Diamonds are forever -- and so are some names

by Kate Mulley | 2/3/04 6:00am

Most people who hear of others with roman numerals tacked on to the ends of their names think of prestige and history -- sometimes even a lack of creativity on the part of the parents.

Some children named for the men and women before them spend their entire lives living in the shadow of the past successes of their lineage. Others derive strength from their families and embrace the responsibility that carrying on the family name requires of them.

Dartmouth College, being a prestigious Ivy League school, is the alma mater of many such students who follow in their parents' and grandparents' and often great-grandparents' footsteps.

Oftentimes it's disconcerting to find oneself blitzing someone who seems like a character from a world cultures textbook rather than a lab partner. Not all inherited names, however, come from Civil War heroes and British aristocracy.

When Allie Levine '07 received her housing assignment the August before her freshman year, she thought the college had made a grave mistake.

She was assigned to a double in New Hamphire Hall, with James H. Austin V '07. With a school as small as Dartmouth, the housing office couldn't be so blind as to assign her to a co-ed room, right?

Or maybe they thought that her name was Alexander, not Alexandra. She called ORL and they told her that they had been expecting her call and that her roommate was in fact a girl.

"I was shocked. It wasn't the James that threw me, more that she was a V. I had heard of James King, but never a girl who was a V," Levine said.

Austin comes from a line of five James Austins dating back to her great-grandfather. So, when it came time for Austin's parents to name their first daughter, they looked to her paternal grandfather, James Hannah Austin III, to provide a strong name for their daughter.

Throughout the years, James has grown accustomed to the many confused looks she gets when she introduces herself, and she still enjoys explaining the rarity of her name to people who question her.

"I tell the family name story a lot, but I don't mind; it hasn't really gotten old yet. People have a right to be surprised." Austin said.

Charles F. Kettering IV '07 was named for his great-great grandfather, an engineer who held over 140 patents, including leaded gasoline, four-wheel brakes, automatic transmission and the first electric cash register.

Charles F. Kettering also founded the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, Delco, and established the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, the management of which has stayed in the family since its inception.

Charles' son, Eugene named his son after his father, setting the stage for a string of Charles F. Kettering's to follow.

Charles F. Kettering IV followed his grandfather to Dartmouth and plans to continue the name's tradition.

"If I have a boy, I certainly plan on continuing the naming tradition--not only because such a tradition is a special thing, but also because I want my great-great grandfather's legacy to live on." Kettering said.

This pride in carrying on the family name remains true for the majority of Dartmouth students who are the fourth in a line of relatives before them.

Ed Molleo IV '07 also plans to name his son after his great grandfather, despite there already being difficulty in keeping names straight in his family.

The Edward Molleos are each called different variations on "Edward" by family members and friends, with many overlapping nicknames. It can cause trouble when they get too many people together at the same time.

Even in the house, when there are only a few Edward Molleo's at any given time, the confusion doesn't necessarily subside. Molleo spoke of the "light comic relief when I answer questions to a telemarketer about 'insurance for those over the age of 50' and such."

Tommy Thompson '06, the fourth Earl Thompson, has family names on both sides that have been passed down to him and his brother. Thompson, whose father is called Tom and whose grandfather was Earl, remained unnamed for the first three days of his life. His father wanted him to be named after him, but his mother wasn't as keen on the idea.

"On the last day she's in the hospital, Mom calls Dad up at work and tells him 'I signed the birth certificate, he's Earl the IV.'"

Thompson's younger brother also found himself to be a keeper of the flame when he too received a coveted family name.

Some people's names go back even farther than four generations. Will Osborn '04 is only the fourth William Henry Osborn in his immediate ancestry, but the name William Osborn goes back as far as his ancestor who sailed from England to Salem, Mass., in 1684.

The Osborn family has stayed in the New York and New Jersey area, where there is an Osborne castle in Garrison, New York.

With a name going back as far as Osborns', the women in the family were made to understand that their side of the family would never be represented in their first sons' names. Osborn said that the women in the family "understood the desire to keep the string going, primarily due to coercion from my grandfather."

For Donald Wilson III '04, it was his grandmother who more or less forced the name upon his parents when they were naming him, to keep both her husband's and son's name alive.

The first Donald Wilson graduated from Dartmouth in 1938, and Wilson feels especially connected to his family history having followed the grandfather he never met to college.

Wilson still has not decided whether to continue the family name, perhaps because he recognizes the confusion that having multiple family members with the same name creates.

Like Molleo, Wilson also cited the difficulty in taking telephone calls and filling medical prescriptions when there is more than one person with the same name.

As seen in Austin's case, names aren't always passed down from through paternal lines either, which is the case of the family of Scott Kennedy '05.

Kennedy's sister, Heningham, is the 14th generation to possess the name. The first Heningham was a lady in waiting for Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. The name has been passed on throughout the centuries, though not always directly from mother to daughter, and also to both men and women.

Kennedy noted that "explaining my family tree on the chalkboard in French class was very difficult because my sister, mother and grandmother all have the same name, and we hadn't learned to count past 10 to differentiate them."

Kennedy's brother, Bruce Lee Kennedy II '00, was also named after a family member, his paternal grandmother.

This also caused some confusion because members of the French class couldn't understand whether he was male or female, despite having a distinctly male name.

For some Dartmouth students with roman numerals at the end of their names the significance is purely convenience and inheritance-based.

F. Curtis Tucker III said of his family that "the designation of Jr., third, fourth, etc., helps distinguish our mail from one another and yet still be able to inherit the monogrammed handkerchiefs."

Evidently, this may very well be the most important reason to keep a family name alive.