i Do: Couples who met (and married) at the iSchool
By Ann Beckmann
It’s remarkable how couples meet and somehow things connect. Similar interests, values, smarts and looks are typically part of the mix. Yet what draws two people together and triggers love?
According to John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington and renowned researcher on couples’ interactions, friendship is the superglue that bonds couples together. How two people become a couple is another matter, though.
iSchool Associate Professor Terry Brooks takes pride in the fact that Ellen and Fred Hanson (both MLib ’94) first met in his class 16 years ago. Even today when he sees them, Brooks introduces the Hansons as the couple who found one another in his class.
There were only 13 students in that first class with Brooks in summer 1993 and, as fate would have it, Fred and Ellen sat near one another on the very first day. Had they waited until fall to start their librarianship studies, there would have been 80 in that same class.
Ellen and Fred, both in their 40s at the time, spent the better part of that summer in classes together. She had worked 20 years as a teacher in Port Orchard before she decided to become a librarian. He had spent 20 years as a pipefitter for Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging.
"The move to go to graduate school in the big city was a life-changing event for a country girl from a little farm town," Ellen says. Yet she was weary of teaching and her school district offered a year’s sabbatical with half pay and benefits, an opportunity she couldn’t ignore.
When he began to think about switching careers, Fred says, he was encouraged to visit with a library school student named Sally Nash in Long Beach. She affirmed his choice of a career as a librarian. She also told him it would be a great way to meet women.
"I told her ‘I don’t want to meet women, I want to get a library degree,’" he recalls.
Both Ellen and Fred clearly were committed to finding new careers as librarians.
"I was intense, so focused and taking a lot of classes," Ellen remembers. "I didn’t have time to think about anything else but school."
Nevertheless, their acquaintance in class turned into a friendship. They hung out with their fellow students at what they all nicknamed the CIP, a Library of Congress acronym for Cataloging in Print, also an acronym for the College Inn Pub near campus. They bounced ideas off one another and because of their similar age, started to work on projects together. Romance still wasn’t in the picture, though.
Then one day Ellen wore a Portland Marathon t-shirt to class. Fred noticed and told her he had run the Portland Marathon. They realized they had common interests in running as well as mountain climbing.
"It was almost a whole year before there was any romance," says Ellen.
"I just snowed him," Ellen responds with a laugh.
Fred recalls what a remarkable time it was to learn librarianship. He describes several faculty members who propelled his enthusiasm for this new profession — Brooks, Edmond Mignon, Ron Johnson, Grant Skelley and others — and whose passion and intelligence inspired him. He credits Penny Hazelton with steering him toward law libraries.
"She was a riveting teacher and the whole reason I’m a law librarian today," says Fred, who today works for Davis Wright Tremaine.
After graduation, Ellen returned to her school district and taught for a few years as payback for her sabbatical before becoming a full-time school librarian. She retired after 30 years, at that time an Edmonds School District librarian. Now she, too, works for Davis Wright Tremaine part time.
The Hansons had a small wedding in 1996 at the Red Lion Sea-Tac. They say they’re still in touch with at least eight of the 13 who were in their first class together. And, of course, Terry Brooks.
Ryan Prins (Informatics ’05) remembers how, as a UW student, he stumbled across the iSchool.
"It was the best stumble I’ve ever made," says Ryan, who today does business analysis and project management consulting at Avanade, an IT consulting firm based in Seattle.
A native of Minnesota, he came to the UW to study computer science, but discovered it wasn’t quite the right fit. He became intrigued with the idea of focusing his studies on Informatics.
About the same time, Jamie Yaptinchay (Informatics ’05) realized she liked the idea of studying information, its power and how it’s disseminated.
The pair joined a cohort of 35 in the Informatics undergraduate program. Jamie recalls Ryan was just another guy in the cohort until their first round of presentations (interestingly, in a class taught by Terry Brooks). She thought Ryan’s PowerPoint was especially good and told him so.
"We became partners on a lot of projects," says Jamie, "and the buzz between us was competition. Our friendship — and that of the cohort, really — was driven by competition, which built a strong sense of community and camaraderie. We always wanted to make sure our own work was the very best."
Jamie remembers Ryan saving seats for her in class. They both have fond recollections of the time they spent with other members of their cohort at restaurants up and down the Ave and in the iSchool’s Technology Exploration Lab.
"Funny to think I met my husband in a computer lab. Totally nerdy!" Jamie says with a laugh. "But we had a really great time, even on weekends. There were a lot of late nights — 1, even 4 a.m. — all in the lab together, everyone getting a little loopy as we worked on all our Capstone deliverables."
She became a computer lab assistant at the Health Sciences Microlab her junior year and, before they started dating, she helped Ryan find a job there.
Naturally, they shared a physical attraction, although Ryan was impressed with how smart she was with the work they did together.
"Something just clicked," he says.
"Hard to believe we were co-workers and classmates before we ever started dating," says Jamie.
Their senior year, Ryan was elected president and Jamie vice president of the Informatics Undergraduate Association.
"His leadership, confidence and the way he served others — that was a really big factor — the way he offered to tutor people and me. I really admired those qualities about him. We have similar interests and values, but totally different work styles. He’s structured, calm, stoic, a steady and methodical planner. I’m more extroverted, expressive, spontaneous and thrive with a time crunch. We learned there’s more than one way to do things and both are right."
Now a strategist for Razorfish, a digital marketing agency headquartered in Seattle, Jamie says her iSchool studies continue to inform her career. In particular, she credits Harry Bruce, Matt Saxton and Bob Boiko for all they taught her about usability, information needs and user research.
In April 2008, while the two vacationed on Maui, Ryan proposed on the beach after a luau.
"We had talked about getting married, but I was in total shock when he proposed," Jamie recollects.
Ryan and Jamie were married Aug. 8 this year at the Catholic Newman Center near the UW campus. Nine members of their cohort were among those who celebrated with them.
"We’re lucky," says Ryan, "that a series of events occurred in just the right fashion. Who would’ve thought? But I wouldn’t have wanted to write it any other way."
Did you and your spouse or partner find love at the iSchool? If so, let us hear from you! Contact Lane Hatfield, Assistant Director for Advancement, at email@example.com or phone her at 206-543-6833.