The 1st of November 1972 is etched in Jan’s memory: that was the day Tilly first started working at the office. Jan was immediately head over heels about his new coworker. It took exactly a week for him to ask Tilly out to attend the university’s anniversary festivities with him. There was a staff party after the official ceremony. “So that was our first night out”, says Tilly.
That night marked the start of many more enjoyable nights spent in each other’s company. “We’d usually go to the pub, since I knew a lot of great pubs in Rotterdam”, says Tilly. Jan jokingly interjects, “I wasn’t familiar with any of those places – but I knew a thing or two about the drinks.”
A year later, on 8 November, which coincided with the Dies Natalis, Jan and Tilly got engaged, and on 15 August 1974, they tied the knot at Rotterdam City Hall.
The couple are clearly in love, and their sense of humour and joie de vivre are palpable. They tease each other and make one another laugh. “I fell in love with Jan’s personality as well as his looks. He was charming and handsome – and I loved his long dark hair”, Tilly replies when asked why she fell for Jan. She turns to her husband. “You were very handsome – back then!” He laughs. “Too right I was – I looked like Elvis Presley!”
The couple say they have very different personalities. Tilly, for example, is more enterprising, whereas Jan enjoys life at a slower pace. She enjoys rambling and is currently tackling the Pieterpad, a 500-kilometre hiking trail that runs from Groningen to Maastricht and is divided into several stages. “I don’t even want to think about walking all that way”, says Jan, laughing. He adds, “That’s what I have a car for.”
Separating work from home
Jan and Tilly worked at the University for over 40 years. Jan was head of the central Student Administration Department, while Tilly continued her career at the Office of Student Counsellors and the Wetenschapknooppunt after several years at Student Administration.
Yet they were able to keep their work and home life separate. “We would always leave the house together in the morning, but once we arrived on campus, we’d have our own work to do. And we wouldn’t always go home together”, says Jan. “We also had an agreement that we wouldn’t discuss work before eight o’clock or after five”, Tilly adds, “which means you get to have a home life, and that works really well.”
“It’s about learning how to grow closer to one another and being willing to admit that you’re in the wrong every now and then”
Working out differences
Next year, Jan and Tilly will be celebrating their 50-year anniversary. However, they emphasise that their love story has not always been plain sailing. “Having rows and getting annoyed with one another – usually due to a difference of opinion – it’s all part of it. But we make sure that never lasts very long. You should always have worked out the problem before you go to sleep”, says Tilly. Jan agrees, “That’s right – and that might be a little nugget of wisdom we can pass on. It’s about learning how to grow closer to one another and being willing to admit that you’re in the wrong every now and then… after all, Tilly’s always right, isn’t she?”, he adds with a playful wink.