American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/14/88: Times Two, “Strange But True”

Martha Lutz spent her first year after graduating from college in Hamburg on the German equivalent of a Fulbright Award, mostly studying the history of mathematics (she’d double-majored in math and German). She knew she wanted to do graduate work in math but arrived back in the States too late for the 1985-86 academic year; in August 1986, she enrolled in the master’s program on a teaching assistantship at the University of Louisville, across the river from her hometown of New Albany, IN. Martha received her degree in a ceremony held at Freedom Hall thirty-five years ago today, on May 14, 1988. In attendance were her parents, her sister, and her then-boyfriend (the picture above was taken just after she’d received her diploma). That summer she began a job at Midway College (now University), a two-year women’s college in the process of converting to a bachelor’s-granting institution, with the intention that eventually she’d return to school to get a doctorate.

During those twenty-one months, my future wife and I were charting the same course (unbeknownst to each other, of course).  I was three-and-a-half hours northwest of Louisville, at the University of Illinois, and my master’s ceremony, held in a hall of the fine arts center, was just eight days after hers. In attendance were my parents and my sister (I wasn’t dating anyone at the time). I would be staying to work on a Ph.D., but a number of folks in my initial cohort were departing Urbana-Champaign, some to teach at a community college, others to take a position that required quantitative chops, and a couple or so to pursue doctoral work elsewhere. I also have a photo from the day of the ceremony, taken as I’m about to enter the apartment near downtown Urbana I shared with friends John and Jim. Note the cheesy mustache and scraggly growth on my cheeks and chin; that was the last time I made any sort of attempt at facial hair, and I’m pretty sure I got rid of it within a few days.

What to do for this slightly odd tale of two math nerds doing the same thing at the same time in different places for a couple of years who then met two-thirds of a decade later and really got a thing for one another? I’m going with the only Top 40 hit for a duo out of California. Times Two released one album and one EP before splitting in the early 90s. “Strange But True” is sitting at #23 on this countdown, two slots shy of its peak. (They tried to follow it up with a Club Nouveau-ified cover of “Cecilia,” but the public voted against it.) Be warned: the video contains a severe case of late 80s fashion.

At some point—it was before I came on the scene—Martha let go of the idea of going back to school. Inertia may have played a role. That decision clearly paid off, for both of us, in one big way.

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