By Lance Reynolds, Republican-American
HAMDEN — As one graduation ceremony ended, borough residents Anne and Mike Ciacciarella got back in line for another.
Watching their four children, Anna, Michael, Sofia and Vincent, graduate from Quinnipiac University on May 9 came as a sort of plot twist for the Ciacciarellas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of watching them graduate all together, there were three separate ceremonies.
Anna and Sofia graduated together in the first ceremony, while Vincent followed in a later ceremony on Mother’s Day. The family’s special weekend finished when Michael walked across the stage on May 10.
The siblings are quadruplets from Naugatuck. They’re the first set of quadruplets to attend and graduate from Quinnipiac, according to school officials.
“Everyone says, ‘Oh, it was your Mother’s Day gift.’ For me, every day is Mother’s Day,” Anne Ciacciarella said. “I don’t need a special day. Every day is a special day having these kids.”
As fate has it, Sofia and Vincent will be attending graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall. Anna will be just five hours away, pursuing a master’s degree in environmental studies at University of Michigan, while Michael is “ready for work,” Anne said.
“I’m grateful I had my siblings with me these past four years,” said Anna, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and environmental studies. “Even in our own majors, among our own friend groups, and on our own paths, we were always there for each other. No matter where we go in life, we will continue to love and support each other.”
Quinnipiac is about 20 minutes away from Naugatuck. Anne said her children were hesitant about attending the same college. After all, they had attended Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, a magnet school in New Haven, together.
Then in the mail came a flyer advertising an accepted students day in mid-April at Quinnipiac, just weeks before the May 1, 2017, college decision deadline. Anne thought it would be good for them to check out one of the first schools the quads applied to, so they did.
Three days later, they were back on the Hamden campus, mingling with current students, accepted students and faculty, including then-President John Lahey. That’s when they sealed the deal. Sofia committed first. The three others soon followed.
Lahey retired from Quinnipiac in 2018, but he remained connected with the Ciacciarellas. On the Saturday before graduation, Anne said she received a phone call that Lahey came back from Florida for the weekend and wanted to personally congratulate the family.
“They were anxious to see him,” she said. “They put their caps and gowns on for him, and they were surprised that he showed up in all his regalia. He was just so happy to see them.”
During their first year on campus, the siblings tried to do their own thing, as they had their own friend groups and lived in different dorm buildings, said Sofia, who earned a Bachelor of Science in biology. As the years went on, though, especially within the past year of COVID-19, the siblings gravitated toward each other, she said.
“We would go out to eat together even though during the day we wouldn’t see each other and would be doing our own things,” said Michael, who earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. “At night, we’d be like, ‘Let’s all go get ice cream together.’ That was just a cool thing.”
All four Ciacciarellas were involved in Quinnipiac’s Albert Schweitzer Institute, which conducts programs connected to education, ethics and voluntarism with an environmentally friendly theme.
Anna served as a three-year food security intern for the institute, while Vincent served as a communications intern. Michael created a rain garden for the institute as part of his senior design project. Sofia was involved in Students for Environmental Action, which collaborated with the institute.
Anne said it brought her and her husband comfort knowing their children were there for one another whenever they needed someone on campus
“They’ve been brothers and sisters, and they’ve been together forever,” she said. “Their relationship as quadruplets and being just brothers and sisters sort of (turned) into more of a professional colleague kind of thing.”
In the fall, Quinnipiac will be offering three majors related to the environment. That comes after Anna graduated as the university’s first independent major in environmental studies.
“There has been an emerging dialogue on campus around sustainability, spreading across multiple disciplines,” Anna said. “For Quinnipiac students, it is essential to learn about the environment both inside and out of the classroom.”
Vincent said he looks forward to attending the business school at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne in the fall. It’s just a “coincidence” that he’ll be at the same graduate school as Sofia, who will be enrolled in the university’s veterinary school. Sofia decided on the school first.
“That was kind of a plot twist, but everything seems to be with my crew,” Anne said.