A Presidential Legacy
For the members of two families, attending Washington & Jefferson College has become a tradition. At the 214th Commencement ceremony, the Brown Seiler family and the Colligan family each welcomed another graduate into their long lines of proud alumni.
The Brown Seiler Family
New W&J graduate Charles Wellington Brown Seiler ’13 celebrates with President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D., and his grandfather, Oliver Wellington Brown, Jr., ’49 after Commencement.
Though 64 years separate the graduation dates of grandson and grandfather, both received degrees in philosophy and are members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
Oliver Jr. was overwhelmed with joy when he found out that his grandson was attending W&J and even more so when he watched Charles accept his diploma. “I felt a great sense of pride for Charlie’s celebratory achievement and in Washington & Jefferson for granting him the challenging opportunity,” Oliver Jr. said.
Charles also felt a great sense of family pride having his grandfather at Commencement. “It was great. It made me feel really good and more proud to know that he was able to be there to watch another generation receive a diploma from the same school he carried that same tradition from,” he said.
For the Brown Seiler family, W&J has “strengthened family closeness” as Oliver Jr. puts it. And with the discovery that his wife, Marjorie, is a descendent of the Rev. John Corbly, a W&J founder, this connection became even more important to the family.
However, the family connection does not stop with Charles and Oliver Jr. Oliver’s father, Oliver Wellington Brown, Sr., a Beta Theta Pi as well, graduated from W&J in 1916. He was known for his writing, serving as editor-in-chief of the Red & Black and as the Pandora historian.
Oliver Sr.’s father, Thomas Steven Brown, Esq., was a graduate of the Washington Academy Class of 1877. Thomas taught history at the Academy and authored a book about the institution for his class’s 25th anniversary, a book that resides at U. Grant Miller library today. In the book, he referenced important moments in the College’s history, and many of his stories may have come from his father, William Brown, who attended Washington Academy before going to search for gold during the Gold Rush.
His family connection to W&J is important to recent graduate Charles. “It’s a great connection because not only do I feel more connected traditionally with my grandfather
The Colligan Family
When Patrick Colligan ’13 began looking for his potential college, his father, Daniel Colligan ’83, made sure W&J was on the list. Four years later, Patrick, Daniel, and Daniel’s father, William Colligan, Jr., ’50 stand proudly together in front of Old Main at Commencement.
“I was really pleased when Dan chose W&J, and even more so when Patrick decided to attend as well,” said William.
The three generations of Presidents also are all members of the same fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega. “I didn’t even know my father was an ATO! When I told him I was going to join ATO, he laughed and said ‘That’s my fraternity,’” Daniel said. Fast-forward 30 years and it was Patrick letting his dad know that he, too, was joining ATO. Patrick went on to serve as president of the fraternity.
On all accounts, W&J has played a large part in this family’s life.
“It comes down to education and comes down to broadening oneself in contrast to finding a job. It put in us a passion for learning,” said Daniel. “What W&J gave us was more than a diploma, it gave us the liberal arts discipline and the skills to learn throughout the rest of our lives.”
“The intangibles; you don’t see them, but they are there,” added William when reflecting on W&J.
– KERRI DIGIOVANNI LACOCK ’09