Connie and Bruce McLaren met while they were in college and have enjoyed working together and collaborating for nearly 40 years as colleagues at Indiana State.
Working together as undergraduate students on their university yearbook, Connie and Bruce McLaren developed a rapport that continues today. After more than 40 years, they are still partners — in work and in life.
“We knew each other as friends before we started dating,” Connie said. “By the time we were seniors, he was the yearbook’s editor in chief and I was the managing editor, and we shared a small office. We decided that if we could make a go of that relationship, it was a good indicator for our future together and we were engaged at Christmastime of our senior year.”
They’ve been married 43 years in August. “We can’t imagine not working together, although grad school friends advised against it,” Connie said. “Having first met each other as ‘work’ colleagues in a student organization, we’ve worked together as long as we’ve known each other.”
In 1979, the two joined the faculty of Indiana State University. Bruce is associate dean and professor in the Scott College of Business. Connie is professor of operations and supply chain management in the marketing and operations department of the college. Most afternoons, the couple shares lunch and often works on research projects together.
“We have each benefited from an extra opinion or well-placed question to move our projects along,” Bruce said. “We have never grown tired of discussing school/work issues and events. Using each other as a sounding board has been extremely helpful. Our writing styles are different, and we each add value to the other’s papers and documents. We share a strong interest in curricula and often do what-if thinking that is very helpful for developing ideas.”
The academic areas of the two are similar enough, Connie said, “that we speak the same language and, of course, we share many of the same students. We’ve coauthored a couple of books and papers and are currently working on another one. We frequently edit each other’s drafts.”
Choosing careers in education seemed natural for both of them. Growing up in Terre Haute where her father was an Indiana State professor, Connie was always interested in becoming a teacher.
“I assumed I’d be a high school math teacher after graduation from Purdue,” she said. “During graduate school, I enjoyed a variety of teaching assistantships and so the logical progression was to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor…. Never did I dream I would come back to Terre Haute and be a faculty member at ISU.”
Growing up in Indianapolis, Bruce “always loved math and decided to become an engineer. While I earned my degree in the aeronautical engineering field, circumstances pushed me toward the business (MBA) side. While in that program, I was invited to join the doctoral program and earned a Ph.D. in operations management and have been in higher education since. I believe that being a graduate teaching assistant ‘set the hook’ for my love of learning.”
Among his Indiana State duties, Bruce serves as Federal Hall building coordinator. “I am proud of our historic building and served as the college liaison with the architects and facilities throughout the project,” Bruce said. “I give many tours of this facility.”
Bruce also works closely with information technology in the building and assists staff with IT issues. The years have brought many technology changes and advancements, both Bruce and Connie point out.
“The most basic things about being a professor have not changed a bit — we still strive to open the eyes of our students to concepts and ideas that will help them understand bigger pictures,” Connie said. “Of course, technology has changed immensely since our graduate school days.”
Another change quickly approaching for Bruce and Connie is retirement. Both will be retiring this summer from their full-time positions at Indiana State, and there are definitely many aspects of their jobs that they will miss.
“I love meeting new students each semester and starting the journey with them, as well as reconnecting with ones I’ve had in previous classes,” Connie said. “Being surrounded by active colleagues who are good friends helps us keep learning. I love the environment of a university.”
Added Bruce, “We have truly enjoyed our time at Indiana State University. We love working with college students and of course, that will be missed…. I hope to continue to maintain contact with our grads and see how they do. But I also hope to transfer some of my passion to working with adult students.”
After retirement, the couple plans to remain in Terre Haute and spend more time with their two daughters, who both live in Indiana. Anne is reliability engineer with Cummins, and Cathy is a CVS pharmacist. Cathy and her husband, Marshall, have three children, ages 6, 3, and 1.
The McLarens also have many other retirement plans. “I enjoy helping my friends who have technology-related questions and intend to do more of that after retirement,” Bruce said. “I am considering teaching some adult learning courses in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program here at ISU. My focus would be on technology-related issues such as computers, smart phones and photography. I enjoy learning of all types, and have a lengthy list of things to master.”
Plus, Bruce added, “We are community volunteers at heart and expect that engagement to continue.”
Connie looks forward to exploring new and different areas and to continue devoting time to church and community activities. “We are both heavily involved in our church, Central Presbyterian (where Bruce is church treasurer), and I am a member of PEO International, an organization that supports educational opportunities for women. I like to read, cook and garden and am looking forward to taking advantage of some of the OLLI programs after retirement.”
As longtime travelers, the McLarens hope to be packing their suitcases and cameras for many future trips.
“One thing I would love to expand is fine art photography, a life-long hobby of mine,” Bruce said. “With more time after retiring, I expect to build my skills and travel more for photo shoots. I particularly enjoy nature and landscape photography. I hope to teach others that wish to expand their photography skills — taking the pictures as well as working in the digital darkroom. It is a natural companion to my technical and teaching interests. I have also considered developing how-to notes and videos.”
Whatever the future path holds, the McLarens plan to travel it together as they have since college days and to continue sharing the joys of Indiana State with anyone considering a quality education.
“The lines of the mission statement that resonate most with me are that we provide a ‘challenging and supportive’ environment. This environment adds value for students of all abilities and interests, yielding opportunities they might not have on other campuses,” Connie said.
“We have truly enjoyed our time at Indiana State,” Bruce said. “We love working with college students. I think the essence of ISU is making a difference and watching our students grow. Every ISU faculty member is proud to help add value to our students and ultimately see them enjoy success in life and career.”