What are the odds? Two professors discover they lived in same childhood home

Shan Mohammed and Nicole Boyson recently discovered that they had, at separate times, lived in the same house in Elyria, Ohio, a bedroom community of 50,000 people. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

It sure is a small world.

In fall 2016, Northeastern faculty members Shan Mohammed and Nicole Boyson discovered that they had, at separate times, lived in the same house in Elyria, Ohio, a bedroom community of 50,000 people.

“Elyria is not known for its PhDs,” says Boyson, associate professor of finance, who recently met up with Mohammed at afterHours to reflect on the coincidence. “We want a mathematician to tell us the odds of this happening.”

The Ohio natives might not have uncovered this “who’d a thunk it” story—and gone on to become close friends—had it not been for their participation in a leadership development workshop for Northeastern faculty.

After the seminar, Boyson and Mohammed struck up a conversation. They realized that they were born at the same hospital, had grown up in the same town, and even shared the same orthodontist.

“He was a sadist,” Boyson recalls. “He would just grab the pliers and yank your teeth out.” Mohammed, associate clinical professor in the Department of Health Sciences and director of the Master of Public Health Program in Urban Health, had a similar experience. As he puts it, “I cried silently.”

Following the revelation, Mohammed relayed his “small world” story to his husband David O’Malley. O’Malley, associate professor of social work at Bridgewater State University, did some internet sleuthing while Mohammed called his sister to confirm their Elyria address. Only then did it become clear that both Mohammed and Boyson had once lived at 1095 North Pasadena Ave., the site of an 1,800-square-foot ranch-style home with six rooms and one-and-a-half baths.

‘Breaking and entering’

Mohammed lived there for the first four years of his life, from 1966 to 1970. His parents sold the house to the Boysons when his family moved to Milan, a small Ohio village, and Boyson lived there for the next 16 years, from when she was 2 until she was 18 and moved out for college. Her parents—who reached out to Mohammed via Facebook in the wake of this twist of fate—still live there.

“I will totally swing by the next time I’m in Cleveland,” says Mohammed, who hasn’t seen the home in more than 20 years. “My parents,” says Boyson, “would love that.”

Both Mohammed and Boyson, who happened to share at least two of the same babysitters when they were kids, have some vivid memories of their childhoods on Pasadena Avenue. Most of Mohammed’s memories have been reinforced by Super 8 home movies, which show him roller-skating in the driveway, relaxing under the backyard’s big weeping willow tree, and playing with his two dogs—a mutt named Bobi and a cocker spaniel named Rusty.

He remembers climbing onto a hot stove, burning his foot, and then running in pain through a glass door. “My parents say they have no memory of me running through the door,” he says, “but they do remember me going to the neighbor’s house and ‘breaking and entering’ to play the piano.”

Boyson recalls the basement’s “creepy crawl space” and the carpeted kitchen’s washer and dryer. “My parents,” she says, “were super excited about that.” She remembers eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches under canopies fashioned out of tree branches and listening to Billy Joel in her bedroom, her favorite space in the now 66-year-old-home.

When she was 7 and her brother was 5, they decided to play a game, covering their heads with sleeping bags and then walking around the house in circles. It didn’t turn out so well. Boyson opened the basement door and her brother fell down the stairs, breaking his nose. “To this day,” she explains, “I’m not sure why I opened the door. I don’t think I was trying to kill him.”

The house looks considerably different now than it did in the 70s and 80s. Boyson’s parents remodeled the kitchen and the bathroom and planted a flower garden in the backyard, which has long been without a fence for keeping kids in plain view.

“My parents loved the house because of the neighborhood,” says Mohammed, whose folks are now in their 80s and living in Florida. “It had a large yard and wasn’t as cookie cutter as other areas of Elyria.” Notes Boyson: “I have a lot of happy memories of that house.”