Family legacy lives on

Ellie Newell, a freshman at Wartburg, is a fourth generation student. - Ta'Mone Williams/ TRUMPET
Ellie Newell, a freshman at Wartburg, is a fourth generation student. – Ta’Mone Williams/ TRUMPET

In recent years it has become more common for third, fourth and fifth generations to attend the same college as family members. At Wartburg, first-year, Ella Newell is a fourth generation student.

Newell has a great-grandfather, aunt and uncles who attended Wartburg.

Her mother is a 1986 graduate while her grandfather graduated in the 1960s.

“Wartburg has always been a part of my life and my memories here go back even before I started kindergarten. My grandpa, Arnold Thalacker, went to Wartburg when it was still located in Clinton, Iowa,” said Karen Thalacker, Newell’s mother and the Wartburg pre-law advisor, said. “My parents met at Wartburg and I have two brothers and a sister who graduated from Wartburg. It’s such a treat for me to be here and see my parents’ friends and also the friends of my siblings.”

For many students with a family school, it is common that they follow in parents’ and siblings’ footsteps in choosing a college.

“The Dickman family has three generations. Matthew and Danica are the 24th and 25th in that clan here,” said Saul Shapiro, director of news and community relations. “And the Kurtz family has had 75 members graduate.”

Newell said she never felt the pressure to attend Wartburg though.

“I knew my mom would want me to attend Wartburg but there was never any pressure because my majors are so different than hers. I looked at the three big Iowa schools: Iowa State, the University of Iowa and UNI, but none of them were going to be able to help me with my majors as much as Wartburg,” Newell said.

A double major in Spanish and history with a pre-law focus, Newell liked that Wartburg let her study abroad for her majors.

“The other schools I looked at said it wasn’t going to be possible,” Newell said.

Newell’s decision to attend Wartburg has certainly pleased her family.

“We are so proud of Ella.  I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I have a child at Wartburg because it seems too good to be true! Wartburg will offer her everything she needs to get ready for law school and a legal career but also so much more,” Thalacker said. “It is a community of faith that will be with her through all the ups and downs of life in all the years to come.”

Wartburg prides itself on having families attend.

“Every year we have a large number of legacy students who attend Wartburg. It is certainly a tremendous testament to Wartburg and the education their predecessors received that they would seek out a Wartburg education as well,” Coleman said. “We have more fourth generation students than you might imagine. It is not uncommon for us to talk with families who have three, four, five generations that have attended Wartburg.”

For Newell and her family,  attending Wartburg has been very special, she said.

“Growing up I went to homecoming events like the parade and Ren Faire with my mom and I got to meet some of her former teachers and hear stories. When there is a big event on campus like homecoming or reunions it is more family time because we get to experience things together,” Newell said. “We’ve created a family bond with the college. I’ve created a unique tie to other family members because this is where I go to school. Some of my other family members don’t have that.”

While some things have changed dramatically, the core of what Wartburg is has remained constant generation to generation.

“The technology available to the students is wonderful.  When I was at Wartburg, some students were still using typewriters,” Thalacker said. “Wartburg has done a great job of staying current while also emphasizing individualized instruction and contact with faculty and staff.”





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