By Doug Carroll
Little more than two years ago, she was a ninth-grade English teacher in suburban Philadelphia, shopping for a doctoral degree program.
Today, she’s a 10th-grade English teacher in suburban Phoenix, enrolled in that program at GCU.
The biggest difference for Jo Markette? That would be Nick Markette, her husband, whom she met in 2008 in the first cohort group of students pursuing doctoral degrees in organizational leadership.
It wasn’t love at first sight.
“Nick and I happened to be put randomly in a group of five for a project due at the end of the week,” Jo said on July 23 as the couple wrapped up another stint in the summer doctoral residency program on campus.
The group members became close enough in their studies that when Jo, then “happily single,” returned later in the summer for a previously scheduled trip to the Grand Canyon, lunch was arranged.
As it turned out, Nick was the only one who could join her, and they agreed to meet at the GCU swimming pool because it was one of few Phoenix landmarks she knew.
After having lost his wife of 26 years to cancer, Nick wasn’t looking. Besides, he was plenty busy with his career in finance.
“The whole concept of dating wasn’t attractive to me at all,” he said, “and this is probably the only way it could have worked.”
Across the miles, the friendship blossomed, and it wasn’t long before Jo was visiting Arizona every few weeks. Nick and Jo were married on July 10 of last year, and they’re tracking to be awarded their doctorates together next spring.
“We truly were friends first,” Jo said. “There was no ‘Ooh, wow, this has potential.’ We’re married now, but we’re still best friends.”
Nick, an adjunct instructor in the Ken Blanchard College of Business, received his master’s degree from GCU in leadership in 2007 and is the chief financial officer for Callbutton, a technology firm. Jo has master’s degrees from Villanova University and from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, both Philadelphia institutions. She teaches at Hamilton High School in Chandler. They live in Tempe.
In the doctoral program, Nick is studying high-performance teams and Jo is studying online Christian studies.
The couple say their strengths and study habits are complementary, contributing to a level of mutual support.
“We know exactly what the other is doing because we’re doing this together,” Nick said. “It’s easier.”
Jo said their study time is full of interchange.
“We’ll be doing the same paper and I’ll say, ‘Hey, do you have that book?’” she said. “Or he’ll ask me how a sentence sounds, and because I’m a good writer and I know the topic, I can give him some insight. It’s nice.”
Both give the doctoral program high marks for putting them in position to succeed.
“A lot of your energy in this process is involved in finding out what won’t work,” Nick said. “That’s minimized by GCU. The program reflects the values that are broadcast, such as servant leadership.”
Jo said it’s as if their professors “are rooting for us and want us to do well.”
Their teamwork will be more important than ever as they enter the final stretch of the program.
“Nick is a part of who I am,” Jo said. “My life is better because of him. Each of us is a blessing to the other.”
Reach Doug Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602.639.8011.