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Yours, Mine and Ours

BY ELIZABETH CHILD

One couple models a giving philosophy that reflects their holistic view of marriage - and the importance of each spouse's contributions.

The strong, 45-year bond between Kathy McNamara Mucha '66 and her husband, Joe, has been nurtured through equal — if separate — contributions to their partnership. "Kathy invested in raising our children," says Joe. "I invested in a career."

The couple has moved from Japan to New York, from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley. They've renovated homes and shared chores from yard work to cooking. Their equal partnership extends to giving, too.

Every dollar that goes to Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, Joe's alma mater, is matched with an equal gift to St. Catherine University, and vice-versa. The couple established the principle early in their marriage.

Giving experts say the Muchas' agreement is rare. Spouses who earn less often don't feel the family's money is theirs to give — and don't see themselves as equal partners in financial decisions.

"Money is the power tool in our society — you get a say based on your earnings," says St. Paul financial educator and author Ruth Hayden.

That caste system doesn't work in a healthy relationship, she adds. Couples need to recognize the many ways that each partner contributes: "Money is one way we give to a relationship. We also give physically, spiritually and emotionally."

"It's very empowering to give equally," says Kathy, who majored in occupational therapy at St. Kate's. "I know that I am respected for being a wife and a mother. If we believe that I am as important as my husband in the relationship, then my power to give equally is tremendously important."

Modest upbringing

The Muchas, who met on a blind date in college, both have humble, small-town roots. The oldest of 10 children, Kathy and her sister, Erin McNamara '80, followed their mother, Mary Jane Mason McNamara '42, to St. Kate's; work-study jobs helped them pay their own way. Joe received a grant for college and also worked. The couple credits their teachers — "the sisters and the monks" — for an education that opened doors to opportunity. "We were fortunate to go to high-quality institutions, and we want to pay back those who provided for us," Joe says.

The Muchas made their first $50 gift as newlyweds, when Joe was stationed in Okinawa as a captain in the U.S. Army and Kathy was teaching English to Japanese people at the base. The contribution was divided equally between Saint John's and St. Kate's.

Joe enjoyed a successful career as a human resources executive at Pfizer and General Mills, and the couple has increased their giving considerably in the years since. But they have stuck by their newlywed agreement.

"I am surprised that more spouses aren't saying, 'Wait a minute! I've contributed equally to the success of this marriage. The college I went to contributed to our success; we ought to give to our colleges equally,'" says Joe, with an intensity that runs counter to his even-keeled nature.

The Muchas want to model the kind of giving they wish others would pursue. So, they have stepped out of their comfort zone — a retirement of gardening, cooking, travel and following the success of their children, including Loryn Mucha Follrath '92, MPT'95 — and stepped forward to encourage other husbands and wives to give equally to their colleges and universities.

A challenge to couples

The Muchas' challenge to couples might seem irrelevant at a time when one-third of women in the United States earn more than their husbands. But no matter which spouse makes more, it's the myth about money's importance that needs to shift, Hayden declares.

"If you're committed to growing old together happily, you've got to talk openly about finances," she says. Whether scheduled or informal, those conversations should include philanthropic giving.

At the Muchas' household, giving discussions about Saint John's and St. Kate's often happen when a student fundraiser is on the line. Either Joe or Kathy cups the receiver to call across the room: "What did you most recently give?"

Their simple formula — mutual admiration and openness — benefits both their marriage and their alma maters

 
She, woodcut, 23"x31" The MuchasPHOTO BY REBECCA ZENEFSKI '10