Quintuplets Enroll at South

Posted on August 2, 2018
Joy Washington

Every student at the University of South Alabama is part of the University community. But five of this year’s incoming freshmen can say they were, quite literally, born into the USA family.

This fall, five quintuplet siblings, born in August 1999 at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, will begin their college careers at South. Their story is one of adversity and challenge, but also one of joy, faith, hope and perseverance.

They were premature, of course. Amelia Rose, Isabella, Shipley, Sophia and Hallie Zimlich came into the world weighing less than two pounds apiece. In the world of medical care, some 19 years ago, it was somewhat of a miracle that they not only survived, but eventually thrived, with no severe health complications. At first, however, there were several challenging months of care in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit before their parents, Jeannette and Mark, were able to bring their babies home.

“When our children were born, we were just trying to take it day-by-day,” said Jeannette. “We had one daughter, Temple, who was about to turn 5. We were praying all the babies would live, get stronger and come home.”

Now, 19 years later, the quintuplets are preparing for another chapter in their amazing journey. When it came to deciding on a college, South Alabama was at the top of their list – for many reasons. Both their parents are South alumni. Jeannette earned a bachelor’s in education and Mark holds a bachelor’s in criminal justice. Jeannette’s mother, Jane Aromi, also graduated from South Alabama with a master’s degree. She was an elementary education teacher. Her father, Dr. Eugene Aromi, served as a professor of education at South Alabama for more than 25 years.

South also had each one of the academic majors the quintuplets wanted: Amelia Rose, music; Isabella, K-6 teacher education; Shipley, physical education with an emphasis in exercise science; Sophia, early childhood education; and Hallie, visual arts with an emphasis in photography.

And when the quintuplets announced that South was the place for them, Jeannette and Mark had a very special surprise waiting.

After they were born, the children’s grandfather had shared their story with the late USA President Emeritus Gordon Moulton, who was so inspired that he offered all five of the babies a full tuition scholarship to South Alabama as long as they met the qualifications for admission. Jeannette pulled out the letter from Moulton, which she had saved for 18 years, and sent it to University President Tony Waldrop, who was delighted to honor the promise that his predecessor made to the family.

“I was very moved by the story of these children who had been born in our hospital and now wanted to attend our University,” said Waldrop. “Every child cared for in our NICU holds a special place in the hearts of our University community, and we’re so pleased that they will be staying with the South family as students.”

Mark and Jeannette had decided to wait to tell the quintuplets about the academic scholarships, making sure that the decision to attend South was one that their children could make on their own. They surprised their children with the scholarship this spring.

“We will always be grateful to South and my grandfather for the scholarship we are receiving,” said Shipley. “This is a great legacy. Education is very important in our family.”

The quintuplets have all developed distinct personalities and interests, helped along by their mom, who home-schooled them and guided their intellectual pursuits. They all are creative, enjoying reading and writing, especially Isabella, who has started writing chapters for a book. Hallie enjoys photography and creating videos, while Shipley loves to exercise and fly planes. He’s done several solo flights and is working to earn his pilot’s license. Amelia Rose loves to play the guitar and drums and compose music. Sophia plays the piano, enjoys exchanging letters with friends and loves small children.

The Zimlich family is also close-knit. They volunteer together with the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement and assisted living facility, and are active in their church, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The quintuplets have two siblings, 23-year-old Temple and Julius, 15.

In thinking about how far they have come as a family, the Zimlich parents say it was hard, but their faith carried them through the tough and challenging times of raising their children.

“The USA NICU, along with our faith, helped us bring our babies home,” said Jeannette. “Now that they are preparing for college, we are still planning ahead and not allowing things in life to overwhelm us. We learned years ago to start early, and to not sweat the small stuff.”

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