Sept. 24, 2004
By Cory Walton
“Selfless is a word that comes to mind. He’s somebody who you know would have your back if you were in trouble. He’s just a great friend,” Pat Holmes, Notre Dame’s Director of Academic Services for Student-Athletes, says.
Holmes isn’t describing a college roommate of his, or a friend he’s had since childhood. He is, in fact, describing Notre Dame academic counselor Adam Sargent, a man he’s known on personal and professional level for only the last five years.
He is describing the same Adam Sargent who, after turning down schools like Princeton and Duke, wore the blue and gold of Notre Dame on the lacrosse field everyday for three years, helping the Irish to three NCAA tournament appearances, before it all came to, literally, a crashing end.
At about 8:30 on the morning of May 29, 1997, Sargent was on his way to St. Mary’s College to take an education test when he was involved in a two-car accident at the intersection of Notre Dame Avenue and Angela Boulevard. The accident left the Rochester, N.Y., native paralyzed from the chest down, and unsure of what lay ahead.
“The first thing that went through my mind was the question of what I was going to be able to do, and whether or not I was going to be able to continue being an independent and self-made person,” Sargent says.
Following a three-month stint at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Sargent, or “Sarge,” as he is affectionately known, returned to his hometown and began to adjust to his new lifestyle.
“There was certainly the fear of going from a healthy 21-year old to someone who is now potentially dependent on other people. There was fear, but there was also hope that I could become an independent, productive person again,” he says.
Sargent turned that hope into a reality the following January, when he returned to campus and began taking classes toward his Notre Dame degree. In the spring of ’99, he graduated from the university with a double major in history and anthropology.
After his graduation, however, Sargent realized that more uncertainty was in store as he pondered the next step in his life.
“I was going to go to (the University of) Virginia for a master’s program, but I wasn’t sure that that was what I wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to get an internship in Academic Services, and I decided to remain at Notre Dame,” Sargent says.
For Sargent, now 28, that internship turned into a full-time job, and he has spent the last five years as a counselor in Notre Dame’s Academic Services department.
“Adam brings so many positives to our office that it’s difficult to list them all,” Holmes says.
“He’s passionate about what he does, and it’s very obvious that he loves what he does. Having been a student athlete at Notre Dame, he understands the situation. He’s quick to recognize when he should push someone and when he should back off, which is important in this job.”
Currently, Sargent serves as the academic counselor for the more than 120 student-athletes that comprise the Notre Dame baseball, hockey, women’s swimming, women’s lacrosse teams and the program he once helped accomplish its’ goals on the field – the men’s lacrosse team.
Head men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan, who coached Sargent as a player and calls him a “one of my heroes,” is quick to echo Holmes’s sentiments about the job Sargent does with the student-athletes in his charge.
“Sarge has a great combination of empathy and determination to get things done,” Corrigan says.
“He’s got a great BS detector. He knows when people aren’t putting forth full effort, and he doesn’t take excuses very often. I’ve been with Sarge in the best of times and the worst of times, and I’ve never been anything but impressed with him. He’s a great positive influence for any of the athletes at this university.”
While that influence is felt by Notre Dame athletes on a daily basis, it isn’t, however, limited to the campus.
In addition to his duties in the Academic Services department, Sargent spends his Thursday afternoons at St. Joseph’s Hospital, working with patients that are referred for psychotherapy as part of the master’s of counseling degree he received from Indiana University-South Bend in May of 2004.
“Once I started that program and got to work with a different population of people, I really enjoyed it. It’s been a great opportunity for me and it’s something that will probably become a bigger part of my life as things continue,” Sargent says.
Ironically, Sargent credits his accident with helping him develop the interpersonal skills he utilizes every day in his occupational and counseling endeavors.
“Before the accident, much of what I did to define myself was done in the physical world,” Sargent says.
“After much of that was significantly reduced, I started to cultivate the social, interpersonal and intellectual parts of me that had always been there. As more and more people start to trust you, it’s your responsibility to develop those skills.”
For the countless people that Sargent has influenced and affected during his tenure in the Academic Services department, the accident that happened on that otherwise ordinary spring day in 1997 could also be seen as a blessing. The reason is, simply, that Sargent may have never started working in his current position without those certain circumstances.
“I honestly don’t know what path I would’ve chosen. I pictured myself possibly doing some sort of teaching in the long run. I definitely wouldn’t have developed the skills I have now as quickly as I did because there are other things that I would’ve given greater attention to,” he says.
Without a doubt, there is a multitude of people in both the Notre Dame community and the South Bend area that, at the mere mention of Sargent’s name, will burst into a smile and praise the man who has given them so much of himself without asking for anything in return.
Captions: 147a. Adam Sargent played three seasons (1995-97) with the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team. The Irish advanced to the NCAA Tournament in all three seasons.
147b. Sargent watches the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team at the 2004 NCAA tournament versus Northwestern. He now serves as an academic advisor to the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, as well as, the hockey and baseball teams at Notre Dame.