While residence life tries to ensure your best experience living with roommates, some days would be a little brighter living without them. However, some roommates can quickly become lifelong friends who you never want to leave. Before there were the dynamic duos that walk Northwestern campus today, two young and eager individuals found themselves in need of a roommate in New Haven, Connecticut. They were both in the market for a person to split utilities with. Little did they know, they were also finding a future colleague in the great metropolis of Orange City, Iowa. The vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Nate Phinney, and dean of arts and humanities, Dr. John Vonder Bruegge, were first roommates on Yale’s historic campus.
While many college students were beginning to take their first steps, Dr. Vonder Bruegge and Dr. Phinney were both starting a new graduate school experience and needed someone to live with.
“I wanted a Christian as a roommate,” Dr. Vonder Bruegge said. “Graduate school attracts all kinds, and I wanted a roommate with whom I could have some fundamental compatibility. Neither one of us was exactly a party animal, either, which helped when it came to concentrating on our studies.”
Dr. Phinney echoes the same sentiment.
“I knew enough about Dr. VB to know that we shared the Christian faith and had a similar understanding of what that should look like,” Dr. Phinney said. “Definitely not a party house—though we could have been.”
Their second-floor apartment came equipped with a working fireplace, three bedrooms, and two historic Wassily chairs, courtesy of Vonder Brueggue’s architect father. They shared the building with an older couple who lived just one floor below.
“We got along with them very well, and they really liked my dog, a feisty little Jack Russell Terrier named Grizzly,” said Dr. Vonder Bruegge. “Nate, as I recall, didn’t have a dog growing up. He used to like taking my dog for walks, though, and of course you have to bring baggies along to clean up after the dog. I recall one time Nate saw me cleaning up after the dog in the side yard. He said, ‘Oh, so that’s how you do it!’ He had been putting the bag on the ground and trying to push the you-know-what inside with a stick. He said, ‘Your way looks a lot easier.’”
Dr. Phinney corrected Dr. Vonder Bruegge, as he did have dogs growing up in rural North Dakota. However, the “stick” method was his only experience in cleaning up after his dogs.
Dr. Phinney was not the only one who had rather unpleasant experiences with Dr. Vonder Bruegge’s dog though.
“One night, Dr. VB’s dog killed a skunk in our backyard,” Dr. Phinney recalled. “He was on a leash at the time and John was holding it while chatting with the landlord. Griz just saw a skunk and killed it. I was inside, and the back door opens up and Dr. VB comes up the stairs with a super smelly – but satisfied – dog, who got a tomato bath in our tub.”
As typical roommates, both admitted to fulfilling some appropriate roommate stereotypes, with Dr. Vonder Bruegge being the night-owl and Dr. Phinney claiming the title of messier roommate. But who has time for dishes when you’re responsible for running the zamboni at the famous Ingall’s Ice Rink on Yale’s campus? Perhaps NW should look to Zwemer in the search for someone to tend to the new ice rink.
While their time together was full of many fun – and fragrant – stories, the two are grateful for the opportunity to work together again, though from their own respective living accommodations.
“If I had one word to describe our experience together it would be ‘foreshadowing’,” Dr. Vonder Bruegge said. “Who knew we’d wind up working together in Orange City all these years later? I’m grateful for the full-circle journey.”