Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Double the Support as Twins Graduate Together

Getting to this milestone was literally a painful process for one sister, while the other provided the support to lead to a double celebration at Commencement.

Identical twins Adrienne Wells and Melissa Golyski took separate pathways after graduating from Lakota West High School eight years ago, but they marched together at the University of Cincinnati 2009 December Commencement Ceremony. It's been a march on a rocky road for Melissa, who graduated with her bachelor's degree in accounting. But through the support of sister Adrienne, who earned a master's degree in counseling from the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), as well as Adrienne's experience in working as an academic advisor for CECH Student Services, both sisters can celebrate a great achievement.

Melissa first entered the U.S. Army after graduating from high school, while Adrienne entered UC to earn a bachelor's degree in secondary language arts education in 2006. After Melissa finished active duty with the Army, where she also worked as a Chinese linguist, she too decided to pursue her degree at UC beginning in 2004. But four weeks into her final senior quarter in 2008, something went painfully wrong. Constant sprains on a weak ankle led to reconstructive surgery and a boot-cast, but on its removal the pain kept getting worse. Then, the pain became debilitating. It spread all the way up her legs and left her wheelchair-bound. “If the wind blew across her legs, it felt like she was being cut with knives,” recalls twin sister Adrienne. “She was being told she might never walk again.”

Melissa was forced to drop out of UC and Melissa, her daughter, Kaitlyn, who was three years old at that time, and Melissa's mother relocated to North Carolina where Melissa received experimental treatments for the painful condition diagnosed as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), a chronic neurological condition that can result in severe burning pain and extreme sensitivity to the touch. “We packed in one weekend,” she says. “They made a bed for me in the back of a cargo van because I couldn't sit in a chair.”

“It was the worst ride of my life,” she recalls. “We had to make a lot of pit stops because the disorder causes a lot of muscle spasms. On a pain scale, a Charley Horse-type of spasm would rate as a one. These spasms are on a pain scale of 10.”

The right combination of drug therapy and physical therapy brought the condition under control, but when Melissa decided to finish her degree in South Carolina, she encountered difficulty transferring credits. That's when twin sister Adrienne, a newlywed, invited Melissa and her little girl to come back to Cincinnati, live with Adrienne and her husband David Wells in West Chester, and finish Melissa's bachelor's degree while Adrienne worked at UC and completed her master's degree.

As an advisor in CECH, Adrienne worked with Melissa's advisor in the College of Business to help her sister get back on track toward her degree. “I'd baby-sit anytime she would need me to, and I also worked with UC's Disability Services to help her out,” Adrienne says. “I am so proud of her, just the accomplishment of her graduating. And, I knew UC would have the support to help her get there.”

Adrienne says she's also proud of her own accomplishment of achieving a master's degree. “I feel like this brought me to a new level, both intellectually and personally. I think this degree really helped me find my true calling as a professional,” she says.

Melissa, meanwhile, thanks her sister for smoothing out the pathway to a bachelor's degree. “She has helped out with my daughter so much—Kaitlyn calls her ‘Aunt Dee Dee,' and it was tough, being a mom and going to school. But then, Kaitlyn would go off and play with ‘Aunt Dee Dee's' hair and be entertained while I could focus on school. She has been totally there for me from Day One.”

The sisters' parents came to graduation, as did Adrienne's husband and Melissa's fiancé, James Watson, a captain in the U.S. Army. After graduation, Melissa and her daughter will be moving to South Carolina, where she plans to advance her education to become a CPA. Adrienne will continue her career with UC and CECH.