Tom and Tammy Wahl have three reasons to be proud.

Their eldest child, Noah, was Seymour High School’s valedictorian in 2008. Two years later, their other son, Ethan, was valedictorian.

And their only daughter, Chloe, is valedictorian for the Class of 2015.

“I look at them now as grown adults, and I have been truly blessed. They are good kids,” Tammy Wahl said. “I am so thankful for what they got (at Seymour). We are very, very fortunate, and I pray that they are good citizens. Good citizens in this country make a difference.”

Story continues below gallery

Tom Wahl is the other valedictorian in the family. He earned that honor when he graduated from Forest Park High School in Ferdinand in 1981.

“We didn’t have (Advanced Placement) classes. We didn’t have to work as hard as they do,” Tom Wahl said. “They’ve had to work a lot harder than I did throughout high school. We didn’t have to take homework home a whole lot. They did a lot of homework, a lot of late nights. A lot of work goes into it. It’s not something that just happened by chance. I think, for the large part, it’s something they really wanted to do, and they worked toward it.”

The siblings started their educations at St. Ambrose Catholic School in Seymour before moving on to Seymour High School.

While it’s a nice honor to be valedictorian and they know they put in a lot of work, the siblings all said they give credit to family, friends, coaches and teachers, too.

“I just relay it all back to our parents, really,” Noah Wahl said. “Just hard work and dedication, that’s how they were raised, and I think that they raised us the same way. Nothing ever comes easy, and we just try to work hard for everything.”

Family influences

Ethan Wahl said his older brother was a big influence.

“Seeing all of the awesome things he was doing. He was active in the community, active with our church. He played football, basketball and baseball, and he was still maintaining his grades to a very high level,” Ethan Wahl said. “So I was like, ‘If he is able to do this, this is something that’s important. It’s something that I want to emulate.’”

Chloe Wahl also pointed to family being an influence.

“Our parents obviously set a high standard for us, and they wanted the best for us, so they always taught us that,” she said. “The boys were always good role models for me that I could look up to them, and I knew what classes I needed to take. Just the people who influenced me throughout my life, they made such an impact that I wanted to make them proud and show them that I can strive to be like them.”

The siblings agreed St. Ambrose and Seymour High School both provided good education.

“St. Ambrose prepared us really well,” Noah Wahl said. “Then the high school has great classes and great teachers. Definitely once we got to college, I felt like Seymour High School prepared us really well just with the faculty, staff and teachers there.”

Ethan Wahl described the teachers and atmosphere at St. Ambrose as “amazing” and said the courses offered at the high school helped him prepare for college.

“I’ve told people this time and time again, I think my senior year of high school was just as difficult if not more difficult than my first year of college because it prepared me so well for that; and that’s a testament to the teachers there and the courses they offer,” Ethan Wahl said.

Academics a priority

Since he studied chemistry at the University of Indianapolis and now is in the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University, Ethan Wahl said the AP science courses taught by Rick Schuley at Seymour paid off.

“Through Seymour’s AP chemistry program, I felt so prepared for that and so ready, and the workload that he gave us there definitely prepared me for the workload that I was going to have in college,” Ethan Wahl said. “It made things easy, and there wasn’t as big of a transition as you would think just because of that.”

Expectations were high at both St. Ambrose and the high school, Chloe Wahl said.

“I think the fundamental background that we have from St. Ambrose helped a lot,” she said. “We’ve always had a high standard of what grades we need to get and how we need to be active in multiple parts of our lives, like in sports, in activities, but also keep up our grades. I think that just carried into high school.”

Academics have always been important to the Wahls.

“I wanted to do well so that once I finished college, I could give back to the people that helped me get to this point,” Noah Wahl said. “That’s what always pushed me to do well in school, is trying to be able to give back once I was done, to do something to make a difference in someone’s life, to make a difference in some community in any way I could.”

Ethan Wahl said his study-habit influence shifted over time.

“I think a lot of it, when you’re younger, it starts with your parents. They are your driving force, and they want you to do well, and they are the ones that are encouraging you,” he said.

“But then I think as you get older and move into high school, it becomes more of an individual thing,” he said. “For me personally, I’m a little bit competitive. So it was like competing against myself to make sure that I could maintain that and be the best that I could be.”

Sports emphasized

The Wahls were involved in athletics, too. Ethan and Noah Wahl both played basketball, baseball and football; and Chloe Wahl played softball and volleyball.

Tammy Wahl said her children being involved in sports helped them be well-rounded.

“That’s one thing we did push was for them to be active in sports because it just keeps the kids busy, out of trouble,” she said. “The friends that we made through those are just unbelievable.”

Balancing academics and athletics also meant making sacrifices. Tammy Wahl said she remembers when Noah missed football meals because he had homework to do and Chloe would go straight home after softball practice to work on a project.

But the effort was worthwhile because they wound up being at the top of their classes.

With Noah Wahl being valedictorian, Ethan Wahl said at first he felt a little bit of pressure to follow suit, but his laid-back nature helped ease that.

“I was just trying to take classes that I thought would prepare me for college because I knew that’s something I wanted to do,” Ethan Wahl said. “We’re lucky because Seymour offers some awesome courses that do that.”

Chloe Wahl perhaps felt the most pressure since both of her brothers were valedictorians. Plus, she is among 20 Seymour Scholars who will be graduating Sunday, and she’s friends with them.

“People were always like, ‘Are you going to get valedictorian?’ And I was just like, ‘I don’t know,’” she said. “That wasn’t my goal throughout high school, like, ‘I’m going to get valedictorian.’ I was just thinking, ‘I’m going to take the most challenging classes I can,’ and I just tried to do my best; and if it happens, it happens. It did, so it worked out really well.”

Preparing for careers

Noah Wahl earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of Indianapolis in 2012, and he’s beginning his last year of optometry school at Indiana University. That involves rotations at four locations for three months each.

He’s currently living and working on the military post in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He later will work in South Carolina, Indianapolis and Orlando, Florida, before graduating in May 2016.

“Ideally, I want to have my own practice someday. That’s the goal,” Noah Wahl said. “I want to have a private practice and kind of just start from there.”

Ethan Wahl graduated from Indianapolis in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and he expects to graduate from Purdue in 2017. He will do 10 different rotations.

“I am still a little bit undecided, but I’m leaning toward doing a residency and trying to work in a hospital as a clinical pharmacist,” Ethan Wahl said. “There are residency programs all over the country.”

Chloe Wahl also is going to Indianapolis and is interested in the medical field.

“Right now, I’m double-majoring in biology and chemistry,” she said. “I don’t really know what I want to do after that. I’ve been thinking maybe pre-med, but I’m keeping my options open.”

Meet the Wahls

Noah Wahl, 25, was the valedictorian of Seymour High School in 2008. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in chemistry from the University of Indianapolis in 2012. He’s beginning his last year of optometry school at Indiana University.

Ethan Wahl, 23, was the valedictorian of the Seymour High School Class of 2010. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Indianapolis in 2013. He’s in the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University and expects to graduate in 2017.

Chloe Wahl, 18, is the valedictorian of Seymour High School’s Class of 2015. She graduates Sunday and in the fall will head to the University of Indianapolis, where she plans to double-major in biology and chemistry.

Their parents are Tom and Tammy Wahl of Seymour. They are originally from Ferdinand and graduated from Forest Park High School. Tom Wahl was the valedictorian of his class in 1981.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.