Follow you, follow me

Local twins trail siblings to Carroll

By John Walsh

(Paths to Carroll. There are thousands of interesting stories about how students became part of the JCU community. Some made last-minute decisions; others knew well in advance because they were legacies. We look at how several students came to University Heights, from as close as Parma, Ohio, to as far away as Naivasha, Kenya. This story is one of four – the others are “Half way ’round the world,” “Head east,” and “Opening doors” – that draws attention to the many different roads students travel to come to Carroll.)

It’s a case of one brother following the other, then the reverse happening.

When Craig and Chris Thomas graduate from John Carroll this coming spring, they’ll be the third and fourth siblings of five to graduate from the University.

The Thomas twins’ route to Carroll started with an unexpected choice of where they decided to attend high school. Hailing from Parma, Ohio, their three older siblings – Jeff, Erin, and Melissa – attended the local Padua Franciscan High School, a co-educational Catholic school. As such, the twins thought they’d follow their older siblings’ footsteps to Padua. However, Chris was having second thoughts. Enter St. Ignatius – the Jesuit preparatory high school in Cleveland.

Chris (left) and Craig Thomas

“We didn’t know much about Ignatius until we went to its open house,” Craig says.

Craig was hesitant to attend Ignatius because most of his friends were heading to Padua and he wouldn’t know that many kids. But that perspective started to change. The father of one of the Thomases’ soccer friends suggested attending Ignatius and raved about the school. And after the open house they attended, Craig’s and Chris’ parents, Tim and Mary, raved, too.

“Our parents encouraged us to go to Ignatius,” Craig says.

Chris decided to attend Ignatius instead of Padua first, and Craig soon made up his mind, too, and followed his brother. There were four other students from Holy Family, the parish and grade school the Thomases belong to and attended, who also enrolled at Ignatius. The previous year, only one student from Holy Family enrolled at Ignatius.

At St. Ignatius, the Thomases played soccer and were part of the 2005 state and national championship team.

When it came time to think about what college to attend, the brothers applied mostly to the same schools. Chris applied to JCU, Valparaiso University, and Ohio Wesleyan University. Craig applied to the same three schools and the University of Dayton.

This time, the opposite of what happened when they chose to attend Ignatius occurred. Craig made up his mind first to attend John Carroll. He did so mainly because he wanted to continue his Jesuit education, attend a small liberal arts school, and major in accounting in a business school that has a strong reputation. (He has two uncles who own successful accounting firms in Phoenix who influenced him.)

“Coming out of Ignatius, you have so much pride continuing with the Jesuits,” he says.
The Thomases say about 20 boys from their high school graduating class enrolled at Carroll, including some of their close friends.

Chris, who was being scouted by Ohio Wesleyan, wasn’t so sure about enrolling at JCU. OWU was appealing because the school was interested in him playing soccer there. But looking back, Chris says choosing a school solely because of a sport is the wrong reason.

“I didn’t have my priorities straight at that moment,” he says.

Eventually, Chris followed his younger brother (born five minutes apart) to John Carroll.

“I chose Carroll primarily because of its academic standards – and I thought it would be cool if we played soccer together,” Chris says. “Plus, my mom was encouraging me to go to Carroll. She loves the University. And because of our siblings and us, she has been working with the same lady, Joan Petersen, in the financial aid office for 11 years.”

Chris, who’s in the science program, was impressed with, and was sold on, the facilities in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology.

Before choosing Carroll, the Thomases were tempted by others schools, such as Valparaiso, that offer a “buy one, get half off the second” deal regarding tuition for twins if both decide to attend the same school.

Previously, the Thomases had been exposed to Carroll through their oldest sibling, Jeff ’04, older sister Erin ’07 (a political science major who died tragically in a car accident in 2008), and cousin Marie Semple ’09.

“Jeff was a finance major here at Carroll, and he loved it,” Chris says, adding that his older brother lived on campus all four years and was active in intramurals. “He and his buddies from Carroll continue to meet once a week.”

When the twins were 13, they stayed overnight with Jeff on campus during Parents and Family Weekend. They enjoyed the weekend and have fond memories of hanging out with their older brother, playing basketball, and pulling pranks on their brother’s friends.

“It was cool to be on a college campus and sleep in the dorms,” Craig says.

When in high school, the twins also shadowed their sister, Erin, who lived off campus, and their cousin (Semple) to get a better feel of what it was like to attend the University.

“Class size and being fairly close to home were important,” Craig says. “JCU is close enough where we can go home if we need to but far enough away where it feels like we’re not at home.”

Even though the twins were excited to play soccer upon entering Carroll, physical injuries (shoulder and ankle) and an increasing interest in rugby (The oldest club sport at Carroll, which started in 1966.) drew them away from the sport they excelled at so well as a team in high school. Chris left the soccer team after his freshman year to play rugby, and Craig followed him a year later. Craig’s involvement with the orientation staff also conflicted with soccer conditioning and tryouts.

Academically during his freshman year, Chris admits he wasn’t a big fan of the University’s core curriculum because, as a chemistry major, that’s where he wanted to focus his studies.

“I didn’t understand why I had to take classes in philosophy and theology,” he says. “But then, aspects from one discipline started to connect with another, and they all came together nicely by my senior year.”

This year, the twins are living together for the first time since arriving at Carroll. During their freshman year, they thought it best to split up to meet more people. Still, they ended up on the same floor, then across the hall from each other their sophomore year. Junior year, Chris lived in the Fairmount Gardens apartment complex, and Craig lived in a duplex on Warrensville Center road. This year, they’re roommates living in Fairmount Gardens.

Looking back at his Carroll experience to date, Craig says he wanted a chance to become involved on a smaller campus. Greek life, sports, the orientation staff, and retreats all were part of that.

Craig, who will earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (he’s an accoutancy major), will continue at Carroll next year because he plans to earn an MBA from the University. Chris, who will earn a B.S. in chemistry, plans to move on to medical school or podiatry school. Currently, he’s shadowing doctors to help him decide.

Though there’s one thing about life after Carroll that’s certain for the Thomas twins: Neither of them will follow the other to graduate school. Their professional paths will diverge, but they always will be able to reflect on their time at Carroll. JCU

As part of JCU’s 125th Anniversary celebration, we’d like to hear your road-to-Carroll stories. Please visit www.jcu.edu/125 and click on the “Share Your Story” box.


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