A Swarthmore Love Story: Phil Everson and Andrea Stout

In the spring of 1998, a fortuitous event happened to statistics professor Phil Everson and Andrea Stout, then a physics professor. The young professors, who had been eyeing each other for some time, met through Andrea’s dog, Miles, and their budding relationship snowballed from there.

Professor Everson still teaches statistics at Swarthmore, but Andrea Stout is now the Director of the Cell and Developmental Biology Microscopy Core at University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Phil and Andrea are currently “married with pets” — a new dog Otis and a green-cheeked Conure bird named Nigel. While they do not have any Valentine’s Day traditions (or any traditions for that matter), Phil and Andrea always make a point of saying “I love you” every day.

Below, each tells the story of their relationship.

Professor Phil Everson of Swarthmore Statistics Department

On their first meeting and ensuing relationship: Andrea and I met just before Spring break in 1998. It was her first year at Swarthmore, after a biophysics post-doc at Cornell and a year teaching at Ithaca College. It was my second year at Swat. At the time the Physics department was in a different wing of the science building (called “DuPont” back then) from Math and Statistics, and we managed not to run into each other for a whole semester.

That spring I remember seeing her out throwing a ball for her dog Miles on the rugby field (now the rugby parking lot) while I was teaching in our fishbowl classroom. I was interested in meeting her. I’d gone a while thinking she was a student (she still looks really young!) but couldn’t figure out how she got away with bringing her dog into the building every day. I eventually figured out she was Andrea Stout (still her name), and she was the new Assistant Professor in the physics department.

Miles the dog eventually introduced us – I was walking out the math side of the breeze-way and she came out the physics side with Miles, who ran across to me and gave me a wonderful dog greeting (leashes weren’t so strictly enforced back then, and Miles was the best dog in the universe and didn’t need to be on a leash). We introduced ourselves and Andrea told me the dog’s name was Miles. I asked if she was into jazz, and we ended up going to see David Murray together at the Painted Bride that weekend. She told me that on her way home that day she kept telling Miles what a good dog he was.

I don’t think “love at first sight” is quite right, but there was definitely an instant attraction. It was great to have spring break ahead of us to spend some time getting to know each other. By the time classes started again we were pretty much a couple.

I proposed on New Years Eve, 1999 and then we went out and watched fireworks.

Dating an Academic: Andrea came to Swarthmore and built “Optical Tweezers” for measuring the strength (in piconewtons!) of a bond formed between two molecules. She could explain the basic idea to me – that the focusing laser light could create a “potential well” to trap a small particle (I liked thinking about it as a Star Wars tractor beam). I quickly realized how much more Andrea knew about physics (and chemistry and biology and cooking, etc.) than I knew. And her work now is over my head too.

Advice: I’ve learned a lot over the last 13 years that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t been living with Andrea. My advice in looking for a partner is to find someone you can learn from.

Andrea Stout, Director of CDB Microscopy Core at Penn Medical School

First meeting: It was my first year at Swarthmore (1997) and I started noticing Phil when I walked through his side of Dupont to teach my seminar in the old “Fishbowl” seminar room. No one I knew could tell me much about him, so I had no idea as to whether or not he was single or married. But I thought he was very cute! It was a stroke of luck when we happened to leave our respective sides of Dupont one afternoon. Phil noticed my dog Miles, so I sent Miles over to say hi (Miles was a very friendly dog and loved people). That got the ball rolling, and Phil asked me out to a jazz concert the next day.

It was certainly attraction at first sight! Phil’s blue eyes and totally genuine smile grabbed me right away. I think the first thing I thought, after my dog Miles ran up and greeted Phil, was how happy I was that he (Phil) seemed to really like dogs. A very important thing, when you are a dog person.

I was just so happy that I finally had had an opportunity to introduce myself to this person who I’d had my eye on for weeks.

Dating at Swarthmore: It never felt awkward to me, or like we had to keep it a secret to our colleagues. Back then Math & Physics were in opposite wings of the old Dupont building, so we had to go outside to get to each others’ offices.

Dating an Academic: We do get into rather heated arguments about academic & philosophical issues, but not really about math or physics. I confess I do not understand Phil’s research very well, even after knowing him for 13 years. However, he has helped me understand basic statistics much better, and he is always willing to explain things to me no matter how many times he’s done it before.

Competing on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”: Phil made me do it! I did pretty well at the game sitting home on the couch, so when they did local auditions at the Channel 6 ABC studio, Phil convinced me it was worthwhile to go down there and try it out. First there was a timed written test. People who made the cut on that were asked to do a brief screen test, answering multiple choice questions on-camera. I got a phone call at work the following Monday asking me to be on in the near future. It happened very fast.

We used a little of the money to pay for our wedding the following summer, but most of the money went towards the down payment on our current house.

Love Advice for Swatties: This sounds cliche but it’s important: don’t try to win someone over by being somebody you’re not. Don’t give up the things you care about and don’t expect the other person to either. We figured out pretty early in our relationship that each person has to be allowed to be him/herself.