EDUCATION

Lomaka quadruplets attend Virginia Tech

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Four majors. Four residence halls. Four tuition bills.

The Lomaka family of Richmond made history this week as three sons and one daughter became the first quadruplets to enroll at Virginia Tech.

Born moments apart 18 years ago to Tina and Steve Lomaka, the quadruplets began their college careers together as Hokies.

Greg, Steve, Chris and Kate Lomaka are four of about 9,300 students who will move by Saturday onto the Tech campus, which will have about 30,000 students this fall.

Classes begin Monday. It was Steve the younger who led the quads on their way to Tech, having developed a love of Hokie football while still a small boy.

"I can't wait to meet them," Tech admissions director Mildred Johnson said. In her 17 years at the university, Johnson said "we've had many, many twins and lots of triplets."

But the Lomakas are the first quadruplets in institutional memory to attend together. The family is used to attention.

"We've never been celebrities," Kate Lomaka said. "But we've just always been known as the quads."

Steve and Tina married in 1982. They struggled to have children and adopted Lauren, now 22 and in her first year at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, also in Blacksburg.

After Lauren, the Lomakas kept trying.

"We thought we'd try one more fertility treatment," Steve Lomaka said.

On April Fools Day 1994, doctors confirmed Tina's pregnancy. Ultrasound showed triplets. Later, the picture shifted, and the Lomakas found out they were having quadruplets.

The children were delivered on Oct. 4, one minute apart just before midnight, Steve Lomaka said. About two years later, Matt came along. In 1998, the family moved from Philadelphia to Richmond. Virginia has so many good schools to choose from, Tina said.

With a house full of children, their lives became a juggling act. The quads were small and had some health issues.

"Day care wouldn't take them," Tina Lomaka said.

But the family quickly adapted to the situation, a skill they have honed over their years together. In the beginning, Steve worked five days a week, while Tina stayed home with the kids.

On weekends, they reversed those roles, Tina Lomaka said. As the children grew, went to school, joined track and swimming and football, Tina's nursing schedule changed with their activities.

At an early age, Steve the younger loved football, and by extension said he came to love Tech.

He was the first to apply to the school, technically the only application he filled out, he said. Slowly, his siblings came around to the idea, too. Greg, the first in the birth order, will major in statistics.

Steve the younger will study business. Chris, who calls Tech "awesome," is a building construction major.

And Kate, the youngest of the quads, will major in human nutrition, foods and exercise.

The family arrived at Tech at 8 a.m. Wednesday on the first day of move-in. Mom and Dad, little brother Matt and the quads all trekked back and forth from dorms to moving van four times.

An entourage of television and newspaper reporters shadowed the family as they packed dollies and hefted boxes - first to West Ambler Johnston Hall, then Pritchard, then Peddrew-Yates and finally, Slusher wing.

"Gosh, I'm sweating already," the elder Steve said on the second trip. "This is work." It took two and a half hours to move all four Lomakas into their respective dorms, and through the strain, the sweat and the confusion, the family acted as a practiced team working together under stress.

"We've had 18 years of practice," Greg said. Having most of their brood in one general area is a good arrangement for a tight-knit family.

"We've got five of these tucked right here," Tina said. "It's really ideal for us." But this week, the family's lives will all change, as the quads live apart from their parents, and one another, for the first time. Things at home will change, too.

For the first time in his life, Matt will have his parents' undivided attention.

"He'll either love it, or feel completely overwhelmed," Tina said.

For the Lomakas, as for most other families on campus this week, the first move toward independence is a joyful milestone peppered with loss.

The family is used to having dinner together nearly every night, sharing their stories from work and school, playing games and simply being together.

"I'm really going to miss that," Steve, the quads' dad, said.

While the circumstances have changed, Chris was adamant that the family won't change. "We have our core values," he said. Greg said the siblings have practiced for this moment most of their lives.

The quads have always pursued different interests, and had individual sets of friends. The younger Steve said he has already joined the Newman Community, the Catholic campus ministry at Tech.

To keep their traditions alive, the siblings have agreed to meet at campus Mass each Sunday, and perhaps share lunch afterward. Tina said she had teared up briefly Wednesday morning. But she kept her composure and her smile most of the day. She said she was saving her tears for the drive home.

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