A number of questionable Internet sources claim the chances of a mother having triplets are about 1 in 8,100.
The chances of those triplets, 17 years after their birth, ranking first, second and third in their graduating class are likely so low, it would take too long for this newspaper to figure out or to find someone to calculate it.
Regardless, such is the case with the Boden triplets of Atlanta.
Meet Allison, Stephanie and Lauren. They are 17 years old, and they graduate this month from Lakeside High School. Lauren is the school’s valedictorian–essentially because she earned an A in her AP Calculus BC class, the tougher of two calculus classes Lakeside High offered last fall. Through high school, Lauren has never earned less than an A.
Her two sisters have, however. In fact, the only Bs Stephanie and Allison Boden ever received in high school were in the same AP Calculus class they attended with Lauren. Up to that point, all three shared an essentially perfect high school academic record. So, as it goes, Lauren was named valedictorian recently and Stephanie and Allison are tied for salutatorian.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Stephanie said of the razor-thin distance between herself and her No. 1-ranked sister. “But Lauren earned it. She earned her A. It wasn’t that big a deal. It’s kind of like, ‘That one class. If I had only… you know.’… But it’s all right.”
"If she sounds a little like a seasoned athlete maturely lamenting the loss of a championship game, there’s an explanation for that too. The triplets and their 15-year-old sister, Susanne, have spearheaded two golf teams at Lakeside High that reached the state championships, and the triplets also play on the basketball and softball teams."
And while it’s that focus that lead the triplets to high levels on the field and in the classroom, their drive started with their parents. Their father, Scott Boden, is a professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University and is director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Their mother, Mary Boden, is also a doctor and worked for Cigna Healthcare as a medical director and vice president for the region.
“They got a lot of attention when they were young,” Scott said. “They understood that mom and dad’s job was to work and try and support the family, and their job was to work as hard as they could… to do well in school.”
When it came to studies, Scott and Mary were essentially strict, but they said they tried to create a zeal for learning among their daughters rather than using incentives or punishment as reasons to perform well.
“We didn’t use any carrots, and we didn’t use any sticks,” he said. “There was an expectation and a culture in this entire house that they needed to try their hardest. … If you score a 90 on a test, even if you get an A, theoretically stuff you didn't get right."
Genetics likely played its role as well. Scott said he was ranked seventh out of a class of 650 when he gradated from high school in 1978 in Livingston, N.J., a suburb of New York. Mary said she was ranked sixth in a class of 600 when graduated in 1978 in Terra Linda, Calif., north of San Francisco.
Scott and Mary met while in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After they moved to Atlanta they had triplets, who were born several weeks premature. Both parents were concerned about developmental issues. Allison, for instance, gave them a scare when Mary noticed odd arm movements that seemed like a symptom of cerebral palsy. Luckily, there was no problem. But Mary said she was focused on their education from day one.
“I’m not sure exactly what I did,” she said. “I tried to make sure that they were hitting their milestones. I read to them. We played with blocks. … A lot of it was just trying to make things fun and entertaining for them because they wanted to learn.”
And that continued through middle school and high school. As other high-achieving students grew older, Mary said, they found other interests. The triplets did too but none of it came at the expense of extraordinary academic performance, which sets them apart. They even scored the same on the ACT – 33 out of 36, placing them in the 99th percentile of test takers.
Allison said she remembered early exercises that may have helped her and her sisters get a jump ahead of other students.
“I can remember doing workbooks over the summer even in like first grade, so we were constantly learning over the summer. We were doing workbooks that were one or two grades ahead,” she said. “We’re really competitive. We really pushed each other to do better. … We knew that it was always easy to compare amongst ourselves. If one person did well on a test then everyone should have.”
If there’s any difference between their parents and the parents of other students, the triplets essentially agreed that it was a constant demand that they do their best – no matter the circumstances.
“A lot of kids that I know, their parents aren’t really involved and never really pushed them,” Stephanie said.
“They always put us first. They never stepped back and just let us go free,” Allison said. “They were always very involved with our education. Pretty much every aspect of our life.”
All three are headed to Pomona College in California next year, and the triplets have been eagerly recruited by the golf and softball team coaches, the sisters said. Each sister is deciding which sport to play.
“We all chose independently,” Stephanie said. “We didn’t necessarily want to go to the same schools.”
But that’s what happened anyway.
“We’ve always liked California,” Lauren said. “It’s right near the water and the mountains. And it’s a top school. We’re very different, but we have a lot of the same interests.”