By Matt Hughes • Photo by Bill Cardoni
Not long after his first daughter, Olivia '13, was born, Jim Tomeo '80 joked with his college buddy Bob Esernio '80, whose wife had also recently given birth to a child: "These kids are going to Bucknell."
Some two decades and two more daughters later, Jim's prediction has come true in a big way. Olivia graduated from Bucknell this spring, and Jim's two younger daughters, Sophie '15 and Julia '16, are currently enrolled. Esernio also sent two children to Bucknell, Robert '13 and Jacklyn '15.
And the Tomeos haven't stopped yet. They recently added a fifth member to their Bucknell family. In April, Dara Tomeo joined her husband on the Bucknell University Parents Board, an advisory committee of approximately 70 parents seeking to enhance the educational and residential experience of students. Says Jim, "We consider her an honorary Bucknellian."
The growth of the Tomeo Bucknell family didn't come by design, the family says. While the sisters remembered their father's passion for his alma mater and childhood visits to campus for Bison basketball games, each found her own way here, and for different reasons. "When we heard the name Bucknell we'd always think, 'That's Dad's school,' but he never pressured us to go here," Julia says.
All three sisters sought a smaller school with a strong liberal arts core. Olivia found her passion in Bucknell's animal behavior program, which allowed her to pursue research as an undergraduate while double majoring in Spanish. She discovered previously unknown qualities of self-recognition among squirrel monkeys through undergraduate research, and hopes to continue that work as a professional research assistant.
Sophie found an interdisciplinary math and economics program where she could build close relationships with her professors. Julia wanted to continue her lacrosse career at a school where she would be a student first and an athlete second.
"I think it's more personal," Olivia says. "You have small class sizes. You can walk around campus and see people you know."
While the three sisters have shared common experiences — Olivia and Sophia are both sustainability ambassadors for Dining Services and members of Delta Gamma sorority, and all three lived in the Environmental Residential College, are Reunion Ambassadors and have taken a religion course together — each said she has sought to cut her own path at Bucknell, distinct from those of her sisters and father.
"It was exciting for me because I had heard stories of my dad's college experience," Olivia says. "It's like time traveling."
Jim knows that Olivia's relationship with Bucknell did not end with Commencement. It will continue for a lifetime, and the research in primate cognition she undertook here is not only good for her but for the University as well. "She'll now be a spokesperson for all things Bucknell and all the good it's done," Jim says.
Olivia and her siblings say they plan to continue their relationship with the University well into the future. "I definitely want to come back when I'm older, to bring my kids here," Sophie says. "I know that I'll want to give back to Bucknell after I graduate, because it's given our family so much.