Not long after giving birth to triplets in 2000, Mary Jo McNulty returned to her human resources job at Lehigh University and brought her infants with her to the child care center on campus.
Now, more than 20 years later, the McNulty triplets — Kevin, Katie and Shaun — will graduate Monday as the first set of triplets to do so in Lehigh University history.
“They’ve done such incredible things,” said their mother, who recently celebrated 40 years working at the Bethlehem university. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”
Kevin, Katie and Shaun McNulty grew up in Bethlehem, attending the city’s schools. While they were rarely in the same classes, they always shared birthday parties and graduation ceremonies. They attended Freedom High School.
“I think naturally it just makes you a little bit closer because you’re able to have those shared experiences,” said Kevin McNulty, 21, who will graduate with a political science degree.
Being a triplet also had its difficulties though, said Katie McNulty, 21, who will earn a journalism degree.
“We’re three different people, and I don’t think people really realized that,” she said. “They just assumed, ‘Oh, you’re triplets. It’s three of you. You’re all going to be the same, you’re going to achieve the same milestones, you’re all going to be the same academically,’ and that’s not how it is.”
While the siblings have different interests and passions, sports have always bonded them together.
Growing up, they would listen to the band at Liberty High School football games and watch as their dad — who earned two master’s degrees from Lehigh — helped coach the team. On the weekends, they would watch the New York Giants play.
The siblings were also involved with Lehigh sports, collecting balls that went astray at basketball games, and running the shot clock for soccer and lacrosse games.
When it was time to apply to college, the three applied to Lehigh University early decision, and all three got in. They were able to attend Lehigh for free because of their mother’s job, and only had to pay for room and board.
“This was a culmination of all our efforts for 18 years, and the minute we got in, it was jumping and screaming, laughing and crying,” said Shaun McNulty, 21, who will graduate with a degree in international relations and theater. “There was just so much support in the air, and we were all so excited for one another.”
While on campus, the three joined different activities. Kevin McNulty got involved in Greek life and eventually became the president of Psi Upsilon; Katie McNulty interned with Lehigh Sports and became an editor at the college newspaper, The Brown and White; and Shaun McNulty performed in plays, such as the campus production of “Godspell.”