Do you really know Mr. Naylor?


Mr. Naylor, teacher and adventurer

Wyatt Page, Staff Writer

You may have noticed a new face in the English Department this year. For this faculty profile, I interviewed Robert Naylor, the new addition to ODA’s English Department. I prepared ten open-ended questions to get him talking about himself, then arranged a time for us to meet in the library.

He arrived promptly, books in hand, looking as tidy as a politician for a press conference. My first few questions focused on his academic background and training. Mr. Naylor is originally from Philadelphia.  While in college, he tasted a variety of subjects such as economics and math. Nothing seemed like the right fit for him; he was inevitably drawn back to English, which ultimately became his major.

After college he made the decision to join the Peace Corps, a government organization that sends people to work in underdeveloped countries to promote peace and fellowship.  He was sent to Papua New Guinea for two years where he ended up meeting his wife, Robin.  As I heard him begin to talk further into this, it was clear this was where the story was.

He first met Robin while in the Peace Corps, stationed in Papua New Guinea, an island in the southwestern Pacific.  She was a visiting teacher from the Philippines. For the first year, he knew of her presence nearby but didn’t talk to her much. Mr. Naylor then went on a trip to Australia and had an epiphany that he missed seeing her and was eager to talk to her on his return.  Once he got back, the first thing he did was go to see her. To his surprise, her enthusiasm to see him was as great as his.

From that moment, their relationship grew quickly. Growing their relationship “was really easy to do as we were so isolated,” Mr. Naylor remarked.  Papua New Guinea is one of the most rural and least explored areas on the planet.

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, Robin informed Mr. Naylor of a decision she made to become a nun and that she would be leaving on a mission trip very soon.  This separation was the first of many bumps in the road of their relationship. To make matters worse, she made a point to tell him that they should not be in contact while she was in training.  Mr. Naylor respected her decision and did not write to her until a year later. Then he wrote a letter asking what she was up to.  She wrote a long letter back saying she was not sure about joining the convent anymore.   This change delighted Mr. Naylor because their relationship could once again grow!

After numerous letters back and forth to each other, Mr. Naylor heard her voice for the first time since they parted ways in Papua New Guinea.  It was September of 1995 when he was moving into a dorm at the school where he was working. “The first thing I did was hook up my phone and call her–for an obscene amount of money of course.”  Anyone who knows Mr. Naylor knows he is quite a conservative guy, so if he’s calling you via long distance, you know he likes you.  Suffice to say, the conversation went very well, and he invited her to come to the states. This transition to the states would become one of the biggest most tedious challenges that Mr. Naylor has ever faced.

Americans take for granted our freedom to come and go as we please.  But if you are a foreigner hoping to live here, getting a visa is a long process. Fifteen years ago, this process was twice as time consuming due to the lack of access to the Internet. Every piece of documentation had to be mailed.  Despite Mr. Naylor’s efforts, her application for a visa was rejected twice.  Mr. Naylor was becoming more and more hopeless by the day, until he managed to get a hold of the phone number of the American ambassador in Papua New Guinea.  He had his father call him. After the conversation, “my dad said something funny. Within the first few minutes, it became clear that the loser of the conversation was going to be the one who hung up the phone first, so he kept the conversation going and going.”  Needless to say, by the end of the conversation the ambassador deemed that she genuinely wanted to go to the U.S. to see Mr. Naylor, and after six months of working on her visa and two years of not seeing her, she finally arrived to spend her summer vacation with Mr. Naylor.  “She had a great time. She stayed for six weeks; she saw snow for the first time. She met my parents and liked them.”

She then invited Naylor to visit her and her family in the Philippines.  “When I left, I had no intentions of proposing, but my mother said, ‘why don’t you take this ring just in case.'” Somewhat against his will, he took the ring.  Four days after he landed in the Philippines, he proposed to her and they got married in Robin’s hometown.

Although the two were legally married, she still did not have her visa and therefore was not allowed into the U.S.  Regardless, Mr. Naylor had to return to the states to fulfill his obligations as a teacher.  After a long six and a half months without his newlywed, she finally received her visa and became a permanent resident of the U.S.

When asked how tough the six months were without his wife, he responded that, “ really, it was a tough three and a half years. It tried our patience to the maximum. If we can survive that, chances are we can survive quite a bit of things as a couple.”  The endurance of their marriage has proven true– they have happily been together ever since and have two children.

Next time you see this buttoned-up teacher walking around campus,  imagine the adventurous Naylor and his wife halfway around the world seeing each other for the first time in Papua New Guinea.  I encourage you to ask him about it!