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You have to roll back the years to fully appreciate last week’s announcement from Christopher Newport University, the one revealing that its president, Paul Trible, would be taking time off to care for his wife, Rosemary Trible.
Or, to put another slant on it, in the age of reckonings, the role of “spouse” may be due some broader and deeper appreciation.
Back in 1982, Kay Peaslee, publisher of The Charlottesville Observer (and often the principal reporter), encountered 33-year-old Rosemary Trible, then working on her husband’s bid for the U.S. Senate.
“How’s it going?” Kay inquired, pretty well knowing the answer. The campaign was in fine form, but Peaslee knew that being the candidate’s spouse has its own set of demands, especially when you have two young children.
“It’s different working for a man who is in politics than it is working for a husband in politics,” Rosemary responded, in what surely constitutes an understatement. Mrs. Trible had previously held a congressional staff post.
This tends to be the way of things, when the call for leadership gets heard (this dynamic applies to more fields than politics) and one person reaches for glory, while the other puts shoulder to the grindstone, balancing home front necessities with unanticipated campaign duties.
It’s a partnership — one “leader,” one spouse — but you can argue who has the more demanding role to play.
Take the military, for instance. Stacy Roman produced a piece this week for Stars & Stripes about the “Ups and Downs of Military Marriages.”
“Marriage is difficult, even under normal circumstances,” writes Roman. “Trying to keep a marriage afloat while subjecting it to the demands of the military is a whole different ball game.”
Among other points, Roman argues for “flexibility and creativity.”
No kidding. The complexity of the demands, in that regard, grow significantly as one spouse gains rank and responsibility. The institutional obligations can be daunting, if not oppressive.
Here’s the thing: It can break one direction or the other. It may work or it may not.
Then, every so often, something else happens: Some latent potential gets released and you’re left wondering which of these figures in the “partnership” deserves the great measure of acclaim.
Which is not to take anything away from Paul Trible, whose contributions to Hampton Roads generally and to the Peninsula in particular, extended beyond politics to the literal recreation of a university.
But there’s a reason why Rosemary Trible’s name got inscribed on the CNU Library building: She deserves it.
It’s been perfectly obvious for a long time: Rosemary Trible did more than take in stride the ever-rising requirements of her partnership. She did more than just cooperate, did more than dutifully answer the call. She excelled. She became the obvious and necessary asset to Paul Trible’s upward mobility.
And it was upward quick. By the time he ran for the Senate seat, to succeed Harry Byrd, Jr., Paul Trible had already held Virginia’s 1st Congressional District seat for three terms (having first won the post at age 29) and had served as Essex County commonwealth attorney before that.
Then there was the turn away from politics in 1996 toward academe and the challenge of leading CNU to an entirely different place and, no small thing, finding the money to do it.
Paul Trible acknowledges as much. “Rosemary is a very special woman whose many contributions to the life of Christopher Newport are evident everywhere.”
A fixture of the campus, a constant ally to the school’s ambitions, Rosemary Trible also found the heart to detail a 1975 sexual assault and create an organization — Fear 2 Freedom — that helps sexual assault victims in their hour of crisis and aids their recovery. It is difficult, harrowing and necessary work.
“The university will be in good hands,” Trible said last week. It has been all along, due in no small measure to Rosemary Trible — the transcendent spouse.