Five’s A Crowd at Frostburg

Family stories always make nice around graduation and commencement.

This was my first time talking to quintuplets, however. And I didn’t realize any of them were one of five going to Frostburg State at the same time even though I met three of them. Someone finally told me and from there, it was the right time to do a story because they are graduating.

Each of the Groff quintuplets wanted to have an identity–Eric, Erin, Ian, Maureen and Diana. It worked out because I never connected the dots to lump them together without a first name.

After the story was released, WBAL radio, Fox45 in Baltimore and other stations either ran a partial version of the release or in its entirety.

Quintuplets Forge Individual Paths at Frostburg State University
05/06/2016

Quintuplets Forge Individual Paths at Frostburg State University

From left are Erin, Maureen, Ian, Diana and Eric Groff. Diana Groff graduated from Frostbu

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Frederick County, Md., quintuplets are going five for five with degrees from Frostburg State University. Twenty-two-year-old quintuplets Diana, Eric, Erin, Ian and Maureen Groff will have all earned their bachelor’s degrees from FSU this academic year when four join December graduate Diana as alumni following FSU’s 148th Commencement on May 21.

After being together from the womb to 12th grade, another four years together ended up being the best way for each sibling to find his or her own path.

“I like the independence I felt when I was here,” Diana said. “Maybe that’s from being in a big family, where I never felt I had that until now.”

“I had my own little niche that I could fit into,” Maureen added, “but then I lived with my sisters, so I could still come home and have their support.”

Eric and Ian majored in fine arts with a concentration in illustration; Erin majored in earth science and Maureen majored in theatre. Diana graduated in December with a biology degree.

The Jefferson, Md., family, almost didn’t become a Frostburg five when the brothers were considering an art school in York, Pa.

“It ended up being too expensive for us,” Eric said.

Still, the brothers liked what Frostburg had to offer, beyond being near their sisters.

“I was attracted to their acceptance of all kinds of art,” Eric said. “At some colleges, I felt like I couldn’t really find my place there because I feel like I do very specific artwork with graphic novels and illustration.”

“It turns out I was right,” he added. “I think I got the best education in the area.”

Parents Teresa and Bill Groff were prepared for anything. You have to when you have quintuplets.

“You can’t plan too far ahead for anything,” Teresa said.

The decision turned out better than planned for a family trying to provide for five children born at once. After first learning about their story when the siblings enrolled, FSU also provided a multi-child discount to help ease the burden.

“We were relieved they were all going to Frostburg,” Teresa said. “We were just glad to have them in one place because, logistically, that would be easier.”

Even better – FSU had a major for each of them.

“We were thrilled they each could major in something that Frostburg offered,” Bill said. “If they had been at two or three different colleges, that would have been rough.”

There’s still a possibility another Groff could attend FSU. Their little brother Duncan Groff is 15, attending Brunswick High School. The budding artist and video producer will soon have to apply to colleges.

“We tell him, ‘Of course, it’s your choice, but you’re going to Frostburg, right?’” Maureen said.

Get to Know the Groffs

Diana had a head start on her siblings thanks to Advanced Placement credits in high school that allowed her to graduate from FSU in December 2015, completing a pre-medical track. She’s considering pursuing her master’s degree while working as a manufacturing lab technician at MedImmune medial laboratory in Frederick.

“I just wanted to be in the real world as soon as I could to see what it’s like,” Diana said. She’s thankful FSU prepared her for her first job.

“Throughout college I was changing my mind about what I wanted to do with my biology degree, thinking about nursing, then research,” she said. “My professors were really helpful, telling me about programs at [the National Institutes of Health] and FDA.”

Eric and Ian, both being fine art majors with illustration concentrations, saw plenty of each other.

Eric focused on fantasy illustration, refining detail of his characters. As part of a public art project, he created a series of miniature robots that were placed on Frostburg businesses downtown.

Eric and Ian also worked alongside acclaimed graphic novelist Dennis Calero for an independent study, which helped them prepare to handle the business side of art. Eric wants to publish his own graphic novel, sell his prints online and do commissioned pieces.

“I was really interested in comics, and I wanted to get better at my own making of them. I didn’t know where to take that or how hard I would have to work to get there,” Eric said. “Listening to his life story, it gave me a lot of confidence I was heading in the right direction.”

Ian also has a specialization in fantasy and science fiction, but tends to use a different medium, paint, instead of Eric’s focus on printmaking.

“It’s been a positive experience,” Ian said. “I really grew as a person and as an artist learning about the field, and I think I can be successful afterward.”

Maureen, a theatre major, has spent her time in the spotlight, most recently starring as Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and spending three months preparing for last year’s “Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” because of the play’s multiple conclusions.

“The shows have definitely been the heart and soul of my time at Frostburg,” Maureen said.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a particularly moving experience for Maureen, as the play opened days after author Harper Lee’s death.

“It was kind of electric in a sense because there was so much anticipation,” she said. “The story was so known and loved. People had expectations for it, and that was kind of daunting at first because you have to fill the shoes.”

Erin is the second scientist in the brood, an earth science major who specializes in soil conservation. Her undergraduate research involved studying why a boulder plateau exists in Dolly Sods near Davis, W.Va., when there aren’t any boulders at the bottom of the mountain.

“I like it because there isn’t a good explanation in the scientific community right now of how these boulder fields form,” Erin said about the federally protected wilderness. “I think it would be cool to be one of the people working toward what put boulders there, because it wasn’t glacier activity.”

Erin’s work involved mapping over Google Earth imagery to find clues, and she hopes to visit the site in June after graduation.

Separate Ways

As each of the Groffs readied for commencement, they realized that the ride of being together in one place is ending. The uncertainly is bittersweet.

“I think we’re pretty close as far as siblings go, and I’m really lucky to have done this with them,” Diana said.

Erin’s soil conservation work will likely land her at a government agency and could see her stay in the region, while Diana has settled in her new job in Frederick. Ian and Eric want to work for a comic book publisher while selling their art and could land anywhere.

Maureen’s career could take her to New York or Los Angeles, but she’s focusing on establishing herself in the region first, hoping to land roles with an ensemble in or near Maryland. She said it’s a little scary that their togetherness is coming to an end.

“I consider myself really lucky because friends can come and go, but family is always here,” Maureen said. “We’re all so close and have similar interests. Our family has been so supportive of each other.”

Tips for Multiples

Teresa and Maureen shared a few tips to make college a little easier for multiples:

  • “Be yourself. Don’t let people treat you like you’re anyone different.”
  • “Stay close. Stay together. But not too much.”
  • “Keep in touch.”
  • “I don’t think you need to go out and look at 10 colleges. We came across Frostburg, and we’re very happy.”
  • “Find a place where they can all find what they want.”

•     “Work with the school to see if you can make a deal.”

– by Charles Schelle

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