For geologist Anita Grunder, her career horizon looked bright indeed. After getting her Ph.D. from Stanford University, she had landed an assistant professorship at Oregon State University, a tenure-track position that promised to be both stimulating and rewarding. But for her husband John Dilles - also a Stanford Ph.D. in geology - his professional life seemed pretty close to rock bottom.

Oregon State had hired him too, but only as an adjunct professor, a position guaranteeing him little more than an office and the geology department's blessing to scramble for part-time teaching and grant money. Although Dilles persevered, became popular as an instructor, and earned an adequate income teaching a variety of courses, he lacked the job security and prestige enjoyed by the regular faculty, one of whom, of course, was his own wife. Most galling of all, he was not tenure-track.

For two years, the couple made do with...

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