Working in a male-dominated field, computer science professor Alan Cline was primarily used to being around men. But when professor Elaine Rich made waves as one of the first women joining the department, he knew he found the one for him.
“I was a single father of two little girls, and it was not the case that I was shopping around for someone to be a stepmother,” Cline said. “I wasn’t looking, but having around a female I could pose questions to was great, and it just fell together.”
Rich and Cline met in 1979 when Rich came to UT. Cline started working at UT in 1975, and when Rich joined, she caught Cline’s attention with her humor and intelligence.
But he wasn’t the only one showing interest. Once Rich realized she had feelings for Cline, she concocted a scheme with two fellow coworkers: They’d host a dinner party with the sole purpose of inviting Cline, so the two could hopefully hit it off.
“I said to them, ‘Could you have a dinner party and invite me, Alan and, like, four other people?’ just so it wouldn’t look as suspicious and seem like a real dinner party,” Rich said. “I even asked them to seat us next to each other and everything.”
From then on, the duo’s relationship took off. Though they interacted with each other at work and meetings, their first date was at the Spaghetti Warehouse, where Rich first met Cline’s two daughters, who were 10 and 14 at the time.
After years of dating, the two got engaged. But rather than Cline proposing with a grand gesture, they both mutually understood that they wanted to get married and agreed on it together.
“We had been dating for quite a while and at some point it was like, ‘Let’s do this,’” Rich said. “There was no big special proposal or engagement ring because I just didn’t like the idea of it.”
In June 1989, eight years after they began dating, Rich and Cline had a wedding at the Strathmore, a mansion in her home state of Maryland.
Though the two first met on the job, they initially found it difficult to work together. They co-authored a paper during the beginning of their romance and faced conflict due to their different approaches. Because of this experience, Cline worried about the prospect of ever collaborating again in the future.
“I think all university people have a hard time separating their personal life and work life,” Cline said. “Years ago, we volunteered to share an office, so we were in the same room together, spending 20 hours a day together for two years with only a
divider between us.”
In spite of this, the two are now inseparable when it comes to lecturing together. When Rich began teaching a professional ethics course that was in high demand, Cline decided to open up another section of the course to accommodate the amount of students wanting to take it. It was their first experience teaching together, and because of its success, they now teach all their current courses as a pair.
Though this semester teaching is Rich’s last, the two will continue to share a common love for teaching, computer science and each other.
“Alan thinks like a mathematician, and I’m more of a writer, but it’s been really fun teaching with someone with complementary skills to yours,” Rich said. “It’s hard for me to imagine sharing my life with somebody who I wouldn’t be able to share any of my work with.”