Mercer faculty discuss Valentine’s Day: An article for hopeless romantics, adventurers and Hallmark movie fanatics
February 13, 2020
I love love. I love the way love makes people feel: the goofy smiles, the forehead kisses, sharing umbrellas and holding hands in the rain. Seeing the joy of people who are in love makes me happy. I think there are so many types of love, but as Valentine’s Day approaches, I have decided to focus on romantic relationships. Whether you’re a proponent of true love, a skeptic or totally against love at the moment, these stories will melt your heart (at least, they melted mine).
I believe love is one of those things that unites people forever. I’m the biggest hopeless romantic in the entire world. I wish that was an exaggeration, but honestly, I’m starting to wonder.
With this said, however, the most romantic thing about my life is having the streak plate of Staphylococcus aureus that I use in lab show good results. This may sound like a slight exaggeration, but I’m here to tell you … the romance department is lacking. What isn’t lacking, however, is the friendships I have cultivated with so many professors, students, and staff here at Mercer.
While I don’t have love of my own, these amazing people do. Here are some of their stories.
Dr. Jonathan Glance and Mrs. Cindy Glance
Dr. Jonathan Glance, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at Mercer University, met his wife Cindy at Davidson College in Fall of 1980. Cindy Glance works as an Institutional Research Analyst here at Mercer as well, so while the couple met in college, they also get to work in the college setting together.
Whether you are a true believer of love at first sight or a cynical skeptic, Jonathan and Cindy are a true example of this “love at first sight” phenomena.
“My wife and I met in an English class at Davidson College and have been a couple since our first “date.” We were both at a campus party on March 13, 1981. I asked her if she wanted to dance, and we’ve been together ever since!” Mr. Glance said.
The couple married on May 31, 1986.
“We still celebrate both of those anniversaries,” he said, referring to the day he met his wife and the day he married the love of his life.
When asked about his Valentine’s Day plans, Glance said that he and his wife always went to their favorite restaurant called Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill when Jonathan was completing his grad school. After having two children, however, the couple celebrates in a different way.
“Now we tend to celebrate with Valentine’s cards, a nice bottle of wine, and dinner at home,” Glance said.
He also added that he and his wife are both very good cooks!
After reading Mr. Glance’s responses to these questions about Valentine’s Day, I can tell wholeheartedly the love he has for his wife and his children. He seems to be a hopeless romantic himself! While he said their Valentine’s are now a little boring, I think they’re adorable.
While this love story pulls on the heart strings, the story between Dr. Matt Harper and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Harper is equally as beautiful but takes a very different form.
Dr. Matt Harper and Dr. Elizabeth Harper
Dr. Matt Harper, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, is married to Dr. Elizabeth Harper, Associate Professor of English, who both work at Mercer University.
When asked what he and his wife do on Valentine’s Day, Matt Harper responded by linking the day back to its dark roots and a history few people know about.
“On Valentine’s Day, my wife and I like to remind each other that St. Valentine, a third-century martyr, endured a gruesome death for his religious convictions,” he said.
Both professors often discuss religion, with Matthew Harper focusing on 19th century black religion within his research as well as writing a book published in 2016 titled “The End of Days: African American Religion and Politics in the Age of Emancipation.” Elizabeth Harper also focuses on religion within her book manuscript, “Gifts and Economic Exchange in Late Medieval Religious Writing.”
Matt Harper said that the reason they remember the dark history of the date is because of the significance it holds for true love itself.
“It reminds us that true love is not necessarily about romance, as our culture assumes, but about self-sacrifice for God and others. That’s the kind of love we want in our marriage, but it’s not reserved for romantic couples,” he said.
The Harpers have just welcomed a new child into their home this semester with Elizabeth Harper being off on maternity leave. A growing family means more to love, and the Harpers seem to have a tremendous love for each other.
Rodger Seney and Dr. Caryn Seney
This story is arguably one of the most poignant, romantic, mind-blowing stories I have ever heard in my life. As a hopeless romantic, that is truly saying something. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen and grab the tissues. You’re in for a wild but beautiful ride.
Dr. Caryn Seney is a Professor of Chemistry and the Assistant Chair of the Chemistry Department here at Mercer. She also happens to be one of the kindest people I have ever met in my entire life. She has one of the kindest hearts, sweetest families and most loving souls I have ever met. Her story is a sad yet joyful one.
Rodger and Caryn have been married for 21 years in March, yet their story didn’t start off perfect or with love at first sight.
“The first time I met my husband, he was at JM Mining Company here in Macon. He was at the analytical lab when I took a class down there to learn about the instruments. He was showing us pictures, but we only talked for a few minutes. That was eight months before I took a group of students down to New Orleans for a research conference. Rod’s boss was there too and invited us to dinner as a recruitment tool because he needed co-op students anyway,” Seney said.
While eight months had passed, however, Mr. Seney had not forgotten Dr. Seney in all that time.
“So I saw Rod again in downtown New Orleans at dinner with my students and his boss. The guys were teasing him about some girl he used to date, but I didn’t get the connection there. I mean, he came off really arrogant, so I didn’t want to have anything to do with him,” Seney said with a laugh.
One of Seney’s students, however, turned 21 while on their trip to New Orleans and told her they were going to go out for the night. Dr. Seney, being Dr. Seney, allowed them to go but followed them closely to make sure they were safe while traveling throughout downtown New Orleans.
“We did not plan this. Not at all. But my group and Rod’s group somehow ended up at the same piano bar. I’m sitting there, waiting on my students to finish when Rod’s group walked in too. There’s honestly not a lot of sober people on Bourbon Street in downtown New Orleans at night, but of course I’m sober because I’m with students. Rod was too,” Seney said.
She then recounted how completely unprepared for bar hopping both she and Rod were as they were both wearing Birkenstocks at this piano bar.
“I was sitting there, and I thought, ‘Well, you know I don’t have anybody else to talk to,’ so I walked up to him and said ‘Hey, I like your Galilean Gliders.’ I remember him just looking at me really funny, and I was thinking, ‘Oh gosh. He thinks I’m picking him up,’ so then I said, ‘you know…your Jesus creepers!’”
After laughing about Dr. Seney initiating conversation based on shoe preference, the two had a great conversation before leaving and returning home, but not before Rod asked for Dr. Seney’s number. She responded by giving him her work number and work address.
While an odd way to give out one’s number, Seney had a specific reason for choosing to give out her work number.
“My dad, at the time, had contracted lung cancer from being a smoker all his life. In February of that year, it metastasized to his brain, and he had five brain tumors and was told he only had three days to live. In March, he was actually still living which is when the conference was. I didn’t date a whole lot, and when I did, I didn’t want them to think they needed to take care of me or feel sorry for me since I was ten hours away from my dad and my family. When I met Rod, he was so kind, so generous, and I didn’t want him to feel like he needed to take care of me through all of this. I didn’t want that feeling to start a relationship,” Seney said.
During all of this, including a gamma knife experimental radiation treatment for her dad’s brain tumors, Rod and Caryn emailed each other continuously. While all of her siblings married their high school sweethearts and started their families, Seney was still single and alone in Georgia while her entire family was in Kentucky with her dad. Because of this, her sister came to visit her.
“While I was outside working in the garden, my phone rang, and my sister picked up the phone. She comes out to tell me that, ‘Some nice guy called! I told him we would go to church with him on Sunday,” Seney said.
That nice guy that had called was, of course, Rod, Caryn’s future husband. He had gotten her number from a colleague because she had not given him her personal number. While she had been pushing him far away, Rod was trying to draw them closer. It was ultimately Seney’s sister that brought them together again.
“We had emailed for months back and forth getting to know each other. The only thing we had was a couple of conversations between the two of us and these emails. That’s all we had from March … to September when my sister came,” Seney said.
After going to church, dealing with a sick baby screaming for 45 minutes in the car while trying to get a prescription and driving back to the church, Rod asked Dr. Seney on a formal date.
“I looked at him and thought ‘This man just dealt with 45 minutes of a screaming baby, so I have to say yes right?’ Then I looked at him and said, ‘Are you sure?’ He called and asked to go to a movie, but I said I didn’t want to go to a movie. If we go, I want to be able to talk, so dinner or coffee or something,” Seney said.
The couple talked so long that the restaurant asked them for the booth to allow others to eat.
The next date was “The Horse Test,” as Dr. Seney calls it.
“I had a really intuitive horse who was named Dreamer. I asked Rod to come out one day, so he came out. Dreamer loved him. Just kept nuzzling him. Walking to him. He passed the test, or that test anyway!” Seney said with a laugh.
On the third date, Rod took Caryn around places in Macon to see landmarks. Seney knew that she was going to marry Rod already on that third date.
“I knew I was going to marry him. I just knew that he was the one. I said, to see if he felt the same way because he knew my dad was sick, ‘I think you should meet my dad. You would love him.’ He said, ‘You’re right. I should meet your dad.’ We both knew what that meant, even only three dates in,” Seney said.
The couple later went to Kentucky where her family lived. Her father, Okey Homer Sanford, was a major golf fan, going to the golf course after his experimental gamma knife radiation despite his illness.
“I’m so glad we were able to make that trip. My family needed some reconciliation. I am just so glad God allowed us to do that. This was just a time of great healing for my family. My dad was also just so worried about me even though I’d taken care of myself since I was little. He wanted me to be married, safe,” Seney said.
When the couple arrived in Kentucky, Sanford asked Rod to go hit golf balls with him. After eating dinner with her entire family, Seney recounts the story of that night with complete clarity.
“I can see my dad walking over the hill with Rod, and he has his arm as Rod is helping him walk since it’s such a far walk. My dad has his hand on Rod’s shoulder. And the whole time, the sun is coming down. When they reach the parking lot, my dad’s closest and dearest friend comes out and walks up. My dad looks at him and says, ‘Hey, Larry! This is perfect timing. I want you to meet my soon-to-be son-in-law,” Seney said.
Rod had asked for Caryn’s hand in marriage while they were out golfing.
“He told my dad ‘I know I haven’t known your daughter very long, but we’ve been talking over email. I feel as though I know her on a deeper level. I just know I’m supposed to marry her. I promise I will take good care of her,” Seney said.
When Seney and Rod got up to leave Monday morning, Caryn’s dad was in the stairwell crying.
“When I left…I knew that was the last time I was going to see my dad,” Seney said.
Three weeks later, Seney got a call from her mother telling her to come home. As they drove back to Kentucky, Seney got this feeling.
“I remember looking over at Rod and saying, ‘He just passed away’ and then the phone rang. I knew it. I knew that when I left Kentucky, that was the last time I was supposed to see him. And then a few months later, we got married,” Seney said.
Seney said that all of this build-up was all part of God’s plan.
“I believe that God kept my dad alive for many reasons, but one of them was for that. For reconciliation. For hope. For restoration. For my Rod to be able to meet him. It was a sweet moment. Really bittersweet,” Seney said.
Because the Seneys had only talked via email for the first 6 months and then only went on 3 dates before getting engaged, the couple had not even kissed before Rodger asked Caryn to marry him.
The Seneys have been married 20 years.
“When you get to know Rod…he’s just a gentle human being. He’s kind and gentle. He’s not perfect. I don’t want to paint that picture. I think he is somebody that people don’t appreciate necessarily, but he’s just a very calming person. He’s quirky just like the rest of the Seney family,” Seney said with a smile.
Whether it is love at first sight like the Glances, remembering what love truly is like the Harpers or allowing love to bloom in the saddest circumstances like the Seneys, love is a beautiful thing.
The gentle kisses, the entwined hands, and the goofy grins aren’t for everyone, but being grateful for the people around you is something everyone can enjoy. Thank your professor that has impacted your life here at Mercer. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Treat your roomies to an ice cream sundae. If you’re feeling really adventurous, maybe even ask your crush to go share some fries with you at Chick-fil-A. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be writing a story about how you two fell in love.
Most importantly though, learn to love yourself. If that’s one thing I’ve learned from this article, it’s that love blooms where, when and between the right people at the right time. Your love story is coming, but you have to learn to love yourself first. Let these love stories inspire you. There is love out there for everyone (that wants it). You just have to be you no matter what in order to receive it. (Oh, and maybe buy some Birkenstocks…) Happy Valentine’s Day!