Marc and Kim Millon (nee Jordan) on their wedding day, 1978.
Photo courtesy of Marc Millon.

A valentine's tale: Kenyon exchange leads to love

For the last 40 years, groups of students from Kenyon College, a liberal arts college in the US state of Ohio, have been coming to Exeter to study for a year as part of their degree programme. Marc Millon was on the first year of the programme in 1975 and has some great memories of this time. Not least because he met his wife Kim during the trip.

"I arrived Exeter in early September 1975 on the first year of the Kenyon-Exeter programme. I had met my good friends David Weber and Kevin McCafferty in London a few days earlier, and, after exploring that vibrant and exciting capital, we had taken the train from Paddington Station to Exeter St Davids. It was my first time not only in England but indeed in Europe. I was just 19 years old.

"To a young English major, inspired by an inspirational freshman English professor Robert Daniel, it was an incredible experience to find myself in England. English life, before only read about or envisaged through the music of the Beatles, came to be seen from the inside out as Exeter became home to us. I learned to drink tea with milk and I kept a bottle of Dry Sack sherry in the bedside table of my dormitory room. Not everything was positive: I recall simply diabolical food served in the hall of residence dining room, the likes of Scotch eggs, horrible sausages and soggy chips served with everything. My nearest pub was The Red Cow, near St Davids train station, where I learned to drink rough Devon scrumpy, raspingly dry, potent, and gut-rotting.

"Exeter was quite simply unlike anywhere I had been in my life before, and I increasingly fell under its spell. It helped that as early as December of that year, I was lucky enough to have already met and fallen in love with the person who I have subsequently spent the rest of my life with, Kim Jordan, then a first-year student undertaking a combined honours degree in English and Fine Art.

"After spending a magical time with Kim and her family in the Midlands during the glorious heatwave summer of 1976, I returned to Kenyon to complete my senior year. We wrote letters to each other every single day (it was far too expensive to phone and electronic communications that today we take so easily for granted had of course not yet been invented). Kim travelled to Gambier in December on one of the first of the inexpensive transatlantic airlines, Laker, and I somehow made my way back to Exeter in the Easter of 1977 to be with Kim for her 21st birthday celebrations.

"On graduating from Kenyon, I decided to return to Exeter to be with Kim while she completed her final year. For the fine art element of her degree, she specialised in both printmaking and photography. We married in 1978 and began working as a freelance writing and photography partnership, finding work with both local publications as well as national and even international (The Christian Science Monitor international edition gave us our first big break as I became their special food correspondent). Our first book, The Wine and Food of Europe, was published by Webb & Bower in 1982, and our third book, The Taste of Britain, came out in 1986. That book was dedicated ‘To the Kenyon-Exeter program which brought me to England and us together’.

"And so life has carried on, for what, can it really be more than forty years?! Our children Guy and Bella were born in 1987 and 1992 respectively and we continue to live and work from our home on the beautiful River Exe at Topsham. Life is good and we enjoy meeting with the Kenyon students most years, particularly at Thanksgiving at The Bridge Inn."

Marc Millon, Kenyon College 1977 and Kim Jordan Millon, University of Exeter 1978, are the authors/photographers of 14 books on wine, food and travel. They have also contributed to a number of magazines and newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. 

An extended version of this story was originally published on the University's Kenyon reunion pages.

Date: 14 February 2017

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