“Love, do you want some coffee?”
“No love, thank you.”
This is routine language between Ron and Janine Morgan. Each greeted the other with a kiss and unloaded their belongings around them in the Starbucks of the library. Dr. Janine Morgan, an instructor in the Core department, is dressed in her usual flowy Woodstock attire. Dr. Ron Morgan, professor in intercultural studies and international studies advisor, sported a Leipzig, Germany, Study Abroad T-shirt. She, the free spirit. He, the more structured of the pair. If ever there was an image of “opposites-attract” it is displayed between Ron and Janine Morgan.
Married “30 blessedly, skirmish-y years,” she said, the two have lived an adventure as ACU’s Oxford resident directors for nine of those years.
Their newest adventure comes from what Ron calls an “accumulation of coinciding circumstances.” The Morgans had been strongly considering a move back to Abilene in order to be closer to family, but the university’s fiscal situation confirmed the decision, they said.
Like many programs, Study Abroad fell victim to the university’s budget cuts, leaving the Morgans feeling they had little choice but to abandon the accents and return to the states.
“We needed someone to push, or force our hand into the decision to come back,” he said. “Making it on our own would have been too difficult.”
Their new Abilene house, three-bed, two-bath and about 1,400 sq ft., would be a tight squeeze by most anyone’s standard. In Oxford, their portion of the home apartment gave them a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom to call their own. So for a couple whose quarters were limited to the shared space with each new semester’s student group, “It is big enough,” Ron said.
When asked if they miss the closer-than-normal professor-student relationship, Janine nodded eagerly, Ron leaned back in his chair, shaking his head. She quickly responded to his denial in a tattletale tone, “Ron was the one who brought up the idea of maybe living in the dorms, like the Phillips.”
For now, they rent a humble house, miles from the university.
“We wanted to see how life a ways from campus would be like,” Janine said. Because 2000 trans-Atlantic miles has them accustomed to personal space.
First fears forecasted the whole Oxford program to be shut down, but with the Morgan’s return and budget rearranging, the Study Abroad location favorite will stay. The torch for the resident director position was passed to Jacqueline Morrison. Morrison had worked with the Oxford program alongside the Morgans since she graduated from ACU in 2003.
But for the Morgans, the adventure does not stop in Abilene. The country-hopping couple simply refuses to be kept US bound for too long. They have already signed up with the Study Abroad Montevideo program for the Spring 2015 semester.
“We are so excited to get back to South America. It’s something to look forward to,” Janine said.
Before their Brit days, Ron and Janine joined a missionary team formed on the ACU campus along with Highland Church of Christ headed for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the 1980’s.
The Morgans came to call Brazil home and it was the birthplace for both their daughters, Lara and Daniella. Both daughters live in Texas now, another factor in the Morgan’s homecoming from Oxford.
Returning to the United States after six years, the Morgans took a pit stop from globetrotting.
“We hadn’t been in Texas for some 20 years when we applied for the position and moved to Oxford from Los Angeles,” Janine said. During this time, Ron was a professor in History, while Janine taught in intercultural education while working for her doctorate degree.
Originally, the Morgan’s contract as the Oxford resident directors was set for two years. Ron held an ACU faculty position, reserving him a job if he ever chose to return. However, teatime went longer than expected.
“This happened every time our contract drew to a close,” Janine said. “Every two or three years we re-evaluated where we were, what we wanted in life. Every year, we still loved Oxford.”
Nine years of reevaluating later, the two have not merely served as the Oxford resident directors. They have lived directly below their students, been kept young by their college student noise level and sleep hours, acted as the stand-in parents for 27 batches of student groups.
On site, Ron was in charge of international studies classes, with Janine teaching upper-level Bible courses. The husband and wife even teamed up as co-professors for Core classes.
When asked what they miss most, Ron was the first to speak up, as if he knew it would be easier for him to vocalize his wife’s feelings.
“Well, I know for Janine, coming from a missionary family, she is used to being in the center of what’s happening, big-fish-in-a-small-pond sort of deal,” he said. “I think the hardest thing she is having to deal with has been missing that small community.”
That same absence of intimacy Ron considers his favorite aspect of their Abilene homecoming.
“I’ve missed being a part of the ACU community,” he said. “I find the atmosphere academically stimulating.”
But Janine continues.
“I miss walking in nature.”
She said the past weekend they discovered Abilene State Park. She grins, as if her inner Brit has won a small battle over the differing Texas climate, “I found my Texas Port Meadow.”
Since being back, the Morgans are members of Highland Church of Christ. Ron has begun involvement in Hispanos Unidos and Janine plans to begin involvement with the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
But most of all, Janine said she misses the people’s values and faith.
“I really miss the Church of England,” she says. “Their culture is so globally aware. Their prayers, they’re so concerned and involved with the outside world. I miss that.”
During their Oxford residency, the Morgans regularly made trips back to United States, for business or family. Because of these visits, they said adjusting back to American currency, groceries and the proper driving lane has not been a struggle.
But one thing they can agree on:
“We miss BBC,” she said.
“Oh, BBC,” Ron mourned, as he dropped his face into his hands.
As a group of students began to leave the café area, Janine spotted a familiar face and tugged on Ron for a name reminder. She had confused him with his older brother, both of whom studied abroad with them. These sibling generations have been many, they both said. She flagged down the former student with a hearty greeting, insisting a coffee catch-up session. These run-ins happen a lot, they both said.
The Morgan’s nine-year run with Study Abroad Oxford permits them the forgetting of a few names out of the many that came through their doors at House 9, Canterbury Road.
“It’s sort of like,” Janine stops mid-sentence and looks out towards the student packed library. “It’s sort of like empty-nest syndrome,” she swallows. “You know, where do I go now?”
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