By Kari Lutes, Features Editor
Whether it’s stopping by the Health Clinic to get an allergy shot from nurse Dawn Rightmire before heading to theology class with her husband, David Rightmire, or cramming for an exam for both Penners on the same day, chances are in your time at Asbury, you’ll come across an Asbury faculty couple. While these faculty couples keep grades and medical histories private, their shared world at Asbury is a benefit to students and the couples alike.
For Erin and Sydney Penner, and Dawn and David Rightmire, the choice to share in the Asbury community was an easy and natural one to make.
“I wanted to work in the same community that he was working in, but also I love working with college students, so it was a great opportunity,” Dawn said of her decision to join her husband at Asbury 29 years ago.
“She followed me to England, I followed her to Kentucky” Sydney, adjunct professor of philosophy, said of his decision to join his wife, Erin, at Asbury. Both couples found that while their spouse’s position was a draw to joining Asbury’s staff, the community at Asbury is what makes the decision work.
“There’s more of a recognition at Asbury that families are important,” Sydney said. Erin, a professor of English, agreed, pointing out that having her husband at Asbury allows the couple more flexibility and time with their kids, whom the two often hand off to each other before teaching classes.
“The stuff that’s just our normal life felt like it was part of Asbury culture,” she said.
While Asbury makes sense logistically for couples and gives them the same schedules and vacations to give their families more time together, there was a deeper draw to sharing the workplace for both the Rightmires and the Penners: a shared ministry.
“The shared ministry to me is the neatest part of it.” Dawn said of her time spent at Asbury with her husband. “We’re together in this place and this focus. We have a shared purpose.”
Her husband shares the view. “We’re tied into the community more holistically—we’re not just doing a job,” David, professor of Bible and theology, said.
The Rightmires enjoy spending time with students outside of the classroom and getting involved with the community through the Salvation Army Center on campus. For the Penners, shared ministry and community is often inviting students to their home and mixing their family life with campus by taking “flashlight” walks with their kids.
Not only does sharing the workplace of Asbury draw the couples and their family closer to the campus and community, but it also draws them closer together.
“More of our lives are shared than they would be otherwise,” Sydney, who often shares a desk and office with his wife, said.
Erin agreed, citing the time spent in shared space with her husband as one of the greatest benefits to working together at Asbury. “We’ve shared desks since day one,” she said, “so it reinforces old, old habits.”
The Rightmires also found that sharing a community brought them closer together.
David agreed, stressing a truth that strengthens and unites the couples in their purpose and ministry, “We have a context for understanding each other’s worlds.”