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Twins top Purcell Marian class of 2011

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May 11, 2011

By David Eck

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — Purcell Marian High School’s commencement may cause some to do a double take.

For the first time in anyone’s memory, identical twins have the two highest grade point averages in the class. Ben Schultheis is the valedictorian, while Jake Schultheis is the salutatorian. The brothers attended Cardinal Pacelli School and are parishioners at Our Lord Christ the King Church in Mt. Lookout.


Their academic success caps a long journey of physical and speech therapies, surgeries and ongoing struggles with classwork in grade school, said Megan Schultheis, their mother.


Identical twins Jack, left, and Ben Schultheis are the valedictorian and salutatorian at Purcell Marian High School. (Courtesy photo)

The boys were born 14 weeks early and weighed less than two pounds each. They remained in neonatal care for about three months, Schultheis said, and there was serious doubt about their viability. Every stage — sitting, talking and walking — came late. They repeated kindergarten. They had comprehension issues with schoolwork, their math skills were poor, and they had a hard time reading. New approaches to math problems caused the boys to stress out.


“They should not be at the top of their class,” Schultheis said. “I am beyond thrilled. They worked really hard to get there.”   


Their academics started to improve when the twins reached seventh grade. They began to understand the work and found joy in learning.


“I just didn’t have any concept of this level of achievement,” their mother said. “They got into high school and they just took off. They were late bloomers, but it was a beautiful bloom. It was worth it. I just can’t describe it. It’s just a real miracle.”


The brothers took advanced placement and college-level courses throughout their years at Purcell Marian, including an advanced algebra I class as freshmen, said Purcell Marian guidance counselor Don Loos. They also took a calculus II course at Xavier University and received two of the highest grades in the class.


Ben Schultheis will graduate from Purcell Marian with a 98.5 grade point average, and his brother has a 97.4 GPA. They are attending the University of Dayton to study mechanical engineering.


The twins motivate each other in the classroom.


“We both like to learn, and we both work really hard,” Ben Schultheis said. “We want to do well. We compete with each other in pretty much everything. We push each other all the way.”


They have a good group of friends, and both enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction.


“We’re just best friends,” Jake Schultheis said. “It’s nice to have your best friend at hand all the time.”


Megan Schultheis is an electrical engineer, and her husband, Patrick, is a biology professor at Northern Kentucky University. The family also includes a Emily, 15, and Sam, 10.


“I don’t think either of them ever had a grade lower than a 94,” Loos said. “They are so far ahead of me, it’s unreal. They are gems. Any college would be so much better off with them there.”


While they never set out to be the top two academic performers in their class, the brothers said they were pleased that other students considered them role models. A classmate once mentioned to a teacher how impressed he was with the Schultheises’ effort and it motivated him to work harder, Ben Schultheis said.


The two also participated in track and swimming during their time in high school. They were active in the school’s academic team, the Latin club and student council, Loos said.
“I think the other students are just awed by them,” Loos said.

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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