Three Siblings Recall a Childhood on Campus

When Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill in 1944, he enabled millions of veterans to earn college degrees. That in turn affected future generations. Three siblings who grew up on campus while their parents were undergrads on the G.I. Bill recently returned to UT to contemplate their family history.

“Education was a huge priority in our family,” says Sonja Weitzel, who visited campus Saturday with her brothers Scott and Stuart Torgeson. “Our parents were the first in their families to go to college, and it wasn’t easy for them.”

Donald and Eloise Torgeson both served in World War II and enrolled at UT on the Army’s dime. In 1946, they met in Austin and married a year later.

Sonja, Scott, and Stuart were all born while their parents were undergrads and spent their early years living in married student housing. Donald and Eloise didn’t have money for cribs, so the babies slept in dresser drawers. The parents would meet on campus before class to hand off the kids. Once, they had to quickly move to a new apartment due to a polio outbreak.

“My mother still managed to earn her degree in four years, despite having three babies during that time,” Sonja says. Donald took some time off to work, but he graduated, too.

The three siblings, now in their 60s, came back to Austin for the first time in years to see where their family started. They even found a house in Hyde Park where their parents used to live. “We found out it was slated to be demolished in the next week,” Sonja says, “so we’re lucky we got to see it.”

Top photo by Jeff Heimsath; family photo courtesy Sonja Weitzel


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