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Mary Louise Schultz (née Wilson) attended Hillsdale College during WWII, and her cousin’s grand­children attend the school now. Courtesy | Winona

For junior Emily Walker and her sister Car­oline, a freshman, first impres­sions of Hillsdale started well before tra­di­tional college visits. Each said one of her ear­liest mem­ories is of dropping off their eldest brother Chris ’06 at Hillsdale in 2002. Car­oline was just two years old at the time.

Since then, each of the five Walker sib­lings has attended Hillsdale, with the youngest two now current stu­dents.

But their family’s history at Hillsdale didn’t begin with Chris. Fifty-nine years prior, their grandmother’s cousin, Mary Louise Schultz (née Wilson), ’47, arrived as a freshman. Her expe­rience dif­fered from that of the younger Walkers: At the time, the effects of WWII reached even quiet Hillsdale.

“The first couple of years it was mostly just girls because the fellas were all in the service,” she said. “You know, they’d been drafted or they enlisted for WWII. So things were much dif­ferent.”

Since food was rationed for the war effort, the stu­dents had to take ration cards to meals in the dining hall, Schultz remem­bered.

“But it was still a won­derful school, and I loved every minute that I was there,” she said, fondly recalling her favorite pro­fessor and adviser, Windsor Hall Roberts, pro­fessor of history, and an ornithology class with biology pro­fessor Bertram Barber, founder of the Slayton Arboretum.

Schultz said that, like Emily and Car­oline, who she visits at Hillsdale, she had also fol­lowed her older sister’s example in coming to the college. After vis­iting her sister often during her years at the school, Schultz’s choice was clear: “I never looked any­where but Hillsdale,” she said.

Emily and Car­oline never knew a time when Hillsdale was not a part of their lives.

Car­oline recalled how upset she was when she realized college was where they’d have to say goodbye to Chris.

“We were really close,“ she said. “And so, at con­vo­cation I was sitting on his lap, and when they stood up to say goodbye, he just held me the whole time. And then he was putting me down, and I’m like ‘you’re not putting me down, where are you going?’ … and I did not under­stand what was hap­pening, and I just started crying.”

But it wasn’t goodbye for long. Jeni joined her older brother two years later, and Katie, fol­lowing in her brother’s and sister’s foot­steps, arrived as a freshman in 2007. During those years, their parents and two kid sisters visited reg­u­larly. The girls would have sleep­overs and make breakfast — waffles and pan­cakes — in Olds and Waterman res­i­dences with their older sisters and climb on Chris’s lofted bed in Simpson res­i­dence, “which I thought was the coolest thing,” Car­oline said.

“It’s funny to grow up here, basi­cally, and see it through all the stages of these buildings being built, and the changes in pro­fessors and every­thing, … And then to be here and to actually be a student,” she said. “It’s really strange, but it feels very natural.”

Though four years passed between Katie’s grad­u­ation in 2011 and Emily’s freshman year in 2015, the Walker legacy has impacted her time as a student. During her first semester, she took classes from pro­fessors who had taught her older sib­lings or had been their class­mates — like Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of History Matthew Gaetano, a good school friend of Chris’s.

“I get called Katie and Jeni a lot,” Emily said.

Car­oline said taking classes with Gaetano “has created a very fun but a very inter­esting dynamic because he knows how bril­liant Chris is.”

Sharing a common expe­rience at Hillsdale has made the already loving family closer, though they are spread out in years.

“I think it just makes us closer as sib­lings because we have that shared common expe­rience,” Jeni said. “When [Car­oline] says, ‘Oh I’m going to babysit for the Coles tonight,’ I know exactly who they are.”

She says that the common Hillsdale expe­rience “makes the age gap seem a little smaller.”

Trying to live up to their sib­lings’ rep­u­tation and still pursue their own interests has been a learning process for the girls, and Jeni said all four girls strove to fill their eldest brother’s shoes. Chris grad­uated the third in his class, a feat none of the younger sib­lings has accom­plished. But it was encour­aging to have him set a high bar, Jeni said.  

“I really felt the aca­demic pressure the most because that’s at that point what I cared about the most,” Emily said.

She said she also felt the social pressure to be like her sib­lings, two of whom were on the Home­coming court, and another in Lamp­lighters, a woman’s hon­orary. Emily, then about 7, remembers being too young to run onto the field when Chris was crowned Home­coming king.

Each sibling has inten­tionally pursued dif­ferent interests, and Car­oline said learning piano alongside Emily means being out­shone.

“I heard her practice today. She’s really, really, really good,” Car­oline said. “I’m okay with com­pletely being in her shadow in the music department and real­izing in other areas, I can be more involved in those areas.”

She added that being on campus taught them balance and brought them closer together.

“I think what I had to learn was it’s that it’s ok to have a dif­ferent expe­rience,” Emily said.

Schultz still visits the school and recently attended Hillsdale’s football game against Michigan Tech­no­logical Uni­versity, where she sat with Pres­ident Larry Arnn.

“Yeah, that was really nice,” she said.

Like Schultz, Emily began as a student after her sister grad­uated — the first girl to enter Hillsdale without a sibling there — and said now having Car­oline has been “a blast.”

Car­oline will graduate 74 years after Schultz did. Whether sep­a­rated by decades or just a few years, the family’s Hillsdale expe­ri­ences have drawn them together, cul­ti­vating a love for life, learning, and each other.

Com­menting on the latest comers in the family’s long legacy, Jeni said: “I think it’s funny for them to be the ones that are there now, rather than the cute little sisters who would come and visit.”