By Alison Perelman, Assistant Culture Editor
Valerie and David Hodge both grew up in the west. They both studied geography. They both went to the University of Washington, where they met. They’ve been married for 35 years.
David started out as an associate professor at Washington, but he eventually worked his way up to the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Valerie was the Director of Institutional Research at Bellevue Community College.
In 2006, David was offered the position of president of Miami University. So, after reading books about its history to prepare, they packed up their things from big, urban University of Washington and moved to middle-of-nowhere Oxford, Ohio.
“It was a little bit weird at first because people were so crazy for Miami and we were like, ‘Wow, I mean, is this just because we’re new and they want us to understand?’ But it’s the real deal,” Valerie said.
People’s pride and passion for the school soon became her favorite part of the experience. Valerie loves meeting students, alumni, faculty, staff — anyone associated with Miami who loves it here.
But that’s not to say there aren’t parts of Washington that they’ve missed over the years.
“We miss the mountains and the rivers and the lakes and the pine trees,” Valerie said.
After about six months — to compensate for their homesickness — they bought a house on Grand Lake St. Mary’s, just an hour and a half up the road.
On breaks, Valerie and David would drive up there to sit out on the dock and watch the water.
Paintings of landscapes also fill Lewis Place, where the President and his wife live.
And to dispel one of the many rumors surrounding the Hodges, yes, they actually live there.
They never spend time uptown because they’re always hosting or attending an event, going out with other people.
“If we have a night off and don’t have an event, we’ll probably just open a can of soup or something and put our feet up,” Valerie said.
They watch “NCIS” together and have favorite movies that they watch over and over — anything with Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts.
While Valerie loves traveling around the country to meet with alumni, her favorite aspects of Miami are on campus — the large amount of Miami mergers and proud legacies, watching students side step the seal — even the new one in Armstrong.
Valerie and her husband have never kissed under the Upham Arch, but they take advantage of every opportunity possible on campus. While David was competing in beginner’s level broomball, Valerie took an ice skating lesson.
“That was neat to take the lessons and realize how truly difficult that skill is and understand how good [the synchronized skating teams] are to be doing it they way they do it,” she said.
Valerie’s favorite memory from her ten years here was a moment during the bicentennial closing extravaganza.
The marching band, glee club, glee club alumni, other choral groups and the orchestra were all there. Millett was packed with people. The fight song and alma mater were saved for last and the Hodges were asked to come up on stage. The glee club started snapping.
“And we’re standing up there and then all this red and white confetti starts coming down while we sing the alma mater. And I mean there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We were all crying and laughing and happy. It was fantastic, it was just fantastic,” Valerie said.
The performances are just one thing Valerie is going to miss when they leave.
In June, she and her daughter will take the car and David will be right along with them in a U-Haul and pulling his fishing boat as they make their way back home to Idaho.
“I’m looking forward to relaxing and not having a schedule and not getting up to an alarm clock. Just getting up and saying, ‘This is what I want to do today.’ Nobody else gets to tell me what to do,” Valerie said with a big laugh.
They’re going to hang out by the dock and read books. David will fish, play piano and learn Spanish. Then, after they’ve settled in, they’ll get involved in volunteer activities.
Valerie loved her time spent at Miami, but knows that ten years is a long time to do the same thing and it’s a good time to leave.
“It’s like Miami’s a river going by and you step in at one point, and we stepped in 2006. And we’ve gone along and along and along. And now we’re gonna step out in 2016 and you’re always a part of Miami’s history. Forever, you’re a part of this place,” she said. “And that’s pretty amazing to think about that. Leaving that kind of a legacy and having had this kind of experience is pretty amazing.”