Speaking of love

Spinnaker

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and there is usually an even split among the crowd: those who love and embrace the holiday and those who despise it. Some girls get flowers and chocolate, while others mope around their house shoveling pints of ice cream and listening to Joni Mitchell on repeat in the dark. However, Valentine’s Day is a day of love, and there is plenty to go around, especially among the UNF staff.

For Traci Mathies, being a speech instructor at UNF has some sentimental meaning behind it.  Nearly 20 years ago, in a speech class during her freshman year of college, she met a man named Sam Mathies.

But Sam wasn’t passing love notes to her desk, he was lecturing the notes she scribbled.

Sam Mathies was her professor at the time. He would later become not only her husband but also her best friend and colleague.

“I was a freshman when we started dating, so it was really awkward,” Traci said.

Traci and Sam have been teaching Public Speaking and Professional Public Speaking full-time since the fall of 2008. They have four children, two of whom are adopted, and try to find a good balance between work and home life.

“The motivation to become a teacher came from having a lot of time off to raise a family and spend a lot of time with them,” Traci said.

Though Traci was first hired to sit behind a desk, she was offered a few teaching opportunities as well. She loved it so much she decided to teach full-time. The couple moved from Oregon to Florida after getting interviews to work at UNF in the same department.

“It was a rare opportunity,” Traci said, “and it was raining at the time in Oregon, so we thought, ‘Let’s take a vacation to Florida.’”

A month after their interviews, the Mathies were hired as speech instructors and moved to Florida. They had to share an office for their first year, but they now have separate offices next to each other in Building 14.

“We ride to school together and have offices next to each other, so we see each other a lot,” Traci said. “That’s why you marry your best friend.”

While the couple has spent nearly 20 romantic Valentine’s holidays together, they couldn’t pick just one special day.

“I just asked Sam what our best Valentine’s Day has been, and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know!’” Traci said. “There are so many to choose from that every new one becomes the best one.”

Traci said she really loves working at UNF and enjoys working alongside her partner. It just goes to show, whether you celebrate the Hallmark holiday or not, you never know where you will find love or where it might find you.

Traci and Sam are not the only lovebird professors waltzing around campus, there are others you may or may not be aware of. However, the Mathies were the only couple willing to respond and profess their relationship to the UNF community.