ACU grads to carry on family tradition

Staff Writer,
Abilene Reporter-News
May 4, 2000

Graduation at Abilene Christian University on Saturday may look more like a family reunion than a commencement exercise.

Brother and sister Philip and Whitney Sapienza, Philip's wife, Candice Crowthers Sapienza, and a cousin, Jason Groves, will all walk the stage to the cheers of family members from as far away as St. Louis and Maine.

In addition to the graduates, two more cousins, Jennifer Groves and Stephanie Grigg, are ACU students. After some serious calculating, Whitney determined that the current crop of graduates will be joining at least 32 others who attended ACU.

Philip actually finished his chemistry degree in December but opted to get his diploma Saturday so the entire family could be present.

"I figured it would be better to do it all at once so they wouldn't have to make so many trips," he said.

Philip and Whitney were born in Houston but grew up in Maine, where many of the family members live. Their maternal grandfather, Stanley Shipp, started the ACU tradition back in the 1940s. His brother and his wife's siblings all attended ACU as well.

Shipp and his wife, Marie, whom he met at ACU, spent much of their lives in Switzerland where he was a missionary. His experiences as well as parental influence convinced Whitney and Philip that ACU was the place for them.

Their mother, Pamela, also attended ACU through her junior year. She later married Richard Sapienza and the family eventually migrated north to Maine.

But Abilene was never far from their minds. At first Philip, who is the oldest by 13 months, didn't want to go to school so far away from home. But one trip to the campus he had heard so much about all his life changed his mind.

"I came to Abilene and fell in love with it," he said.

The relationship among students and faculty and the school's atmosphere impressed Philip so much that he knew he had made the right decision.

For Whitney, there was never a decision to make. She knew all her life she wanted to attend a Christian university and ACU was her first choice.

"I needed the atmosphere," she said.

After graduation, Whitney will move to San Antonio to live with a grandmother and look for a teaching job. Philip and his wife, Candice, will move to Pennsylvania where she grew up.

If it hadn't been for their hailing from different states, Philip and Candice might not have met. They were chosen their freshman year to carry their state's flag in the Parade of Flags that marks the beginning of a new school year at ACU.

They struck up a conversation while waiting for the ceremony to begin. By the next year they were dating. Last year, they got married.

On Saturday, both sets of parents will be present, along with enough other family members to fill a section of ACU's Moody Coliseum.

"It'll be a big family shindig time," Whitney said.

Contact higher education writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or
Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications


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