Campus & Community

Maxwell’s graduation wraps up family tradition

4 min read

College senior is fifth sister to graduate

“Education,” Irene Maxwell told her five daughters, “is the only thing that you can take all you want and there’s plenty left for everyone else. So make sure you take your share.”

Maxwell’s daughters, Cindy ’92, Linda ’96, Rita ’98, Ada ’02, and Dina ’06, heeded their mother’s advice, each in her turn making the long trek from New Brunswick, Canada, to Cambridge, Mass., to take their share of the education that Harvard has to offer.

On Thursday (June 8), with Dina’s graduation with the Class of 2006, the Maxwell’s 18-year association with Harvard – as undergraduates at least – finally ended.

“I never dreamed in all my life that this would happen,” Irene said. “I expected them to do well in school, but not to soar like they did.”

Each, except for Dina, of course, has gone on to graduate school after leaving Harvard. Today Cindy, who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1997, and Linda, who graduated from Yale Medical school in 2000, are doctors in Toronto, while Rita and Ada have both gone on to receive law degrees.

“Harvard has been such an amazing place for each and every one of us in different ways,” said Linda.

The sisters agreed that Dina’s departure was bittersweet for them all because it marked the end of an era, starting with Cindy’s arrival in 1988, during which a Maxwell sister was either on campus or on her way there.

Cindy said it never was a family plan for them all to attend. Her parents – Irene and her father Samuel, a Ghanaian physician, who died 10 years ago – encouraged them to go to college, she said. When Cindy was getting ready to graduate from New Brunswick High School she was considering mainly Canadian colleges. That changed one day when her mother suggested on a car ride that Cindy apply to an American Ivy League school.

“She planted a seed and everything came from there,” Cindy said.

So Cindy applied. And when she got a phone call telling her she had been accepted, she realized she faced an opportunity that she couldn’t turn down.

“Once I got accepted, I certainly had to try,” Cindy said.

Irene said she knew as she watched Cindy drive away with her father on that first trip to Harvard that life had suddenly changed.

The other sisters said they became increasingly familiar with Harvard with each sister who entered. Dina, who is considering a future in either journalism or law, said she didn’t feel pressure to apply to Harvard, but she’d heard so many positive stories from her sisters and visited so many times – since she was in the second grade – that she took the plunge too.

“I have known very few Harvard graduates who have created as much goodwill among other students and faculty during their years at the college as have the Maxwell sisters,” said David L. Evans, senior admissions officer.

Among their other activities, each daughter was involved with the Harvard Foundation while in Cambridge, with Ada receiving the Director’s Award in 2002 for her work enhancing intercultural and race relations in the Harvard community.

“Each of the Maxwell sisters has made outstanding contributions to the intercultural and diversity work of the Harvard Foundation,” said S. Allen Counter, Harvard Foundation director. “Throughout their college years, they were committed to bringing students of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds together in friendship to help shape the ethnically diverse Harvard family that we have today.”

Cindy credited their solid upbringing and the opportunities presented by Harvard for their success.

While it’s been fun being a college student, the last Maxwell daughter said she looks forward to the next challenge.

“It’s definitely been difficult and there’s definitely been a lot of growth, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Dina said of her Harvard years.

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