At first glance, it’s hard to know what exactly the relationship is between Ronda and James DePriest.
As old friends, they laugh and share stories. As coworkers, they nonchalantly coordinate upcoming band events. And, when James speaks, Ronda looks at him with eyes of admiration and a smitten smile only an infatuated woman could have.
Though the balance of being spouses, co-workers and best friends seems overwhelming, the two switch between the roles effortlessly.
After just minutes in their presence, it’s easy to identify the one common feeling that undisputedly radiates from them: love.
Ronda DePriest’s slight southern twang indicates how she and her spouse met. In the late 90’s, she did a band concert where James DePriest worked in event coordination.
Then, while working in Tennessee as a high school band director, she interviewed her future husband for a position to write the drill for her band.
Their connection began with her appreciation of James DePriest’s interest in music and his well-done resume, Ronda DePriest said with a smile.
“It blew everyone else out of the water,” she reminisced.
From that first interview, their professional relationship quickly blossomed into a true friendship.
Over time while working through the high school, through their laughs and chats, Ronda and James DePriest built a connection between each other.
“The beauty of it has been we’ve been friends since we’ve known each other,” Ronda DePriest said. “That’s the foundation.”
During this time, James DePriest was completing his degree in criminal justice and public administration as a nontraditional university student in Tennessee.
The friendship between them was strong, thus it still thrived even after Ronda DePriest moved to Colorado to obtain her master’s degree.
While in Colorado, Ronda DePriest began to realize how she relied on James.
“He’s who I called to talk over important life decisions,” Ronda DePriest said.
Though they knew that they had a special relationship, Ronda DePriest only realized her romantic feelings for James after a colleague prodded her about him.
“She said ‘Who’s this James guy you keep talking about?’ and I said ‘I keep talking about him?,’” Ronda DePriest said. “I didn’t know I was thinking about him all the time.”
After, Ronda and James began dating and they maintained their relationship for three years while being long distance.
“It was right-” Ronda DePriest said. “It was just right.”
While she was earning her doctorate, the couple got engaged while Ronda was still in Colorado.
“I was working on my dissertation proposal while he was working on a different kind of proposal,” Ronda DePriest joked.
After Ronda DePriest finished her doctorate, the pair seemed to try to condense three years of long-distance dating in just a few weeks.
“She graduated in May and we got married in July,” James DePriest said.
That same summer, a day after returning from their honeymoon in August, Waynesburg University interviewed Ronda DePriest for a position as director of the music program.
“Then we moved here the next week,” Ronda DePriest said.
Ronda and James DePriest now laugh about the hectic time, though she admits it was chaotic.
“I think I moved three times in about three weeks,” Ronda said with a chuckle.
While Ronda DePriest first began working for the university, James DePriest worked as a security officer in Pittsburgh.
He would quietly leave the house at 4 a.m. every day to arrive to his location by 6 a.m., and would then have to drive as a part of his job’s responsibilities.
“I was driving 500-600 miles a day,” he said.
When a past faculty member notified James DePriest that there was an opening for a multimedia specialist position at Waynesburg University that fit his qualifications from a job he maintained while in college, his wife encouraged him to apply. To her, it seemed normal to work with her loved one.
“We’ve worked together since we’ve known each other,” Ronda DePriest said.
Now, with James DePriest having been in his position for years, the pair has settled into a routine during their busy work days.
“We always try to have lunch together,” Ronda DePriest said.
Though they’ve traveled far from their original home of Tennessee, Ronda DePriest said that her position at Waynesburg allowed their relationship to grow.
“Moving up here gave us a chance to figure out who we are together,” Ronda DePriest said. “We figured out how to be a couple together.”
They share a passion for music, which, she says, acts as a center point in their relationship. Their deep friendship, she says, allows them to avoid conflict.
“We really don’t get angry with each other. If we really don’t understand what’s going on with the other we talk it out,” Ronda DePriest said. “I don’t think we’ve ever raised our voices in the 20 years we’ve known each other. ”
Their past, though it placed distance between them, led them back together on the same path once again.
“We feel really blessed to both be working here,” Ronda DePriest said. “Things worked like they were supposed to.”