As Victor Svec, Chair of the Russian Department, arranges desks for an interview, Lisa Svec, Chair of the German Department, walks into her husband’s royal-blue carpeted classroom, a moment that parallels how they first met.
Lisa, an alumna of Phillips Academy, returned to campus as a teaching fellow in January 1986 after majoring in German at Dartmouth College. By that time, Victor was already a member of the Phillips Academy faculty.
As they speak now, Lisa and Victor supplement each other’s stories and complement each other’s memories. Students have seen the Svecs as a dynamic couple, pouring their hearts into teaching the languages while holding other positions outside of the classroom.
Victor has been the Director of Social Functions and the Scheduling Officer. He also arranged the first ever high school exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Lisa and Victor have been house counselors together in Carter House, Day Hall and Fuess.
“The first incredible memory for me was what a class act this school is,” said Victor.
Despite their shared passion for teaching, they both had never planned on being educators.
Victor said, “I became a teacher totally by accident. I had my own construction company before I came to Phillips Academy, and before I came to Phillips Academy generations ago I was making over $35,000 a year and I left that job to make $3,500 a year, so obviously, teaching fulfills a need.”
Lisa said her teaching motto was, “Kids should learn a lot but they should also really enjoy it and have some laughs along the way.”
Victor first tried to become a teacher at Phillips Academy though the school had not scheduled an interview with him. He decided to take a plane to Boston, then hitchhiked and walked to campus in the middle of the blizzard of 1978.
Victor said, “[Administrators] didn’t know I was coming, but on the spot they set up an interview with all of the important people, which was really nice since they didn’t need to do that.”
“To take me as a serious candidate when they probably had no need to actually talk to me. That was my first impression, and I think it’s still my lasting impression of the place. As a unit, it’s a class act,” he continued.
Victor recalled a particularly memorable experience as Director of Social Functions, when he screened Animal House, a film loosely based on the Frat system at Dartmouth. According to Victor, in the middle of Animal House is a huge food fight.
He said, “I showed [it in Tang Theater] despite what all the senior officials here said, and I remember getting up in front of the whole audience ahead of the time and said ‘if you guys throw those things that you brought”—because everybody had brought tomatoes and eggs and you name it—“I’ll lose my job.”’
“Not one thing got thrown, and this was way back when, this was 1980 maybe, so that was great,” he continued.
Lisa remembered one of her first experiences coaching soccer, when she travelled to a soccer game 15 years ago. One of her players got off of the bus wearing bright pink high heels. “I thought, okay, we have our work cut out for us,” she said with a laugh.
Although Victor and Lisa have separate roles on campus, they spend time together everyday reflecting on roles as educators. “We talk about teaching and our students [for] hours everyday. Probably no fewer than two hours a day, we spend talking about what we’re teaching, how we’re teaching, the students we have, something that happened that was good, a challenge that happened,” said Lisa.
Victor then said, “I cannot imagine anything better in life than being married to someone you love and respect as a colleague. Having that combination is just incredible.”