True of most scientists, Charles Miller knew what he wanted to do from a young age. “It goes back to when I was a boy, wiring light bulbs with my father and putting extension cords in the house,” he remembers. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Charles didn’t experience the glamour most associate with the city. “It’s like any other city – it has the persona of Hollywood over it, but underneath there’s a city of ordinary people doing ordinary things.”
Far from ordinary, Charles went on to earn both his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. In his senior year of college in 1952, Charles met his first wife. “I met her as I met both of my wives – on the telephone,” he laughs. His friend was on the phone with a girl, Anne-Marie, and handed it to Charles. They ended up hitting it off, Charles invited her to a party, and the rest was history when they married a year and a half later.
In his last semester of graduate school, Charles’ professor asked if he would be interested in a one-year teaching position at Amherst College. Charles accepted, and when his term came to a close, he ended up enjoying the experience so much that he looked for a similar opportunity nearby. He landed at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he stayed for the next 35 years. His wife, who was also a teacher, taught education at Central Connecticut State University. Charles and his wife had two daughters — and it comes as no surprise that their daughters are both teachers today.
In contrast, Cynthia Lichtenstein was born and raised on the East Coast in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She studied at Radcliffe College of Harvard University in Massachusetts and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Russian History and Literature. “With my degree, my choices were to get a Ph.D. and teach, or to work for the government.”
During her final semester of college in 1955, Cynthia decided to take the exam to work for the U.S. State Department. She did well enough that she was given an oral exam, but that was as far as she would get. “One of the examiners was kind enough to say, ‘Don’t feel badly when you do not pass this. We do not take women,’” she remembers. Despite the setback, Cynthia was not discouraged. She had a friend who was studying at Harvard Law School, and when she began arguing a case with him, he suggested that she go to law school. Without too much consideration, she took the LSAT, scored in the top percentile, and applied.
Cynthia’s parents, however, did not want her to attend law school. Instead, they gave her a trip to Paris for graduation, and when she returned, the only job she could find was as a secretary. “I was dreadful at it,” she laughs. “I couldn’t do two things at once. But at the time, it wasn’t usual for young women to go to law school.” After she was let go from her job as a secretary, Cynthia followed her instincts, borrowed the money from an uncle, and attended Yale Law School.
Cynthia met her first husband when in Paris, and after graduation from Yale, went to work as an associate at a Wall Street firm. She worked full-time for two years before they began their family. While pregnant with her first child, Cynthia began a two-year program through the Ford Foundation, which was offering scholarships to study civil law for one year at the University of Chicago and a second year internship abroad. After Chicago, Cynthia’s husband got a job at the Economist in London, while she began her internship at the European Economic Community (EEC) in Brussels, where she worked on EEC African projects.
In 1963, Cynthia returned part-time to her firm in New York. But in 1971, she decided to explore a different career path. By this time, she was raising three children, her husband was in Boston working at MIT, and because she couldn’t commit to working full-time, her firm would not make her a partner. A friend recommended her for a teaching position at Boston College Law School, and she accepted — as their second female professor.
While Cynthia had a newfound love for teaching, she had her work cut out for her with 140 students in one class and 90 in another. Balancing work and home life, she taught corporate finance (including securities law) and contracts. She was also the second in the country to teach a course in international economic law at a law school. After five years in Boston, Cynthia and her husband divorced.
In 1984, Cynthia met Charles — who had been widowed two years before — over the phone. A mutual friend set them up, and Cynthia invited Charles to Boston for dinner. When he showed up with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine, Cynthia fell in love. A year and a half later they were married.
After several years of a commuter marriage, Cynthia convinced Charles to take early retirement. He taught half the year for five years and then made the move. Cynthia retired from Boston College in 2001, but worked as a visiting professor at George Washington University Law School for four falls after that. The couple spent winters on their boat in Fort Myers, before coming to Sarasota and looking into Plymouth Harbor at the suggestion of friends.
Today, Charles and Cynthia spend half their time here and the other half at their home in Stonington, Connecticut. In his spare time, Charles reads with the Shakespeare Group and enjoys the Physics Club he co-founded nearly 10 years ago. Cynthia keeps busy with several law organizations. She is a panelist for NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Chapter 19, and is occasionally appointed to hear cases. Up until the last year, she was a Vice Chair of the Executive Council of the International Law Association, which meets every six months in London.
Additionally, Cynthia worked with the International Law Students Association, which puts on the annual Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Today, she serves as a coach for Booker High School’s mock trial and appellate cases. This program works with students interested in law and allows them to compete in Florida-wide mock trials and appeals that go all the way up to Florida’s mock Supreme Court.
With a passion for life and a continued commitment to their work, there is surely more to come from Charles Miller and Cynthia Lichtenstein.