When the idea surfaced to write a feature on Emily Manning, widely known as “The Walsh Baby” (or @walsh_baby, for the social media savvy), I tongue-in-cheekly emailed Walsh Hall resident minister Patrick Manning requesting to speak with the celebrity child for a piece in The Heights.
In his response, Manning playfully cooperated and granted us exclusive permission to speak with Emily, adding on his and his wife’s behalf that, “she’s pretty much the boss so we do what she says.”
For those who are unaware, this past November the number of occupants in Walsh Hall increased by one, and the average age dropped disproportionately.
Lower Campus’ most popular new resident is Emily Manning, the newly arrived daughter of Patrick and Margaret Manning of Walsh Hall. Much like many other of her fellow college-aged residents, Emily spends her time sleeping, eating, and tweeting.
“Apparently before she was born people were kind of talking about her saying, ‘Did you know there’s a Walsh baby coming?’” Margaret Manning said on the popular name that gave rise to the infant’s popular and highly active twitter handle, @walsh_baby.
Being raised in a college dormitory is surely not considered a traditional early upbringing, but being raised in a hall with a reputation such as that of Walsh, one would assume, is a story of its own.
Unsure at first about the new housing arrangement, Patrick and Margaret approached Danny Zepp, the previous resident minister of Walsh Hall, for guidance. Patrick said he and his wife was largely unaware of the culture of Walsh Hall when he was invited to take the position.
Despite the building’s party-hardy reputation, however, the Mannings decided to go forward and, perhaps to the surprise of some, have found the living situation to be a positive experience.
“There is definitely plenty going on in the weekends,” Patrick acknowledged, “but it’s actually not terribly noisy for us. We’ve loved it, both of us really like working with college students, the RAs have been so great, and we’ve met a lot of great students in the hall, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
“It’s been a blast,” Margaret added.
Though this is their first year living in a residence hall, life on campus has actually prevented more headaches than it has caused, according to Patrick, who also teaches an undergraduate Perspectives course. The lack of a long commute and the proximity to potential babysitters are a few of the perks of on-campus life—as well as a massive amount of cooperation on the part of ResLife and the building staff.
“We just felt like so many people were looking out for us,” Patrick said, reflecting on the first days back after Emily’s birth. “The folks in ResLife and Facilities—even last semester when Margaret was pregnant—now that Emily is here, they’ve been absolutely wonderful at taking care of us. If ever we need something, they’re right on top of it.”
Among the most amusing parts of the experience thus far, Patrick and Margaret have become highly aware of the popularity of babies on college campuses, which often surpasses even dogs and free food as fascinations of university-aged students.
“You don’t expect to see a baby in Lower,” Patrick laughed, “so stuff like that has been pretty fun.”
“Wherever she is, people come around,” Margaret continued, noting the infant’s important role as a facilitator for bringing people together.
Though not completely intelligible—and therefore, unfortunately not quotable—Emily had plenty to say throughout the course of this interview.
Her occasional giggles and outbursts of incomprehensible mumbles (as well as a few sneezes) let her bright and easygoing personality shine through, which, Margaret thinks, has been a positive product of the attention she has received while living in Walsh.
“We’ve already kind of seen the benefits of being in a dorm because she’s very comfortable in crowds,” Margaret said. “I think her easygoing personality is part of being in a busy place where she can just roll with the punches.”
“She’s also learned to sleep through lots of noise,” she added half-jokingly, “so I think it’s a good environment to expose her to lots of new faces.”
Going forward, the duration of Emily and the Manning family’s stay in Walsh has yet to be determined, but they maintain that the support of the Walsh community and the role that they hope to play in the lives of their residents keeps them wanting more.
“Our hope with having a baby here is to model a good family and a good marriage for the students,” Margaret said. “We enjoy talking about relationship issues and things like that, but also Emily is just a great community-builder.”
As far as her future status as an Eagle is concerned, Patrick and Margaret offered that, at a minimum, her infant history in Walsh would make for a great would-be fun fact at freshman orientation.
At the conclusion of the discussion, I asked if the Mannings had any family-raising advice to offer to Emily’s fan base. Their response was appropriate.
“When they get married and have a baby, they should live in a dorm.”
Correction: the former resident minister’s name was incorrectly spelled Danny Zapp. His name is Danny Zepp.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor