Illini Double Trio

Three O’Brien siblings attended the U of I together in the 1980s. Today, triplets from the next generation are doing the same

Jack Brendan, Fiona and Brendan O'Brien Left to right: Recent high school grads Jack, Fiona and Brendan O'Brien are headed this fall to the U of I.(Image courtesy of Kevin O'Brien)
Three O’Brien siblings attended the U of I together in the 1980s. Today, triplets from the next generation are doing the same

Growing up, O’Brien twins Kevin, ’87 MEDIA, and Kathy, ’87 LAS, and 11-months-older brother Peter, ’87 LAS, always attended the same schools in the same grade. So the trio never even considered splitting up for college.

“We were all 100 percent responsible for paying for our own schooling,” Kevin recalls. “We viewed Illinois as our best available option from both an academic and fiscal perspective.”

And a family perspective. Brother Jim, ’81 LAS; sister Ellen, ’85 LAS; and brother John, MD ’88 UIC, also had chosen the University.

During their freshman year, the trio “had a lot of classes together, so we shared notes, hung out on the quad and were study carrel buddies on many a school night,” Peter notes. “I will also always remember the free pizza.”

Alumni family members made sure the triplets were “imprinted” with the Illinois campus from an early age; a young Fiona enjoys the Main Quad. (Image courtesy of Kevin O’Brien)

Kathy would generously spring for Pizza World, but not for Papa Del’s, because “we were on a budget,” Peter says.

Brothers will be brothers, however. “One day Peter and I were sitting on either side of Kathy and noticed she was dozing off during class,” Kevin recalls. “We both started discreetly nudging her textbook off her desk until it fell and hit the floor with a loud boom, causing Kathy to wake up and bolt upright in her seat. Of course she had the last laugh, as she got an A in the class and Peter and I had Bs.”

Kathy made her career in trade publications, Kevin in executive search and Peter in banking operations.

Kevin is the father of triplets Brendan, Jack and Fiona, and while the second generation trio went to the same school pre-K through eighth grade, Fiona went to a different high school, but “really missed being with her brothers,” Kevin notes.

Brendan and Jack enjoyed Illini athletics from an early age. (Image courtesy of The Daily Illini)

So it was no surprise when they chose to attend the U of I together, starting in fall 2021. The older generation had a little something to do with it.

“From a very young age, we have taken the kids to Illinois for sporting events or just to wander around,” Kevin said. “They developed an appreciation for Papa Del’s and Murphy’s.”

“I’m looking forward to having my brothers with me at the U of I because I will automatically have two people looking out for me and people to go to if I need help,” Fiona says. “My dad has told me how much having his siblings with him helped. I feel the same way.”

 Editor’s note: Kathy O’Brien passed away as this story was being prepared for the web page.