In the midst of doing research for their doctoral dissertations, government professors Wendy Hunter and Kurt Weyland found one another while exploring the unknown wonders of Brazil.
“When you go to a country, especially a country that is so different from your home country, you almost feel like an anthropologist — and you try to figure out the ways people do things, what the rules of the game are,” Weyland said. “It was nice to have a fellow anthropologist. We essentially experienced the country together.”
Although Hunter was born in the U.S. and Weyland in Germany, destiny found a way to unite them. They narrowly missed one another several times on previous trips to Brazil and outings with mutual friends. One afternoon, when Hunter was studying at a social sciences library in Rio de Janeiro, she saw a man resembling a Stanford Ph.D. student her advisor told her would also be doing research with her in Brazil. She didn’t know for certain if it was him, but she figured she would take a chance to ask.
“I thought, ‘I am not going to go up to this perfect stranger and say, “Oh my logic is you are wearing Birkenstocks, socks, you are in a social science library and you look German — you must be Kurt Weyland,”’” Hunter said.
Instead, she went up to the librarian and asked for his name. The librarian was not only able to confirm his identity, but also gave her his number.
“I was totally surprised (when she called),” Weyland said.
They set up to meet the next day to walk along the beaches of Rio with few expectations and were surprised when they found they had more in common than they imagined.
“My initial idea was, ‘Wow, a Berkeley student must be very smart,’ and then I saw her and I was like, ‘Wow, this woman is beautiful,’” Weyland said.
During the next 18 months they spent developing research on Brazil, their relationship grew as they bounced ideas off one another about cities they traveled to. Then one afternoon as they had dinner at a fancy Brazilian restaurant, Weyland formally brought up the idea of getting married.
“This was not your classic ‘man goes out, buys a diamond engagement ring, gets on his hands and knees and proposes,’” Hunter said. “This was more of an evolving conversation.”
After keeping him in suspense as she considered his proposal, Hunter and Weyland married in October 1990 in a wedding planned exclusively by them. They integrated passages of their favorite Shakespeare love sonnets and Greek speeches into their ceremony held at the Berkeley Club.
“You could actually see the political science building from (there),” Hunter said. “It was nice, we had a lot of our friends there and we put a lot into the music.”
Although they were initially worried about the lack of job opportunities for professors, they found work in Vanderbilt’s Latin American department and eventually made UT their new home. The couple continues to go on adventures to Latin America but now with an extra two in tow — their teenage children.
Weyland and Hunter said though their similar interests in anthropology, history and Latin American culture keep their connection strong, destiny was the reason they met in the first place.
“There is so much in common that we share that nobody else could ever get a handle on,” Weyland said. “To the present day we are still surprised we have so much to talk about. We will say, ‘Why did we stay up so late?’ because we were talking talking talking.”