in electrical and computer technology, Terry did the business’s administrative work while completing her last year of college as a visiting student at San José State. She followed her bachelor’s in sociology with master’s in psychology at SJSU and worked in education until they started a family.
In 2001, the Quintos moved back to their college town—a dream they had long been harboring. Terry was a Chico native and Ray knew its affordability would give them a quality of life they didn’t have in the Bay Area.
As they reacquainted themselves with the town, Ray worked in computer technology for Chico Unified School District, and Terry later joined the district as a school psychologist. But they wouldn’t share the same employer again for long. In 2008, Ray took a job as a data center manager at Chico State, and today is the University’s information security officer.
“It never dawned on me when I was going here that one day I’d be working here,” said Ray, whose diploma hangs in his office. “Life is kind of funny that way, but we are very grateful.”
Their employment synced up for a third time in 2018, when Terry was hired as an advisor in the Accessibility Resource Center. While their work is very different—Terry providing direct assistance to students with disabilities and Ray protecting data behind the scenes—they have a shared passion for the University’s mission.
“It’s a bit of an honor to work here,” he said. “In one way or another, we are here to serve the students.”
Because of the nature of their work, the Quintos don’t often see each other on campus but they do try to make time for occasional lunch dates, even if it’s just a picnic in Terry’s office. But away from Chico State, they do everything together—from trips to WinCo and tackling remodels at home to taking in shows at Laxson Auditorium and finding venues to keep their dance skills sharp.
They play pool in the evenings and have a close group of friends with whom they golf, barbecue, and hang out. Calling themselves the “Real Life Sucks” group, they started gathering a few years ago when Terry was going through breast cancer treatment, and the simple joys with those couples have brought them a lot of happiness through the years and brought out the best in each other.
“It’s not just that we love each other, we like each other a lot,” Terry said. “That love doesn’t go away because you are raising kids, or busy with a job, but if you like the person too, it takes you through it.”
Seeing each other as equals, they both can list a host of things they love about one another.
“She is amazing as a mom,” Ray said. “She is always so accommodating, welcoming, flexible—all the qualities I sometimes struggle with. She is compassionate and caring. She always thinks about how others are doing.”
“I love that Ray can go anywhere and talk to anybody and make a friend and have a conversation so easily,” Terry said. “People just like him right away, because he is so likable.”
They also share a deep bond through the highs and lows of the last three decades, from the joys of combining their family traditions to the stress of cancer diagnosis and treatment. But perhaps nothing challenged them as much as their eight-year struggle with infertility.
“It made us realize what’s a big thing, and what’s a small thing,” Terry said. “It was good practice as a young couple in seeing what’s important and learning to support one another.”
Eventually, they had the family they dreamed of for so long and are now proud their Wildcat roots have grown even deeper. Their daughter, Amy, graduated from Chico State in spring 2019 and their son, Nathan, is a freshman who also is a student employee at ARC.
“We are very much a Chico State family,” Terry said.
Meant to Be
John Roussell loves a good story—and there is perhaps no tale he enjoys telling more than how he and Catrina Himberg met.
Narrated like a tale of star-crossed lovers, John explains how the couple was discouraged by their families, torn away from one another, and upon reuniting had their first child before they married or completed their graduate degrees. Yet nothing could dissuade them from their career dreams or their love—which burns as brightly today as the first day they met.
The faculty members often share the story with students, from the hiccups to the happy endings.
“Students say that we’re inspiring. … They see that I’m human and that I’m authentic,” John said, adding that the honesty of his and Catrina’s own experiences in their early 20s is a testament that life isn’t always easy and it’s OK to figure it out as you go.
“We have been together so long, we have kind of grown up together,” Catrina added.
It’s certainly a tale with twists and turns. John was in one of his first jobs after college, working as a TV sports anchor and reporter at an NBC affiliate in North Carolina. Catrina was a first-generation college student who moved from Norway to the United States at age 19 looking for adventure. In her senior year at East Carolina University, she signed up for an internship as a videographer’s assistant at John’s TV studio.
They met on her first assignment. “Love at first sight” was no cliché.
“I started downloading our life when I looked in her eyes,” John said. “I was just so taken with the experience of seeing someone I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.”
Over the next two weeks, they’d work together on four assignments and fell hard and fast for one another. John decided to break it off with his long-distance partner, and Catrina determined she would divorce her high school sweetheart, whom she had only been married to for a year.
Her family immediately flew to North Carolina and brought her home to Norway so she would give her impulsive decision some thought. But John and Catrina couldn’t be dissuaded. He wrote her secret letters, and they snuck in two phone calls, and after four months, she was determined to return to him. Without an easy way to communicate, she scribbled her flight number in a letter with her good news and hoped he would be there when she landed.
When Catrina walked off the plane and didn’t see him, her heart fell a bit. She had no idea John was scheduled to anchor that night’s sports broadcast, and even after convincing a news anchor to take his place and speeding to the airport, he arrived too late. Equally crestfallen, he raced to the complex where she once lived and began knocking on doors. At the first apartment, she answered.
“She came to my arms and we haven’t been apart since,” he said.
That life he downloaded in his mind? Some of it all makes sense as the last 33 years have gone by. The ups and downs. Moving across the world and back. Starting a family, building careers, and rediscovering quality time together now that their children are grown.
After discovering on a trip to Norway in 1988 that Catrina was pregnant, they opted to stay abroad and work for a year to take advantage of the country’s medical system and phenomenal maternity leave. After marrying in 1989, they returned to the United States to get their master’s degrees. In searching for universities that featured both their disciplines, they fell in love with the beauty of the Chico area and took the next step in their educational journeys.
After John earned a master’s in information and communication studies and Catrina a master’s in physical education at Chico State, they moved yet again to Virginia Tech, where they would earn PhDs and have their second son. When they finished in 1996, two positions had just opened at Chico State, and they couldn’t imagine a better place to start their careers.
Twenty-four years later, there is still no place they would rather be. John is a professor in what is now the Department of Media Arts, Design, and Technology, and Catrina is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology.
With their busy academic schedules, projects, research, and service, the couple seldom sees each other, unless they are on committees or sharing projects. Yet their love for one another and their disciplines draw them together, and they collaborate in their teaching when they can. When Catrina’s students helped with a post-Camp Fire activity program for youth in Paradise, John’s students produced a minidocumentary about it. And when her students work on health advocacy projects, another of her passions, his students turn them into public service announcements.
“We do have some fun work babies together,” Catrina said, noting their physical education film No Excuses and a book on physical education they co-wrote with Gayle Hutchinson in 2003 when the now-president was chair of the kinesiology department.
While their relationship on campus is always professional, their identity as husband and wife always precedes their role as colleagues, John said.
“We are always together. People joke about it,” he said. “But I’m her man, and she’s my woman, and we are not going to change that.”
In sharing their history and relationship so openly with students, John feels it’s an opportunity to be a role model about healthy relationships and priorities in life. Avid fitness and nutrition practitioners, he and Catrina regularly work out at the gym together, go to the farmers market, share a yoga practice, and do a weekly date night. They love to dance and travel. With one son currently living in Norway, they have ample reason to visit Catrina’s home country, as well as Vermont, where their other son, daughter-in-law, and grandson live.
No priority in their lives is greater than supporting and loving one another, they agree. Catrina said her life is better because of John’s fun-loving attitude and overall “cuteness.”
“He makes me laugh a lot,” she said. “He has a way of making humor happen. It lightens the mood and reminds me of the ability to enjoy life.”
He most appreciates her honesty, as well as how she provides and cares for him in so many ways.
“She gives me a sense of what I have in her could not be replaced,” John said. “We know we have to grow separately, but we can grow arm in arm.”