KINGSTON, R.I., May 17, 2016—Three siblings will graduate from the University of Rhode Island this year, and not only do they share the same last name, they share the same birth date.
Brian, Maddy and Lizzy Byrnes are triplets—born seconds apart 22 years ago.
Graduating together is nothing new for the trio. They walked across the stage—in alphabetical order by surname—at middle school in 2008, and did the same at LaSalle Academy in 2012.
They sat next to each other then and plan to do the same during the graduation ceremony May 22 on URI’s Kingston campus. Cheering in the audience will be their parents, Brian and Ginny Byrnes, who is an accountant in the Controller’s Office at URI.
“I’m thrilled, and very excited, very proud,” says Ginny. “They’ve worked hard, and we’re all looking forward to the next phase of their lives. It’s going to be fun to watch where they go from here since they’re all so different.”
So true. Brian majored in journalism, with a minor in business. Maddy studied animal and veterinary science. And Lizzy is double majoring in psychology and Spanish. They even look different: “Some people don’t know we’re siblings,” says Brian, “much less triplets.”
Their journeys started on April 15, 1994—Brian at 2:02 a.m., Maddy at 2:03, and Lizzy a few seconds later. Growing up in Cranston’s Edgewood neighborhood, they hung out together, sharing friends, classrooms and stuffed animals. But they were different in many ways.
Maddy is a vegetarian; Brian is a meat-eater. Maddy is outgoing; Lizzy is reserved; and Brian is “in between.” Lizzy is a big reader; Brian prefers music; and Maddy reads a book once a year at the beach. Maddy loves animals; Lizzy is allergic to fur. Maddy and Lizzy like Taylor Swift; Brian does not. And so it goes.
Still, they all ended up at URI. They lived in different residence halls, but shared a lot of the same friends. They ate at the same table in the University’s dining halls when they could. “It felt very normal,” says Lizzy. “Just like being with friends.”
Their URI experience, they all agree, was great. Maddy loved taking care of the animals at Peckham Farm. Brian learned how to be a journalist at The Good 5 Cent Cigar, URI’s student paper. Lizzy enjoyed being the secretary of the URI psychology club.
“I’ve had a great supportive group of friends,” says Lizzy. “And the professors in the psychology department were helpful, accessible and supportive. I don’t feel like I got lost in a crowd at URI. It’s personable.”
The siblings leaned on each other for support—and laughs. “For triplets—or twins—it’s really like a sixth sense,” says Brian. “When Maddy and Lizzy have this look, I know exactly what they’re thinking.”
“We’ve spent so much time together,” says Maddy.
“They can’t get anything by me,” says Lizzy. “I know when they’re fibbing.”
At the graduation ceremony, they’ll be wearing identical caps and gowns, but will distinguish themselves with the messages on their caps. Lizzy will scrawl a Beyoncé lyric: Raise a glass for the college grads. A sparkling paw print will suffice for Maddy. Brian is still thinking about it.
After graduation, the siblings plan to move back home from their rented houses in Narragansett before their next adventure. Lizzy is expected to attend graduate school in counseling psychology at Northeastern University, and Maddy is looking at veterinary schools. Brian is weighing his options.
How do they feel about leaving URI? Their answers are uncharacteristically the same:
“Bittersweet,” says Maddy.
“Bittersweet,” says Lizzy.
“Bittersweet,” says Brian. “We have a really big group of friends here.”
No triplets in the group, but there are two sets of twins.
Pictured above: Triplets, from left to right, Lizzy, Maddy and Brian Byrnes, who will graduate from the University of Rhode Island this year. Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.