Twins Elaine and Eleanor Demarjian (’64 MA) have traveled the world together. Having visited more countries than they can count, they prefer to list the places they have not seen. One of their favorite trips was not to some faraway land, but to UConn, to which they recently returned for the first time in 50 years.
“The whole layout of the campus, all the changes that were made, really surprised us. The expansion of the University is remarkable. It truly overwhelmed us,” Eleanor says.
Although this trip was their first time visiting the University in half a decade, that has not stopped the Demarjian twins from donating generously to the University for many years. Their trip to UConn in August was the first time they were able to see firsthand how their donations have made an impact.
“We’re glad that our support will provide some life-changing results for the future students coming in. That idea spurred us on to support the school even more so. We try to give as much as we can,” Elaine says. “We have always considered ourselves to be very lucky to have been a part of this University.”
“When Neag came into existence, we supported it and just embraced its goals and ideas completely. We knew that this School could do great things for students, and we were happy to see that we were right,” Elaine says.
Elaine and Eleanor, both Rhode Island natives, were working as teachers at different schools when they first heard about the University of Connecticut graduate education program in the Neag School. The principal of the elementary school where Eleanor taught approached her one day and insisted that she apply for the master’s degree program at UConn.
“He had two application forms – one for me and one for Elaine – and urged us to fill them out. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do this, and he could tell I had my doubts. I guess the principal got into cahoots with another teacher and locked the doors of the school. They wouldn’t open them until I filled out the application,” Eleanor says, laughing.
“I am very happy we filled out that questionnaire. We never regretted it for a second,” Elaine says.
While the trip from Rhode Island to Connecticut was lengthy, their car rides to and from class provided the sisters ample time to review for exams, debate topics, and think of new questions to ask their professors.
“It took us 3½ years to get our degrees. We’re the type of people who don’t give up. Once we start a certain thing, we go all the way,” Eleanor says.
Upon graduation from UConn, Elaine’s and Eleanor’s teaching careers came full circle as they both taught English at Woonsocket Middle School, the school they had attended themselves as children. While their students had no trouble telling them apart, the adults had a much harder time.
“The principal of the school could not tell us apart at all. Even to this day he still has trouble!” Elaine says.
“Working at the same school was an enjoyable experience because we were able to practice some of the ideas we picked up from UConn. We took what we learned and had some fun with it. One summer, Elaine and I decided to do team-teaching. We developed an advanced curriculum for the better-than average students in grades 5 and 6, and it worked out extremely well,” Eleanor says. “The students were able to go above and beyond and really challenge themselves. It was a really rewarding experience.”
Since retiring from teaching, Elaine and Eleanor have lived together and kept each other busy by reading, doing crossword puzzles, and volunteering at the local hospital.
“We love to give back to the community. We manage to get out every so often. We don’t sit in front of the TV at all. We are no couch potatoes!” Elaine says.
The twins are currently planning their next trip to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, preferring to travel to smaller cities where they can see the culture firsthand.
“We never like to be pinned down, we are constantly on the move,” Elaine says.
And just as the twins applied on a whim to the University of Connecticut many years ago, Elaine and Eleanor continue to live by that same adventurous spirit.
“Whenever an opportunity comes along, we’ll always grab it,” Elaine says.
“Always,” added Eleanor.