As another Valentine’s Day comes and goes, love is not only in the air for Montclair State University students but for faculty as well, especially for partners who both work at the university. Despite working in different departments, the university brings these Red Hawk couples closer together.
This is the case for journalism and documentary professor Steve McCarthy and his wife Kathleen Reddington who is the program assistant to the associate dean at the College of the Arts. McCarthy was introduced to Reddington by her sister at a university campus in New York City, on Valentine’s Day weekend, 42 years ago.
Reddington first began working at the university part-time in 1997 and McCarthy followed suit after starting up his own production company. McCarthy became a part of the Red Hawk family before the School of Communication and Media was established after working on some projects with Dean Emeritus Geoffrey W. Newman.
Even though Reddington is an administrator and McCarthy teaches, working at the university has brought them closer together in some ways.
“I had been traveling nonstop for 30 years before [teaching] so it was nice to settle down a little bit and be home more,” McCarthy said.
Since working together allowed them to spend more time together outside of the home, it has also brought them closer to each other’s colleagues and friends. Reddington has become friends with some of McCarthy’s through socializing together.
“We’ve made some friends that I know we’ll stay friends with,” Reddington said. “I’ve gotten to meet people he works with and he’s gotten to meet people I work with.”
The network they created for themselves at the university helped them become more involved in giving back to schools. Reddington decided to create a scholarship fund in honor of Marie Sparks, her former boss and mentor who retired two years ago.
Reddington and McCarthy raised $10,000 for the Marie Sparks College of the Arts Scholarship. The scholarship is meant for students studying the arts who are in financial need.
“We’ll have a bond here for a very long time and for very good reasons,” Reddington said. “I think both of us being able to see how education makes such a great difference to our students and how they get back to [McCarthy] is the biggest takeaway for me.”
Because both of them come from the same educational background as the students here at Montclair State, they enjoy being able to provide scholarships for schools and students that need them.
“We’re both products of schools just like this. In fact, [Reddington] graduated from here,” McCarthy said. “I come from the same background as the students I teach, so it’s been very fulfilling for both of us to be here.”
While they have been fortunate enough to travel together for school-related trips, like to Puerto Rico where McCarthy helped lead a student journalism team to report on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2018, both Reddington and McCarthy will be traveling separately this semester.
McCarthy will be going to New Orleans, Louisiana for a reporting class this spring and Reddington will be going to London, England for a second time with a theater class.
Despite spending some time apart this spring, the two will be closer than ever this upcoming fall. Reddington and McCarthy will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary next September.
The same work dynamic is present between associate professors Bond Benton and Dr. Daniela Peterka-Benton. Benton, an associate professor of public relations, met Peterka-Benton, an associate professor of justice studies, in Vienna, Austria when he was visiting a friend of hers.
Shortly after they began seeing each other, Benton and Peterka-Benton both pursued their PhDs in Austria and decided to come to the United States to try and get two faculty jobs at the same university.
“In Austria, it’s very difficult to get a university job,” Peterka-Benton said. “It never really occurred to me that it would even be a possibility, so when he came along and I got to know him better and the system, I realized that it actually could work.”
The two purposefully began applying at locations that were offering two positions and ended up working in different departments at Montclair State.
“I like having a partner that knows what my job is. It’s nice to have someone to talk to and understand what’s going on,” Peterka-Benton said. “We’ve also been really lucky that over the years we’ve developed research agendas that sometimes overlap, we really like to research together. We’re horrible with Ikea furniture, but working together on research is like a puzzle piece that fits into the other.”
Benton and Peterka-Benton were dedicated to working separately and in different departments to avoid making themselves and colleagues feel uncomfortable. Even though they work separately, they still give each other teaching and work advice.
“We always help each other find solutions to work-related problems,” Peterka-Benton said. “We ask each other ‘How would you grade this?’ or ‘What do you think about this?’”
Since they are able to focus more on their research at the university, it has brought them closer together in a certain sense.
“[It brings us] closer in a way that we can focus more on research and also work on collaborative projects,” Peterka-Benton said. “Our research has morphed a bit more while working here, so it’s very nice.”
This Valentine’s day is the perfect time to celebrate Montclair State’s many Red Hawks who are in love, just like these professors.