Dr. Anna Guttman and Dr. Daniel Hannah

June 2017

Dr. Anna Guttman and Dr. Daniel Hannah met an ocean away from Thunder Bay. Specifically, in a computer lab in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire. In 2002, both were attending the University of Leeds where they were working on their Ph.Ds in English Studies. Daniel came to Leeds from New Zealand and Anna from Ottawa. Now, both work as professors in the English Department at Lakehead University.

A mutual love of musicals and musical theater played an initial role in bringing the two together. Anna recalls Daniel responding with enthusiasm when she announced to her graduate school peers that she wanted to go see the musical Chicago when it came to town.

The two would also go dancing. “One place we loved to go to held Motown themed nights,” says Anna.

Other early dates involved going to see one of the Harry Potter films, a Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night (a night of bonfires, fireworks, and parades celebrated primarily in the UK), and a “squat” party.

“We also did a lot of travelling together while we were dating,” Daniel informs me.

“Travel was the ultimate test,” says Anna. “If you can travel with someone and still want to be dating them afterwards, I think that says it all.”

The two single out a trip they took together to Amsterdam as a meaningful turning point, one that came to essentially solidify their relationship.

It was in 2005, one year after Anna and Daniel were married, that Lakehead offered Anna a position as a professor in the English Department. She came down to have a look at the city.

“I surprised myself on that visit by how much I liked it here,” Anna says. “Thunder Bay is more interesting than people may think. The landscape is beautiful and the people are great.”

Daniel took on his own position in the English Department at Lakehead a year after Anna arrived.

“He was a bit hesitant about all the ice and snow,” says Anna, but he did warm to the idea after visiting the city. Anna took him to Hillcrest Park to take in the striking view of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant.

One of the first city events they attended together was the Festa Italiana at the Italian Cultural Centre, which has been a staple of Thunder Bay summers since it began in 1990. “It was a good move,” is their verdict on their decision to live and work in Thunder Bay.

“In Thunder Bay we don’t have to spend our lives commuting, it takes five minutes to get to work,” says Anna.

“The city offers great access to the outdoors and outdoor activities, like hiking.”

The scenic forest trails of Northwestern Ontario make for a different hiking experience than in the UK, Daniel tells me. “A hike in the UK will take you through a bunch of farms and likely past more than one pub.”

Living here has also presented Anna and Daniel with the opportunity to take up some outdoor hobbies which were new to them, like skiing.

“It’s also a great city to raise kids in,” says Anna. “We don’t have to compete to give our kids the chance to be involved in community activities.”

They are also encouraged and excited by the vibrant arts and culture scene in the city. “From Magnus Theatre to the Art Gallery to the Symphony, the arts scene here is punching above its weight,” says Anna.

Daniel recently had the opportunity to get rather comfortable, or uncomfortable, depending on which way you look at it, in the Thunder Bay theatre community in his role as one of six blue-collar men who take up stripping in the Cambrian Players production of The Full Monty.

“I’d been thinking of getting back on the stage for a while” says Daniel. “I hadn’t done anything since arriving in Thunder Bay; having kids has made that kind of time commitment pretty difficult. But now that the kids are getting older, I saw the call for auditions and Anna generously encouraged me to go for it.

I had a great time and got more involved than I realized I would as I ended up coaching the chorus for singing. The idea that students might come and see me strip (which they did) was a little daunting, but, all in all, it was just lots of fun to be back on stage, singing and dancing, with a large troop of fun people. I’m hoping that next time I’m on stage it will be in a show that I can bring the kids to.”

Anna is currently the Chair of the English Department at Lakehead, and both she and Daniel agree that it is a great, friendly group of students whom they get to interact and engage with through their work.

“The students at Lakehead are eager to embrace university and to embrace learning,” says Anna.

The bond between Anna and Daniel has spanned across the Atlantic Ocean, and has led to 15 years of love and two amazing daughters.

Cassandra Blair has a Masters of Arts in English Literature and is a regular contributor to Bayview.

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