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All in the Family

Apr 11, 2014
by Laura Smith

Flagler College is just 45 years old, yet already the young institution has amassed a coterie of families who have seen multiple members — and sometimes multiple generations — graduate from the college.

And while time, technology, and campus-wide growth may have shaped dramatically different college experiences for many of these family members, one thing has stayed the same — the sense of community pride enjoyed by all alumni. As Ann King, ‘87, puts it: “The Flagler family stays together.”

Take the Tinlin family: with five immediate and extended family members all having graduated from Flagler in the last four decades, Judge Charles “Chuck” Tinlin has a pretty good perspective. He graduated from Flagler in 1976, and was followed by his brother-in-law Brian Wilson, ‘82, and his sister-in-law Michelle Wilson, ‘93. His two daughters, Chelsea, ‘08, and Savannah, ‘13, have continued the legacy to date, and his wife Mary serves as the college’s associate dean of counseling.

Tinlin remembers when there were tennis courts on the west lawn, when there were classes at Markland House, and when Ponce Hall was home to both the women’s and men’s dorms. He admits that more than a few years have gone by since he walked the campus as an undergraduate.

“When I meet current students today, I tell them Henry Flagler was my roommate,” he said, laughing.

But he also points out that though much has changed about Flagler through the years, much has also stayed the same, including the college’s reputation for close-knit community ties, small classes and individualized attention for students.

He and his daughter Chelsea both had similar paths to Flagler. They started out at much larger schools (Chuck at the University of Miami, Chelsea at Florida State University) but found themselves feeling disconnected in those large environments and wanted a smaller school experience. Both beat a path to Flagler College at their earliest opportunity, and they’ve never looked back.

“Obviously it has grown a lot, but it’s still a small school, and it still offers that very personal touch,” he said. “That’s the legacy. I’m very proud to have graduated from Flagler. And I would like to see my grandchildren attend Flagler College.”

“Flagler is now part of our family history,” said Ann King, who met her husband John at Flagler in the late ‘80s and whose daughter Shelby is currently enrolled. King has also enjoyed seeing a niece, Toni Oliva, and a nephew, Anthony DiMassa, receive their diplomas last December.

“The Flagler experience is something we’ll always have to share,” she said. “And it even extends beyond my own family. When I lived in California, there was a day when I was stuck in traffic on the 405 Freeway, and I looked over and saw someone I knew from Flagler College. We were both so excited to see each other. The Flagler family stays together.”

The Mercado family has one of the largest legacy tallies in the college’s existence: no fewer than seven members of the extended Mercado family have graduated from or attended Flagler since 1975, including two married couples who met on campus and one daughter — Kora Dawn Mercado Stoll, ‘01 — whose middle name is a tribute to long-time Flagler professor Dawn Wiles.

“My wife and I met through Dawn Wiles,” said Kora’s father, Douglas Mercado, ‘75. “We gave our daughter her middle name to honor Dawn.”

He arrived at Flagler on a soccer scholarship in the early ‘70s. “I met my wife there. My daughter met her husband there. My brother was a Flagler student. My niece is a current student … the list goes on,” he said, laughing.

Laura English Dawson, ‘99, credits Flagler College with her very existence, considering that her parents met at the college in the late ‘60s. Janet Wiseman English, ‘73, and David English, ‘74, came to Flagler as scholarship students and fell in love. When Laura enrolled at Flagler more than two decades later, she arrived at the dormitory and found out that — unbeknownst to her or her mother — she had been assigned the same Ponce Hall room that Janet had lived in back in the early ‘70s.

“Flagler has always been a very familiar and comfortable place for my family,” she said. “In fact, I have a 1½-year-old and we were just down there last weekend. I told him I hope he falls in love with Flagler, too — because it’s where he will be going to college.”

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