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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Commencement 2013: Mom, son, daughter graduate together at URI

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116

Three Kingston residents study math

KINGSTON, RI – May 15, 2013 – Triplets will graduate from the University of Rhode Island this weekend. Well, not exactly, but they do share the same genes.

The routine will go something like this: Mia Heissan, 46, a URI lecturer in math, will get her doctorate in math on Saturday. On Sunday, she will award undergraduate diplomas to her two children, Anna and Chip Slaybaugh.

“It’s so great,’’ says the proud mother, who is even more thrilled that her kids are each getting a bachelor’s degree in her beloved field: math. “That’s so cool.’’

It’s not unheard of for URI instructors to award diplomas to their children, but this might be the first time that an instructor is giving out not one but two diplomas to offspring, on the same stage, no less.

The Heissan/Slaybaugh clan is well known in the URI community. The daughter of a veterinarian, Heissan grew up in Ridgefield, Conn., a small town in Fairfield County, and attended Cornell University before transferring to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., where she earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

She came to URI in 2007 to get her doctorate in math. She taught for many years in the math department and moved in January to the business department, where she is a full-time lecturer in math, calculus, and statistics.

Her children, who also live in Kingston, have made their mark on campus as well. After taking a year off to tour with a band, Chip, 23, enrolled at URI in 2009, quickly developing a passion for math and physics. After graduation, he plans to stick around to study for his doctorate in physics, with a focus on biophysics.

“It’s exciting just to get a diploma,’’ says Chip. “It makes the experience even better when the person giving it to you is your mother.’’

Anna, 24, started URI in 2010, transferring from the University of Texas in Dallas. She’ll also pursue graduate studies in the fall at URI, in either math or – gasp! – business.

The youngest Slaybaugh, Charlie, 20, will be a junior at URI in the fall. “If you ask him what he’s majoring in he’ll say, ‘No math,’ ’’ Heissan says, with a chuckle.

Heissan’s husband, Timothy Haitz, is also a no-math guy. He’s getting his doctorate in physical therapy at the University.

URI is the family’s second home, says Heissan. They are loyal URI basketball fans, go to all the theater and musical performances, and attend as many public talks as possible. Chip is president of the URI Cycling Club and has a few bikes to prove it.

“I’m just so in love with URI,’’ says Heissan. “We are part of every corner here. When we came we decided we were really going to make URI a part of our lives.’’

Anna will be at a wedding in Texas and, alas, will not witness her mother’s event, but she intends to make it back for her graduation. Her Red Eye flight lands in Boston at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, cutting it close. The undergraduate ceremony will start around noon at the Ryan Center.

“She’ll make it,’’ says Heissan. “I’m sure.’’

And who gets to greet (and kiss) Mom first during the ceremony? A comes before C, so Anna is the lucky one. That’s fine with both siblings. After all, Anna’s the big sister.

Pictured above:
Mia Heissan, 46, and her children, Anna Slaybaugh, 24, and Chip Slaybaugh, 23, who will all receive degrees from the University of Rhode Island this weekend. Heissan will get her doctorate in math. Anna and Gregory will each receive a bachelor’s degree in math.
Photo by Michael Salerno Photography