Running late to a dinner from a psychology class worked out very well for MARCIA and LUAN VANNITHONE, as they tell RICHARD FOX.
My mother was horrified. She said she had sent me to ANU to study, not to be engaged.
“He stabilised me. I was in my first year at ANU and he was my rock.”
It moved quickly. The love between Marcia Ljubic and Luan Vannithone grew rapidly. By the end of Marcia’s first year at ANU they were married.
Yet, if Marcia hadn’t been running late from a psychology class and didn’t happen to sit next to Luan at a formal dinner in the cafeteria of John XXIII College in 1976, it could have been so different. Her normal seat, on a different table, had already been taken.
The pair both lived at John’s during 1976 but had never met each other until that night.
And that chance dinner arrangement lit a spark.
“He asked me out a few times after that, including at an international student dinner, and we were very comfortable with each other from the start,” Marcia says.
“I come from a Croatian family, I’m first generation Australian, and Luan had come from Laos on a scholarship so we were both finding our place in Australia.”
A few weeks later – “I won’t say how long,” Marcia laughs – the pair were engaged, a move that the pair now reflect on with some fondness and hindsight.
“I think we were both stupid and I had watched too many romantic films,” Luan says coyly.
“My mother was horrified. She said she had sent me to ANU to study, not to be engaged,” Marcia says.
Later that year, the couple married in a Canberra registry office. Luan’s family were not present due to civil war in Laos preventing them from travelling.
As a married couple, they were able to live in the ANU married quarters, a support they subsequently discovered only after exhausting some of the more suburban options.
“One house was a converted garage with a bench jammed in a corner as a kitchen. It was awful. There were better houses where I had come from in Laos,” Luan says.
“Marcia was quite keen to live in there. I realised she must have loved me a lot.”
The couple moved to Melbourne to do postgraduate studies but returned to Canberra pretty quickly and have lived in the nation’s capital ever since.
Luan trained as a computer programmer and Marcia’s career has been in social policy work with several Australian Government departments.
Approaching their 40th wedding anniversary in November and travelling around Australia in a caravan until then, the couple – who have three children, Claudia, Liam and Gabrielle – are grateful to ANU for the role the University has played in their lives.
“If it wasn’t for ANU, we wouldn’t have had the life we have,” Marcia says.
“Honestly, I don’t think I would have married if I hadn’t have met Luan.”