When Lori St. Germain Fineman graduated from all-female Wheaton College in 1981, she never guessed she would be seeing her sons graduate from the same school three decades later. But this May, that is exactly what will happen when Lori attends her 30th Reunion and her sons James and Paul receive their diplomas on the same weekend.
“It will be quite moving to see both our sons in the Dimple!” says Lori, who studied French at Wheaton and spent her junior year in France. “When I graduated, I believed that Wheaton would remain all women ad infinitum. When that changed in the 1980s, I was surprised (maybe a little disappointed?), but clearly Wheaton has taken the ‘good’ and molded it into the ‘better.’”
Although the Fineman twins chose to attend college together, they have followed distinctive paths. Paul, who wants to pursue a career in sports administration, decided to major in sociology because he enjoys “the study of people.”
“We grew up in a small town in Maine [Bar Harbor], so I would have liked the environment of a big sports school,” Paul says. “But I’m not a good test taker, and I knew that at Wheaton the professors all had office hours and would be open to talking. I realized that at a big school, I’d be ‘just a number.’” Wheaton, he says, has given him both an excellent education and many opportunities for practical learning.
By tapping into resources at the Filene Center and networking with Wheaton alums, Paul landed a summer internship with the Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. On campus, he teamed up with a friend, Matt Noonan ’10, to host a sports show on student-run WCCS radio and publish several issues of a magazine that featured articles about professional sports and interviews with Wheaton athletes.
His brother James is “absolutely happy” with his choice of Wheaton. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher,” he says. At Wheaton, he majored in history, with a minor in education. He also steeped himself in practical experience through his work-study job at the Pinecroft School, an independent elementary school at the edge of the Wheaton campus. The college has a collaborative relationship with Pinecroft, where James worked as a physical education teacher and a classroom aide. In the fall, he hopes to begin graduate work in elementary and special education.
At the beginning of his college career, James was surprised to learn that neither Wheaton nor any Massachusetts college offers an education major, but now he understands why.
“I’ve heard people say that the problem with an education major is that you come out knowing how to teach, but you don’t have anything to teach,” James says. The state’s rules for teacher education require that teachers be educated in the arts and sciences as well as a specific subject specialty. At Wheaton, James has had just such an opportunity.
The twins’ mother, Lori, who teaches French at Mount Desert Island High School in Maine, chose Wheaton for its French courses and its low student-to-faculty ratio. “I recall that the professors, by and large, were very approachable and accessible. I also was struck by the passion they possessed for their subjects.” Lori recommended the college to her sons because “they had enjoyed solid relationships with their teachers in high school, and I (and my husband) felt they would benefit from the same thing at Wheaton.”
As the Finemans’ experience illustrates, many Wheaton qualities have endured through the decades. And so have some of the people: Lori and her son Paul were both taught by Edward Gallagher, professor of French.
As the college celebrates its 176th Commencement, the legacy tradition is going strong. About 50 members of the Class of 2011, or roughly 13 percent of the graduates, have relatives who attended Wheaton before them. Here are a few of their stories.
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