Catherine and Nicole Dekle have answered just about every identical twin question there is.
“We get asked a lot whether we have ESP,” said Nicole Dekle Collins, an editor at The Wall Street Journal. “We don’t.”
A physician based in Atlanta, Catherine offers a plausible explanation for twin telepathy. “I remember once we were cooking in the kitchen, and I turned to Nicole and asked if she remembered this one time we went to the beach. She said she had just been thinking about that, too. But we realized it was because we had both heard fragments of a song and, because we had the same shared experiences, it brought up the same memory.”
Their shared experiences stretch back to Savannah, Georgia, where the pair grew up taking many of the same classes and dancing ballet. As children, their interests only seemed to diverge when it came to their preferred musical instruments: Nicole was—and still is—a pianist, while Catherine took up the violin.
At the time of their selection, the Dekle sisters were the first set of twins to be named Presidential Scholars and to receive coverage in national publications such as Time and People. Even The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson brought the pair on camera for an interview. “There was a lot of fascination around our selection,” Catherine said. “I guess there weren’t as many twins back then.”
Despite an eventful start to 1985’s National Recognition Weekend (the dates were just days after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, where dozens were held hostage in Beirut and Algiers), the Dekle sisters fondly recall seeing President Ronald Reagan in person and viewing the Presidential Scholars in the Arts’ performance at the Kennedy Center. Nicole Dekle cites the evening as a turning point in her post-secondary trajectory. “At the Kennedy Center, one of the arts scholars delivered a monologue from a Harold Pinter play,” Nicole said. “It sparked a lifelong love of writing.”
Following the summer of 1985, the twins entered their respective undergraduate institutions—Harvard for Nicole and Yale for Catherine—as premedical students. Both soon veered off in different directions, with Nicole landing a writing position at Dance Magazine in New York City after graduation and Catherine spending time working in DC before completing her premedical coursework at Columbia University and moving back to Georgia for medical school. “I had a much more circuitous post-Presidential Scholars trajectory [than Nicole],” she said with a laugh.
With Catherine practicing internal medicine in Atlanta and Nicole editing The Wall Street Journal's bankruptcy coverage in New York City, the sisters employ creative means to maintain their close bond in addition to daily emails, phone calls, and text messages. “For our fiftieth birthday, we decided that instead of a party, we wanted to dance a piece from the classical repertoire,” Catherine said. “We performed the peasant pas de deux from the ballet Giselle...I would FaceTime Nicole from the studio to show her the choreography and see if our parts tied together. She came down [to Atlanta] for about a week and we rehearsed. We performed it on the eve of our birthday, so the name of our video is ‘49.999 and Still Kicking.’”
For all their independent triumphs and accolades, each Dekle sister is far more eager to brag about the other than about herself. “We were never in each other’s shadow growing up,” Catherine said, adding that she feels most fortunate to have a “best friend from day one. . . . My mother likes to tell the story that when we were babies in a double carriage, a British woman leaned over and said, ‘How wonderful to have society from the very beginning.’ And it definitely has been.”