Yvonne and Richard Teske have had strong connections to the University of Michigan for more than 50 years. They met in Ann Arbor, where Yvonne received her master’s and doctoral degrees and Richard was a faculty member of the Astronomy department.
They came to Michigan through very different paths. Yvonne had been working with emotionally disturbed children in the U-M hospital system, but she was drawn back to school, saying, “It was just all around me. I worked with many grad students, and part of it was that this opportunity was right here and I had to take advantage of it.”
Richard came to U-M after completing his doctorate at Harvard where his dissertation was the first in the Harvard Astronomy Department to be entirely done on a computer. His research dealt with variable stars, but there was no telescope in the world to verify predictions that the computer had made. It seemed that U-M’s solar observatory, which was located in Pontiac, offered one of the best resources to examine his predictions by studying the sun, so he joined the U-M faculty as a full-time scientist at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory in 1960. He served as the principal investigator for a solar X-ray detector that flew on the Third Orbiting Solar Observatory, providing extensive details and analysis about X-ray emission from solar flares. During his tenure at U-M he served as a consultant to NASA in various capacities as well. At a certain point, Richard felt ready for a new challenge and changed his research focus from the sun and solar X-rays to supernova remnants and moved to Ann Arbor to become more integrated into faculty here. He taught the gamut of offerings from the Astronomy department: freshman courses, mid-level courses, courses for grad students, and supervised some dissertations.
Both Teskes had long careers in academia: Richard was an integral part of the Astronomy department for 33 years, and Yvonne was a full professor at Eastern Michigan University and Shenandoah University for 30 years. She says, “That was such a good experience. Most women didn’t have the opportunity to have careers like that.”
Yvonne received her doctorate in Education: Policy and Administration. She reflects, “Flexibility comes to mind when remembering school. I was able to find good teachers and subject matter that interested me. There are things I could have done differently, though. I wish I had done a master’s research thesis. It wasn’t required at the time or emphasized much, so when it came to the doctorate I had to do a double dose – master’s and doctoral thesis then. I also wish I had realized the importance of having a mentor earlier. I didn’t look quickly enough for a mentor and learn the methods I’d need in the future. It would have helped me come out of school a little stronger with research skills I needed. I didn’t realize how important that would be. Richard told me that a doctoral degree would change me forever, and he was right. I am very aware that the thought process is different, and I approach problems differently. I’m comfortable with that now.”
Richard and Yvonne met through a mutual friend who organized a hike along the Huron River, and they’ve been married for 40 years. Looking back, Richard jokes, “We survived Yvonne’s dissertation. She was working full-time while writing it. During that time, I learned a great deal too: how to cook, how to shop.” Richard contributed much more than that over the years, designing a software program specifically for Yvonne’s doctoral thesis research. Her research wasn’t commonly done: she needed to determine what occupational therapists did in sessions and how patients responded. Richard’s software helped address her problem. She adds, “Rackham gave me a grant for my dissertation so I could hire coders and train them. It was expensive, and I was so grateful to Rackham.” She recalls, “One of the best things for me during those years was that I almost always did my studies on the 2nd floor of Rackham. Even when I was married, I still studied at Rackham. It was a place where everybody gathered.”
When Richard retired from faculty in 1993, he took over the scholarship program at LSA. He says, “I was the guy who offered scholarships to highly qualified potential students the university wanted especially to attract. It was a great experience to participate meaningfully in that process.” Yvonne remembers a different aspect of those years, “I remember him being on the phone, inviting students to come to the university for a weekend to explore, learn, and gain a feeling for what we are.”
After 21 years at EMU as a faculty member and administrator, Yvonne was interested in a new challenge. That urge took her to Winchester, Virginia, where they’ve been settled since 1998. She was attracted by the opportunity to join a new entry-level Occupational Therapy master’s degree program at Shenandoah University. She recalls, “It was in intriguing to teach and advise master’s students who had no background in occupational therapy. It was case-based learning, and the focus was very different.” The location worked well for a retired Richard, an avid Civil War buff who found himself in the midst of Civil War country.
Now both retired, the Teskes live in a retirement community in Winchester, the same town they settled in years ago. Their lives are vibrant, maintaining close relationships with friends nearby and making new ones in their community. They are busy, too: Yvonne is the chairperson of the art gallery and continues to paint on her own. She taught a class of millennial graduate students last year, noticing the vast difference in graduate experience now compared to hers 25 years ago. Richard edits an annual retirement community history book that is produced each year. He finds time to volunteer at the local hospital a few days a week as a patient representative.
On giving to Rackham, Richard explains, “Our interest in supporting Rackham comes from Yvonne’s connection as a student and desire to support graduate students in the School of Education. My feeling comes from the fact that as a faculty person directing dissertations, almost all the graduate students I worked with were teaching fellows. Often I thought they could have gotten finished a year or two earlier if they didn’t have to earn their way through. It comes from my love of Astronomy but also from a desire to make sure graduate students don’t have to get distracted by working. Because of this, we intend to bequest support to Rackham through our estate.” As they reflect on their own experience at U-M, they know their gift will have a lasting legacy on graduate students for years to come.