It was a crisp, fall day at Columbia University when English associate professor David Kornhaber was running late realizing he had misread the time of his orientation just as English assistant professor Donna Kornhaber was exiting her graduate school orientation meeting.
“She was beautiful and alone. My first words to her were ‘Is your ID as bad as [mine]’ and she said ‘no,’” said David Kornhaber. “What amazed me was that she kept talking to me. I remember jabbering about I don’t know what but in my head thinking ‘Oh my god she is still talking to me.’”
Incidentally, they later found themselves placed in the same graduate seminar. While she studied theater and film, he concentrated solely on theater. In a tiny room with a small group of fellow classmates, a friendship began to bloom as they engaged in passionate discourse about the artistic discrepancies between film and theater, a discussion they have yet to resolve.
“I have loved film my whole life, but I made a decision in college that I was never going to take any film classes,” said David Kornhaber. “Her subject of study murdered my subject of study in the early 20th century. I ended up marrying this woman who analyzes film for a living. ”
During seminar meetings and outings with friends, the two always found themselves breaking off from the pack to talk amongst themselves.
“We became good friends very quickly,” said Donna Kornhaber. [He] is my very best friend.”
David finally summed up the courage to ask Donna on a dinner date after she finished a particularly difficult exam.
Two years later, David Kornhaber realized he never wanted their relationship to end.
“I remember being on the subway going to her apartment, and I remember feeling like it was the first date every time,” David said.
After noticing a button on her lampshade that said “Take me to Paris,” David Kornhaber took the hint. He decided to propose to Donna under the lights of the Eiffel Tower.
“It was beautiful, very romantic, like a movie,” Donna Kornhaber said. “It was the best possible proposal for me.”
The wedding took place on June 9th, 2005 in an intimate ceremony at the Algonquin Hotel in New York during their winter break from graduate school.
“When I was standing at the altar, I saw Donna in her wedding dress for the first time,” said David Kornhaber. “I remember in my head it was like the church was empty, and it was just the two of us. That will always be special to me.”
Their relationship also includes traditions they hold very dear, like Donna making homemade gifts for David. They also make lasagna and upside down pineapple cake every year to eat while watching the Oscars, a tradition they now share with their children.
“I am still amazed that I found him and that he found me,” said Donna Kornhaber. “There are lots of words, descriptors that I could use [for us], but all of them together wouldn’t be as honest as the word magic. I feel lucky every day to share my work and my life with him.”
Despite any intellectual discrepancies they have about film and theater, they couple still like to think about about the qualities they treasure in the other.
“She is brilliant and never stops blowing me away intellectually,” said David Kornhaber. “I would rather listen to anything she has to say than anything anyone else would have to say about anything.”