Sibling Revelry: The Hughes Family Five

For the Hughes family, nothing says “way of life” quite like the letters “UMBC.”

Over the course of three decades, five out of eight Hughes siblings – J. Barry ’71, history; Stephen ’76, economics; Kevin ’79, economics; Brian ’80, mathematics; and Maureen Hughes Shields ’85, American studies – worked their way through college, eventually earning the first college degrees in their family’s history.

“The decision to attend UMBC was a no-brainer,” said J. Barry Hughes ’71, history, who currently serves as Judge of the Circuit Court for Carroll County. “Having the five of us live at home during college also kept us closer growing up… and we remain a close-knit family.”

Small Beginnings

The Hughes’ eight children grew up in a tiny Cape Cod in Relay, Md., and attended local Catholic elementary and high schools. In 1967, when the time came to attend college, son Barry started looking into the brand-new school down the street – UMBC.

Attending UMBC made it possible for the Hughes siblings to work while attending school, as well as continue to live at home. Even as college students, they had to squeeze into the house’s two small bedrooms – five boys in one, three girls in the other. Despite the tight quarters, an educational spirit drove the family.

“Much of the dinner table conversation (back then) centered around issues or ideas we were studying in school,” including women’s liberation and war, said Stephen, who acted in a number of plays (at one point he ran lines with former student Kathleen Turner) during college and after law school became a founding partner at Pope & Hughes.

Haven’t I Seen You Before?

Although each sibling’s college years were spaced out considerably from the others, they did overlap occasionally.

During his later years, brother Kevin – now a self-employed Certified Public Accountant – recalls having some trouble registering for classes due to his freshman brother Brian’s unpaid parking fines. (“Sorry, Kevin!” writes Brian, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University.)

Kevin also was able to use some of his elder brother Stephen’s books.

“He still had some of his notes from the classes he took,” he said, joking, “and most of his textbooks looked like they had never been opened!”

A True Family Affair

Once youngest daughter Maureen was ready for college, all her brothers had already graduated. She did, however, find a new kind of family in the faculty of UMBC. Close to leaving school to get married her junior year, Maureen found the support she needed to graduate after all.

“Tupper Webster, Nita Barbour and Mary Duru were such mentors and role models,” said Mrs. Shields, who went on to become an educational diagnostician. “They went above and beyond for me so that I could complete my senior year.”

In addition, brother Brian met his future wife, the former Linda B. Walden ’81, mathematics, at UMBC. The couple will celebrate 27 years of marriage this year.

Even beyond the five graduates, other members of the Hughes family have not been able to resist the pull of classes at UMBC. Sister Lil Hughes Knipp attended for a couple of semesters before finishing her degree elsewhere, and several of the siblings children have either applied to UMBC or will soon be Retrievers themselves.

The spirit even inspired the family matriarch, Lillian.

“Our parents, and particularly our mother, were fascinated by the new world of ideas that was opening up before us,” said Stephen. “It was a time of great debate and discussion in our household. This was so true, that after shepherding five children through UMBC, my mother enrolled and took several UMBC courses!”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted April 2007

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