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