Across the generations, family legacies have grown into an Illinois Wesleyan tradition.
Story by KRISTIN FIELDS ’12
This fall, Illinois Wesleyan welcomed 587 first-year students to campus. Of those
students, 32 have siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and generations
farther back who call Wesleyan their alma mater. Often referred to as legacy students,
this year’s class is the largest legacy class in the University’s history.
Craig Rapp ’14 describes attending the University as “a family extravaganza.” With
his two older brothers — John ’03 and Garrett ’10 — as well as his father Randall
’73, he had spent a fair amount of time visiting the campus prior to becoming a student.
Choosing IWU was an easy decision and a gut instinct, he says.
“My dad pushed me to look at other schools to make sure this was the right fit for
me,” says Rapp. “He was delighted that I was looking at IWU, but he was also very
firm that he would be fine with whatever school I chose.”
Wanting a small university with a good accounting program, Craig was drawn to Illinois
Wesleyan, but there was something else about the University that caught his attention.
“Some of my dad’s best friends are from IWU. For me, it formed the connection between
Wesleyan and lifetime friendships,” he says.
Garrett Rapp noted that Wesleyan makes the bonds of his family stronger. “We have
had the entire family on Illinois Wesleyan’s campus more than once,” he says. “In
this way, IWU has not only been a home for my brothers or myself, but literally the
Samantha Olson ’14 is more than aware of her family legacy. On the side of father
J.D. Olson ’84, she is the fifth generation to attend Wesleyan. Her mother Carla (Livingston)
Olson ’83’s side of the family extends as far back as 1902, when Samantha’s great-great-grandmother
Mattie Elizabeth Wilcox Stoddard graduated from the University. Over the years, Illinois
Wesleyan and the idea of college became synonymous to her.
“My parents did not pressure me to attend Illinois Wesleyan,” says Samantha, who is
a double major in biology and art. “However, my grandmother couldn’t help talking
about how wonderful her time was at IWU. When we would attend Homecoming or other
events, my grandpa would be so excited to show us around.”
“Our main concern was making sure she selected a school that lined up with her needs,
aspirations and ambitions,” says Carla Olson. “We would like to think she would have
found IWU on this basis alone, but given that her parents, grandparents and several
other extended family members have attended the University with good success, it would
have been impossible for her not to consider IWU.”
When Katy Seibring ’14 began looking at colleges her junior year of high school, she
knew she wanted to attend a school like Illinois Wesleyan. “She liked the University,”
says her father Scott Seibring ’85, who is director of financial aid at IWU. But Katy
was also concerned “that the combination of her mother and father being graduates,
the University’s locale being near her hometown of Towanda and having her father work
at the school may have been too much.”
However, after visiting 11 schools in five different states, she felt that Illinois
Wesleyan was the best fit for her. “I knew I felt more comfortable here,” she says.
“Growing up, I took piano lessons at Presser Hall and had basketball practices at
the Shirk Center.”
Todd Szerlong ’14, whose father Tim Szerlong graduated from IWU in 1974, is also glad
he chose Illinois Wesleyan. “I love it here. It’s a great place to go to school,”
Like his dad, Todd is pledging to one of IWU’s social fraternities. Growing up, he
heard a lot of stories about fellowship and brotherhood from his father and hopes
to have a similar experience, promising “there will be more stories to come.”