How one Greenport couple has stayed together 70 years

10/13/2011 1:00 PM |

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT SAVITT Robert and Rae Savitt and their daughter, Dr. Susan Savitt, one of the couple’s three children.

Having just celebrated their 70th anniversary in September, Robert and Rae Savitt of Greenport have more than a little to share about love, life and relationships. And they’ll be doing so in an upcoming issue of AARP magazine.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Ms. Savitt sang the 1937 Rodgers and Hart ballad “Where or When” from the play “Babes in Arms” to her husband at their anniversary party at Cherry Creek Country Club in Riverhead.

The couple met back in Fitchburg, Mass., where they were high school sweethearts.

Dr. Savitt remembers meeting his future wife at a dance and they shared “every dance” together that night. At the end of their first date, he said he was going to marry her.

At 16, she wasn’t quite so sure. But with the passage of time and a few separations resulting from his studies at Syracuse University, his prediction came true when the couple eloped. Now, 73 years since that first meeting, they’re still at each other’s side.

The secret to their success is simple.

“I believe people who are married should be partners,” said Dr. Savitt, now 90.

“You have to grow at the same time,” said Ms. Savitt, who is a year younger than her husband.

They’ve supported each others’ interests, and Rae was every bit her husband’s partner as he rose through the educational ranks as a teacher, principal, superintendent and consultant in many districts in Massachusetts and New York.

Ms. Savitt was also by her husband’s side when he became a consultant with the U.S. Department of Education, spending several months traveling throughout Europe to consult on educational practices at European-based U.S. schools. That culminated with a visit to the United Nations to share educational theories with diplomats there.

She remembers the early days when she was working to support them so her husband could pursue his doctoral studies. At the time, she decorated windows in a Peck & Peck retail chain store near the Smith College campus in Northampton, Mass.

“I used to drool about the Smith College girls and the money they could afford to spend on clothes,” she said. Still, she understood that supporting her husband’s goals was about securing their future together.

As he became a shining star in the educational world, increasingly pursued by school districts throughout the country, she was no shrinking violet. She was both an asset to his career and an emerging star in her own right, creating scholarship opportunities for students and actively working with the Girl Scouts.

While he was serving in the Pacific during World War II, it was only natural that Ms. Savitt got involved with the USO.

Dr. Savitt was a principal in Amherst, Mass., then a superintendent in Hadley and Ipswich, Mass., before he got a chance to earn twice the money by taking a superintendent’s job in Farmingdale. That district had had four superintendents in as many years and Dr. Savitt’s first challenge was to hire 150 new teachers. Teachers were scarce and he spent the summer recruiting. By the time classes started in September, Farmingdale’s schools were fully staffed.

Then he heard about an opening for a superintendent in nearby Plainview-Bethpage. Plainview was growing from a tiny one-school district to what would soon become the fastest growing district in the United States, Dr. Savitt said.

There was a lot of competition for the new job, including some of his own mentors. But a new young school board chose Dr. Savitt and gave him the freedom to take the helm without interference.

“It was like a dream come true for him,” Ms. Savitt recalled. Under his leadership, the district was named by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the 10 most innovative in the country.

Dr. Savitt was determined to integrate the staff and spent time traveling through southern states to recruit black educators.

“That diversification has followed us throughout our history together,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the team that came so far together soon took the helm of the national educational consulting firm Guidelines Inc., which provides school districts across the country with services to identify appropriate candidates for superintendent positions.

Dr. Savitt sums up what the couple has learned about life, love and relationships through their years together as the ABCs:

• Adjust to changes and challenges occurring with age, health, finances, retirement and historical factors.

• Be partners in career and major project undertakings while still making time for and respecting one another’s individual talents.

• Capture special moments together through travel and social activities.

He also recommends staying active by being involved with family and friends and staying healthy, dwelling on infirmities only when absolutely necessary.

And, yes, there will be disagreements and couples must make time for “spirited discussions” of those issues, Dr. Savitt said.

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