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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Meet the adorable married professors of GW

Friends to professors arc
Photo Illustration by Jordan Tovin | Assistant Photo Editor
Cathy Forster, a professor of geological sciences, and Jim Clark, a professor of biological sciences, have fostered their marriage of more than 25 years within the bounds of campus.

Long-term couples are an endangered species at GW.

But if you look beyond the student population, you’ll quickly learn love is blooming throughout campus. Whether it’s in the offices of Monroe Hall or during the commute to and from Foggy Bottom, faculty couples prove romance is alive and well.

The Study of Love

For Cathy Forster, a professor of geological sciences, and Jim Clark, a professor of biological sciences, working at GW allowed them to finally live together after nine years of a long-distance marriage. They now regularly collaborate on their shared passion for paleontology, mentoring students and conducting research.

In 1987 a mutual friend of the two introduced them to each other in the crocodile collections of the Chicago Field Museum. A few years later, they started dating and eventually tied the knot in 1998.

“Every paleontologist on the East Coast was there,” Clark said.

Until 2007, Clark worked at GW while Forster worked at Stony Brook University in New York, meaning their time together was split up by a three-state barrier. But when the couple had children and childcare became a priority, GW’s geology program came to the rescue and hired Forster. 

“That worked out really nicely for us and for geology because they got a new permanent professor rather than a rotating thing, and we got to live in the same city,” Forster said.

Since then, Clark and Forster have been able to research and co-advise graduate students together, hosting biweekly paleontology discussions at their home for students and other paleontologists. The pair also collaborated on a research project in China and previously taught an online summer course on dinosaurs together. 

“The whole idea of being able to collaborate in the same place at the same university is really important,” Forster said. 

Clark and Forster said they commute and eat lunch together daily.

“We never get bored of each other,” Clark said.

Fostering Romantic and Economic Growth

For Irene Foster, a professor of economics, and James Foster, a professor of economics and international affairs, collaboration while maintaining professional independence is essential.

After seeing each other around Purdue University’s Krannert Graduate School of Management, Irene, a graduate student, and James, a recently hired assistant professor, officially met during spring break of 1985. James bought Irene and her friend a bottle of wine at a Chinese restaurant, and despite Irene’s assumption that James liked her friend more, that fateful bottle sparked a long-lasting romance.

“A month later I saw Irene again, and we haven’t been apart since,” James said.

Irene and James both worked at Vanderbilt University for almost 20 years before James was offered a teaching position at GW in 2009.

“There’s this person that I’m, you know, sort of married to who happens to be the best economics professor in the world,” James said he told GW’s economic department. “You may want to consider her for a position.”

Soon after, the Fosters moved to the District and Irene was hired at GW.

Although working in the same department has allowed Irene and James to collaborate academically — like co-writing the “Principles of Mathematics for Economics” textbook with professor Anthony Yezer — the couple’s relationship does not define their professional lives. 

“When we were at Vanderbilt, there were couples in our department and they always were together, you’d always see them together, walking together, going to lunch together, coming to meetings together, sitting together, voting as a bloc, and I think very early on we realized that we did not want to do that,” Irene said. “We each wanted to be seen as individuals.”

Despite their outlook on work-life independence, Irene and James still embrace certain aspects of working together, like joking to students that the other Professor Foster is “terrible” and giving a joint speech with former president of GW Steven Knapp at an event for trustees and donors.

Cheering Across Disciplines

Even couples working in vastly different departments find ways to share professional opportunities and mentor students together.

For Peter Loge, the director and associate professor at the School of Media & Public Affairs, and Zoe Beckerman, a teaching associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Milken Institute of Public Health, the “shared playground” of GW connects their professional and personal lives.

Though Beckerman’s sister-in-law was Loge’s boss, Loge and Beckerman did not formally meet until they both threw an engagement party for mutual friends. The couple started dating shortly after.

“Some of our first dates were political fundraisers because then I was helping run a PAC,” Loge said. “Very Washington story.”

At the time, Loge was an adjunct professor and Beckerman was a law student in her 30s, so Beckerman would frequently cross H Street after law classes and crash Loge’s lectures in SMPA. Today, the couple still brings each other up in classes and have even shared students who have taken courses in both SMPA and Milken.

Beckerman said being able to share excitement with her husband over students’ successes is one of the best parts about both working at GW. 

“Their successes are our successes, and so it’s really, really fun to share the excitement when students go on to do great things,” Beckerman said.

Both having a lofty list of accomplishments, the couple said getting to support each other, in addition to their students, on campus makes all the difference. When Beckerman won a Bender Teaching Award for excellent teaching last year, the ceremony took place in SMPA’s Jack Morton Auditorium, just floors below Loge’s office.

“It was kind of cool to take the elevator downstairs and stand and applaud with everybody for Zoe,” Loge said.

Around the same time, Loge was promoted to director of SMPA.

“I’m probably his biggest champion, and so it’s really special to be able to see him doing his thing incredibly well,” Beckerman said. 

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