Three brothers, one campus

​​How one family found its own path at Washington University

Leslie Smith Clarke and Richard Clarke (top row) say Washington University provides their sons (from bottom left) Sean Clarke, Matt Smith and Julian Clarke excellent resources and opportunities. But, unfortunately, no “buy two, get one free” tuition discount. “Believe me, I’ve asked,” Richard says. (Credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos )

As a high school student in Connecticut, Sean Clarke had no idea where he would attend college. He only knew where not to go – Washington University in St. Louis.

“With two brothers already here? No way,” recalled Sean.

Then, during a visit, Sean came to see what his brothers already knew about Washington University.

“It is such a friendly place,” Sean said. “I remember walking around, not sure where I was. I must have looked like a lost puppy because this girl came up and asked if she could help me find anything. I didn’t notice that sort of friendliness at any of the other colleges I visited.”

Today, Sean is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. Brother Matt Smith is a junior studying finance at Olin Business School, while brother Julian Clarke is a senior studying economics in Arts & Sciences.

Their mom, Leslie Smith Clarke, calls the arrangement a “slam dunk.”

“One move in, one parents’ weekend — it definitely makes it easy having them all here,” said Leslie, who was in St. Louis for her fourth Parent and Family Weekend with husband Richard Clarke.

By now, the couple knows its way around campus; has discovered St. Louis’ best restaurants; and has spent a fortune at nearby Bed Bath & Beyond in Brentwood. “Each of them has found his own place, but they also are here for one another,” she said.

Just as they were last month, when Sean, a member of the baseball team, broke his collarbone at practice. Sean is an outfielder for the Bears; Julian is a pitcher.

“I was so lucky to have them here,” Sean said. “Well, until I texted them to see if they could help me with my laundry because I don’t have use of my arm.”

“Yeah, I got that laundry text and was like, ‘I’m going to take a nap,’” Matt said.

“I just ignored it,” Julian added.

“Thanks for being there,” Sean deadpanned.

A place to be supported and succeed

Julian first learned about Washington University from his mother, Merrie Hevrdejs, who earned her architecture degree here in 1982. She died of cancer when he and Sean were young.

Brothers Sean Clarke, Matt Smith and Julian Clarke meet their parents for breakfast at the DUC during Parent and Family Weekend. (Credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos)

“She loved it, and she stayed tight with her friends after she graduated,” Julian said. “She made it sound like a really great place.”

Still, Julian decided to apply to his father’s alma mater – Dartmouth College.

“I didn’t get in, and I think it was hard for my dad,” Julian said.

“No, not at all,” Rick answered. “I see that this is a better place for you.”

Indeed, Julian has excelled at Washington University. He is president of the Interfraternity Council, serves on the Undergraduate Council and co-founded the business

Smith has thrived too, taking a position as a management teaching assistant. Like Sean, he was wary of following his brother here.

“I originally was looking at much bigger schools, but I have found that I can chart my own path here,” Smith said.

The brothers get together for dinner less frequently than Leslie had hoped, but they share common interests. Julian is a member of Beta Theta Pi; Matt is a member of Sigma Chi. Sean plans to rush in the spring.

“We’re both fighting over him,” Julian said.

All three brothers also are involved in Relay for Life, which raises money for cancer research and provides support services for cancer patients and their families.

Richard said Merrie would be proud her sons chose Washington University.

“All of her friends are creative and really deep thinkers, which says a lot about the institution,” Richard said. “Still, I didn’t really know that much about WashU until we came out.

“Once I saw all of the resources that surround the students, from the advisers in the dorms to the ones for academics and in the Career Center, I knew this would be a place where they would be supported and succeed.”