Esther Rupel and Alice Rohrer graduated from Manchester College in 1947.
Photo Provided by Chloe Leckrone

Twin Timbercrest Residents are MU Alums

Chloe Leckrone

Twins Esther Rupel and Alice Rohrer, age 95, have a long history with Manchester College, as they knew it, being members of the class of 1947. The two hold considerable insight into what life was like at Manchester six decades ago, as well as what it was like navigating college life as a twin.

Rupel and Rohrer grew up on a family farm near Walkerton, IN, with their parents and three older sisters, Lois, Glea and Annabel. When their mother was pregnant with them, she was unaware that she was going to have twins, though the sisters made sure to add that Esther is technically the youngest. Their father had hoped for “Jimmy or Johnny,”, said Rohrer with a chuckle. Instead, he ended up with five girls.

Rupel and Rohrer were very close as young girls, sharing most of what they had. “Of course, we slept together every place we went,” Rupel said. “You just knew who your bed partner was going to be.” The two were even baptized together at age 12. Rupel is grateful for their closeness that remains strong even today. “It was nice to always have a companion,” Rupel said. One downside of being a twin was that the two were so close that it was difficult to make other friends. “I never knew what it was to have a best friend because I already had somebody else,” said Rupel, gesturing to her sister.

With such a large family, the sisters’ parents had to find ways to save money. Because they were the same age and roughly the same size, Rupel and Rohrer often shared clothes and their mother dresses them in similar-looking outfits. “She thought she wouldn’t show partiality then,” Rohrer said. “But if one of us tore our dress and had to have it patched, then you had to wear that dress the rest of your days.”

At their high school graduation, Rohrer was valedictorian and Rupel was salutatorian. When it came time to award the Honors Citizenship Award from the American Legion, “the award had been written out for one of us and they gave it to the other,” Rupel said.

Soon after graduation, Rupel and Rohrer left for college. All three of their older sisters had attended Manchester College before them. Their oldest sister, as Rupel put it, “came on faith and 50 dollars; that’s all she had.” At Manchester, Rupel and Rohrer studied home economics and lived together in the residence halls for all four years. “We had one cake of soap, two toothbrushes though,” Rupel said. To save money they would buy one textbook and two workbooks for each of their classes, sharing whatever they could even into their adulthood.

Being a twin on campus caused much confusion, usually for the students and faculty. The sisters seem to have enjoyed messing with those around them, especially the professors. One professor could not tell the two apart in the slightest. In a chemistry class, located in an old, bare cement building that eventually became headquarters for Maintenance, the professor once asked for “the south Rupel to answer.” Rupel said: “That was part of the fun.”

Rupel recalled one instance that has remained in her head all these years. One day, as the twins were leaving the Administration building, they rounded the corner and ran into Andrew Cordier, a Manchester alumnus who taught as a professor of history and political science and went on to help organize the United Nations. Cordier was so surprised to see them together that he said: “Oh, so there’s two of you. That’s how you get around so fast.”

After four years of taking classes together and sharing dorm rooms, the sisters graduated in 1947, but were not able to walk with each other, as Rohrer graduated with distinction. The two went their separate ways and began their careers as teachers. However, they taught at schools roughly 20 miles apart, still close enough that they could see each other regularly. They would often use each other’s ideas for their class curriculum.

Eventually, Rohrer got married and had children. Three of Rohrer’s four children ended up attending Manchester, including Thelma Rohrer, Manchester University’s dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, who initially studied home economics like her mother before changing to art.

Today, Rupel and Rohrer remain “very close and very congenial,” as Rupel put it. They supported each other from a very young age and continue to do so today. The two reside at Timbercrest, a senior living community in North Manchester, their rooms not far from each other at all.