Seeing double: Twin brothers to speak at commencement ceremonies at NDSU, Concordia

FARGO - Jon and Zach Lipp are not identical twins, but their schedules have been mirror images for years.In high school, they were both in Spanish club, student council, forensics and Key Club. In college - North Dakota State University for Jon, ...
Fraternal twins Zach, left, and Jon Lipp meet at the Offutt School of Business on Thursday, April 27, 2016, at Concordia, Moorhead. They are the commencement speakers at Concordia College and North Dakota State University respectively.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – Jon and Zach Lipp are not identical twins, but their schedules have been mirror images for years.

In high school, they were both in Spanish club, student council, forensics and Key Club. In college – North Dakota State University for Jon, Concordia College for Zach – they both wrote for the school newspaper and held the same position in student government.

"Without ever talking about it or coordinating that decision," Jon said of the student government job. "It just kind of kept happening that way."

"Without ever talking about it or coordinating that decision," Jon said of the student government job. "It just kind of kept happening that way."

The tradition continues as the 22-year-olds head into their respective graduation ceremonies this month, where Jon and Zach will each serve as student commencement speaker.

"I was so ecstatic," Zach said of the day he found out they had both received the honor. "I was beaming the whole day. It was like, this doesn't happen. This doesn't make sense. I've never heard of this happening."

On April 12, Zach heard that was chosen. Jon heard two days later.

Both were nominated for the position, though Jon also had to prepare his speech in advance and give it to a panel of judges. As of Tuesday, April 26, Zach hadn't even written his.

"He's got time," Jon said.

Concordia's graduation is Sunday, May 1. NDSU has two commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 14, and Jon is the speaker at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

The twins, who are from Fargo, say they didn't plan this, but they have kept in touch throughout the process, running their ideas for speeches by each other.

"I had (Zach) review it before I ever submitted anything, because I wanted to get his input," Jon said of his speech.

Jon's speech is about community, which is the biggest lesson he's taking away from NDSU.

"It's been really, really amazing, honestly, to see that in action at NDSU and to see the way our students will rally together behind things," he said. "I've been very struck by that and so I want people to be intentional about carrying that community with them and understand that is something they have the power to create."

As for Zach, the extemporaneous speaker, he had a rough idea of his speech earlier this week. He was planning to sum up the four challenging years he and his classmates put into Concordia.

"I think we tend to not talk about academics as much as we ought to," he said. "I think that's a narrative we tend to lose, if we're focusing on how much fun we had."

The twins see their commencement roles as a tribute to their parents, Angie and Terry Lipp, who paid for them to attend private schools and allowed them to pursue their passions. Their mother, Angie, a public schoolteacher in Fargo, also taught the boys how to read before kindergarten.

"Their biggest expectation for us was always to do our best and beyond that they don't care," Jon said. "And that's been wonderful."

The twins graduated at the top of their class at Shanley High School. Zach was first; Jon was second.

"(Jon) beat me on standardized tests, so we're fine," Zach joked.

By senior year, their course schedules were nearly identical, so it was a relief when they chose separate colleges.

Jon will graduate with a degree in business administration. Zach's degree is in mathematics.

Both have positions lined up after graduation: Jon as a project manager at Epic in Madison, Wis., and Zach as an applied data scientist at Civis Analytics in Chicago.

"Now we have entirely different states for our stomping grounds," Jon said. "Different hemispheres, eventually. We'll get there."