At 5 a.m. in winter, when most of their McGill peers were fast asleep, the Giordano sisters would trudge in the dark to the McConnell Arena.
Angelina (Angel), Starina (Peggy) and Gustina (Tina) all competed on McGill’s figure-skating team.
It was just one of the experiences the sisters, triplets, shared during their undergraduate degrees at McGill.
They grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Angelina, a competitive ice dancer, moved to Michigan when she was in high school to train with two-time Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
“I was away from my sisters for about a year and a half,” says Angelina, BA&Sc’20. She moved back home after an injury. “What we all learned from that experience is that we really like all being in the same place.”
Peggy, BA’19, and Tina, BA’19, graduated last year, while Angelina completed her undergraduate degree this spring. It took her longer, Angelina explains, because she spent a semester doing an industrial practicum at an energy consulting firm, then suffered a concussion at the beginning of last semester that forced her to study part-time.
The sisters wondered if they were the first triplets to graduate from McGill. It turns out that triplets attending the University isn’t such a rare occurrence. The Giordanos are now the 14th set of triplets to graduate from McGill since 2005.
Like the rest of the Class of 2020, Angelina won’t have a convocation ceremony on McGill campus because of the pandemic. But her family has improvised in creative ways. Their father travelled to Montreal in May and Tina bought her graduation garb. “I got all dressed up with the hat and gown and we went on campus and re-enacted the graduation ceremony,” Angelina says. “So, I feel like I’ve got my own personalized convocation.”
Her parents came up with the idea of photoshopping a picture from Tina and Peggy’s convocation at McGill, which included Angelina between her sisters.
“They wanted to surprise me by putting the cap on my head and then submitting this photo to our local newspaper,” Angelina says. (That’s the photo you see at the top of this story.)
The sisters are dual U.S.-Canadian citizens. Peggy, Tina and their father visited McGill and fell in love with the campus when Angelina competed in Montreal at an ice dance competition when she was 15.
Tina had seriously considered going to the University of Toronto, but her sisters wanted to go to McGill. “I wanted to be with them, and I chose to go there, too,” she says.
It doesn’t sound like she has any regrets. “I absolutely loved McGill,” says Tina, who has remained at the University for graduate studies. She’s going into her second year of a master’s in educational and counselling psychology.
She and Angelina, who both minored in French, joined a French theatre company during their first year on campus and performed in a play. “We got to experience the French side of McGill and then just getting involved in the community, going to cafés… Montreal has a lot to offer both culturally and academically and we kind of took full advantage of that.”
Angelina and Tina also both wrote articles for The McGill Tribune. Peggy shared her sisters’ interest in journalism, serving as the layout editor for the Faculty of Law’s Quid Novi student newspaper during her first year at McGill.
All three sisters took advantage of the McGill Abroad program and spent time studying in France, with Tina and Angelina going to Lyon while Peggy went to Paris.
“I think that the education that I received was exceptional,” says Peggy. As were the people she met. “I think that the school does a really good job of integrating people from different cultures and backgrounds and still making them feel welcome.
“I think McGill has a good balance of [being] a somewhat large university, but I never felt like I was at a big school.”
In her arts and science program, Angelina took some classes at Macdonald Campus and also at McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve, which protects 1,000 hectares of natural primeval forests on Mont Saint-Hilaire, about 40 kilometres from Montreal. It was “very cool”, she says, to have a textbook experience and then go apply it in the field.
“I feel like McGill, if you take advantage of it, does a good job of presenting things outside of the classroom because having the dual component to an education is really important.”
On campus among their friends, Tina and Angelina, who are identical, were often mistaken for each other.
“That has created some very funny interactions,” Angelina says, recalling how an acquaintance once mistook Tina for her, and the two of them ended up becoming good friends.
Peggy, who did a double major in political science and sociology, wants to be a lawyer and has applied to McGill’s Faculty of Law. “I’ve been involved in politics since graduating McGill,” including working on “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
“I was on the ground in Iowa, Nevada and Missouri as an organizer. And now I’m working as the field manager for a congressional race in Virginia.”
Tina is interested in inclusive education. “I’m more focussed now on systematic change and how do we make the educational system and society more inclusive. So, it’s less about becoming a psychologist and more about just working to make spaces work for everyone.”
Angelina says she has many different interests, but one main goal: “trying to work in a way that will ensure that the climate and the environment doesn’t get ruined.”
Three cheers for the Giordano graduates!