Married professors at UI share their experiences


Photo courtesy of Robert Francis Murphy

A photo of Professor Robert Francis Murphy and his wife Professor Cathy Murphy.

By Elizabeth Lawlor, Contributing Writer

Professors Robert “Bob” and Cathy Murphy met and fell in love at the University. Cathy was a freshman and lived in Hopkins Hall on the first floor. One afternoon, Cathy ran into an upperclassman in her dorm. Little did she know, she had met the one.

Bob was a math major at the University, while Cathy was a chemistry major. The two clicked from day one, despite being a few years apart in school.

“These years in college were some of the most memorable years of my life,” Bob said.

Eventually, both graduated from the University and embarked on their separate careers.

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Cathy decided to pursue her doctorate in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later attended Cal Tech in Southern California to further her knowledge of chemistry. Bob came along for the ride. He was willing to venture all the way from Madison, Wisconsin, to Southern California to be with Cathy. 

Eventually, Bob and Cathy ended up in South Carolina. They took their first teaching jobs at the University of South Carolina.

“We lived in South Carolina from ’93 to ’09, but when I was offered a job at the University of Illinois I could not turn it down. I really missed Papa Del’s,” Cathy said.

The couple has taught at the University for the past nine years, and Bob said it felt completely natural to return back to their old stomping grounds.

“We used to have reunions with our college friends from UIUC every two years,” Bob said. “To this day, we still continue on this tradition and now host the reunion at our home in Champaign.”

Today, Bob and Cathy work in separate departments on campus. Bob works in the math department and Cathy works in the chemistry department. They both have very hectic schedules, but still find time to grab a bite to eat for lunch together between labs and lectures.

Bob and Cathy have occasionally been asked by students at the University if they are related. The couple remembers past students who have been in both their lectures at the same time.

Other times, the couple will be holding hands on the Main Quad and students are shocked to see that the two are married. 

During the summer term, Bob does not have to teach. However, Cathy is booked with tons of research and labs. Regardless, the couple still manages to enjoy their summers. Bob and Cathy love to travel. Often, they will attend out-of-town conferences together. Most recently the couple attended a conference in Paris, France. 

“I enjoy being married to another person teaching at the University because they understand the academic lifestyle and are open-minded about finding time in between work to spend time together,” Cathy said. 

James Shriner and Cheryl Light Shriner are also married professors at the University. James is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education. Prior to this position, he was an assistant professor of education at Clemson University. Cheryl is a teaching assistant professor in special education.

The couple met at the University of Minnesota. James and Cheryl were graduate students working on attaining their doctorates in the same program. Cheryl is a native of Minnesota, while James is originally from Pennsylvania.

The two bond over a shared interest of helping others and throwing themselves into their work. James and Cheryl are quite passionate about working in the field of special education.

“When our son was little, we found ways to split work and family time by switching off roles,” Cheryl said. “Some nights I taught night courses and other nights I would be attending functions for our son.” 

Today, James and Cheryl feel quite lucky to be working in the same department and have the ability to see each other throughout the day. Their son also currently attends the University.

“It is wonderful to be sharing the same passion for teaching and special education with the person you love,” Cheryl said. 

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