They share the same name, the same parents and the same love of East Carolina University.
Now, the Parker quadruplets are finished with their first year of college. Payton, Patrick and Casey are Pirates while their fourth sibling, Caitlin, is studying at Johnston Community College near the family’s hometown in Dunn, North Carolina.
The Parker quadruplets are fourth-generation Pirates and have worn ECU gear since they were infants.
The “quads” are rare on ECU’s campus, and in the nation. In 2015, just 228 quad babies were born in the U.S., fewer than nearly 18 years ago when the Parker kids were four of 510 quads born that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I get a kick out of people’s reactions,” Patrick said of when people find out he’s a quad. “I typically have to explain to people what a quadruplet is. It’s not often you have quadruplets near you.”
In some ways, it seems like the Parkers were destined to go to ECU. They are the fourth generation in their family to attend. Their mother, Paige Parker, used to dress them up in ECU clothing when they were babies. They grew up tailgating Pirate football games.
Yet there was a time when they all considered going off in different directions for college. But Payton, Patrick and Casey say they are happy they all ended up at ECU.
“ECU has always been on my radar and our radar,” Casey said. “It’s been a school we’ve always been involved with. There was no reason for me to not consider ECU.”
On a typical day on campus, Payton, a music major with a voice performance concentration, can be found singing in the Fletcher Music Center (or at the Starbucks truck, where she is a frequent customer). Casey, an Honors College student majoring in fine art, is usually holed up in a studio at Jenkins Fine Arts Center, and Patrick, an applied atmospheric science major, weaves in and out of Joyner Library. Contrary to popular belief, they are not attached at the hip, although they share an incredibly close bond. Payton and Casey both live in Gateway Residence Hall, although in separate wings, and Patrick lives nearby in Tyler Residence Hall. They text often and meet up for meals three to four times per week. When one goes silent on the group chat for three or four days, the others start texting.
Where are you?
Are you OK?
Born in 1998 at WakeMed in Raleigh, the quads came as a surprise to mom Paige and marked the end of her sleep-filled nights.
“Sleep was probably the biggest challenge,” she said. “As babies, they would wake up almost constantly. By the time I had fed one and gotten to the fourth one, the first one was hungry again.”
When they were a little older, going out was the main hurdle. “It was like herding cats,” Paige said. “They’d go four directions. So I developed a system where I would hold hands with one on either side, and those would have to hold hands with the third and fourth one.”
The Parker quadruplets, pictured here with their grandmother, grew up tailgating ECU football games. Their mother, Paige, would often dress Patrick in football jerseys and Casey, Caitlin and Payton up as cheerleaders.
As they grew into young adults, they developed distinct personalities. Payton is chatty and organized, Patrick friendly with a dry sense of humor, Casey artistic and quiet, and Caitlin observant and down-to-earth.
Now that they’re away at college, the house in Dunn is much quieter.
“In one way, like any parent, you miss them terribly,” Paige said. “For me it was a huge change. Four kids out of the house at once. But the good news is they still call me a lot and keep in touch.”
She’s happy three of them ended up at ECU, and finances were big part of that. Casey has Access and Centennial Honors College scholarships, and Patrick and Payton both have Page scholarships.
“All of the scholarships help greatly putting them through college,” she said.
As freshman year came to a close, the quads acknowledged the transition to college was challenging for each of them, whether because of the increased workloads and responsibilities or the culture shock of adjusting to college life.
“It’s really great having my siblings here because it’s one thing to be on your own in college, but another thing to have your own little support group here with you,” Payton said.
The fact that they have so many ties to the university helps, too.
“It’s inspiring to know that our parents were here. If they can do it and had so many fond memories, why can’t we?” Casey said. “It’s fun to talk about the university when we’re at home and share that with our parents.”
Did we mention the quads have identical twin younger brothers? At 14, it’s too early to tell whether ECU will get another set of Parker siblings in 2022, but here’s hoping.