He's now the apple of teacher's eye


In January 1998, Barb Haley started her first "real" job, as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce.

Fresh out of the doctoral program at the University of Georgia, Barb was focused on her new position and making a good impression on her colleagues. So when a fellow professor asked Barb to lecture a group of the university's master of business administration students, she quickly agreed.

Chris Wixom was among the 60 or so students at that lecture. He admits now that he was instantly smitten by Barb's looks. "So often you run across people that you're interested in, but for whatever reason you don't follow through," he says. "I saw Barb and I said, 'For the first time, I'm going to follow through.' "

Chris managed to start a conversation with Barb after class, but "got nowhere," he recalls. The next day, he e-mailed her, asking if they could meet to talk about the research she had done for her doctorate because he was considering undertaking a similar project.

Chris had made so little an impression on Barb at the lecture that she had no idea if the e-mail was from a woman or a man. But it didn't matter, because with her own classes and a big conference coming up, Barb had a full schedule. "To be honest, I was a little annoyed," she recalls, chuckling.

Though Barb tried to put him off by passing his request to a colleague, Chris insisted he would wait to speak with Barb. And so at the end of February, they met for lunch.

It didn't occur to Barb until well into the meal that this very studious, handsome man in glasses and a blazer was her age. When Chris mentioned that he had graduated from Duke University in 1991, the couple found themselves in an endless round of "Do you know so-and-so?" It just so happened that an old friend of Barb's from Baltimore County's Dulaney High School had been president of Chris' fraternity and that Barb had been to parties at the fraternity house while Chris was a student.

The many acquaintances and friends they had in common made Barb feel comfortable with Chris. So when he suggested they meet for dinner a few days later, she agreed. From then on, they dated only one another.

In May 1998, Chris graduated from the university and left the Charlottesville campus to begin working as group manager of strategic planning for Sprint Long Distance International, based in Kansas City, Kan.

In October 1998, on one of his many return visits to Charlottesville, Chris surprised Barb by proposing marriage and presenting her with an engagement ring that has been passed down through four generations of his family.

Barb and Chris, both 30, were married Aug. 28 at the University of Virginia Chapel. (Though Barb grew up in Towson and Chris is from New Jersey, the couple thought it fitting that they marry where they fell in love.)

Barb's sister Linda Haley served as her maid of honor and Chris' sister Anne Asher was a bridesmaid. Seated with the 200 guests were Barb's mother and stepfather, Mary and Joe Skudrna of Phoenix; her father and stepmother, Ed and Shirley Haley of Silver Spring; and Chris' parents, Virginia and Everett Wixom of Mountainside, N.J.

Now back from their honeymoon in Bermuda, Barb and Chris are splitting their time between Charlottesville and Kansas City until Chris receives a new assignment from his company in November.

Though they joke that they're always on airplanes, the couple say that all the commuting is well worth it.

"Why do you get married? Why do you fall in love?" Chris asks rhetorically. "Because the sum of the two is greater than the parts."

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