Haley Scott DeMaria gave the University of Notre Dame commencement address in 2012.

Taking First Steps...Again.

April 26, 2013

by Josh Flynt (’11)

From its roots in Frank Hering’s Varsity Club to its official formation by Jesse Harper and Knute Rockne in 1916, the Notre Dame Monogram Club has always been driven to unite student-athletes, while spreading enthusiasm not only for their sporting accomplishments, but also their personal and professional achievements.

In the 97-year history of the Monogram Club and 171 years since the university’s founding, few have brought the Notre Dame community together better than Haley Scott DeMaria (’95 swimming).

Returning from a meet at Northwestern on Jan. 24, 1992, the bus of the women’s swim team slid off the Indiana Toll Road, taking the lives of two student-athletes and leaving Scott DeMaria paralyzed.

Anyone familiar with the story knows however, paralysis was just a diagnosis. The freshman from Phoenix, Ariz. was steadfast–determined not only to walk again, but also to return to competition in honor of her late teammates.

During this past weekend’s Blue-Gold festivities, she was officially introduced as the 67th president of the Notre Dame Monogram Club.

Last May, she addressed the class of 2012 during commencement. “We can’t change the past,” she said. “There are events in our lives over which we have no control. But what we can control is how we react to them.”

In a recent Strong of Heart segment profiling Scott DeMaria, former Notre Dame athletic director Dick Rosenthal reflected on her inspirational recovery.

“I’ve been asked many times, `What are the most memorable moments of your tenure as athletic director at Notre Dame? Who were the greatest athletes?’ We’ve had a plethora of great athletes, many of whom are household names, but I guess I’ll always believe that the one that stands out above all the rest was Haley Scott,” Rosenthal said.

For Scott DeMaria, the 21-month journey back to swimming was just the beginning. Inspirational speaker, author, teacher, coach, wife, mother – she seems to have done it all in the 18 years since receiving her history degree.

With her appointment, Scott DeMaria becomes the Monogram Club’s second female president, and the first alumnus to graduate during the 1990’s to hold the Club’s highest leadership position.

It should come as no surprise then, that she hopes to target her fellow Generation X alumni, especially women like herself, who may be so busy with their careers and raising families, that they lose contact with the Club.

“If I could achieve just one thing in my two years as president, it would be a better awareness and understanding of who we are,” she said.

From service projects and mentoring opportunities to a scholarship fund for the children of Monogram winners, the Club is about much more than returning to campus on Saturdays in the fall.

“I would like to figure out a way to reach the student-athletes and educate them about who we are and what we do, and why we are a group that should be important to them. They’re the future of our Club.”

Though she has always been a member, her appreciation and passion for the Club have grown significantly since joining the Board of Directors.

“It’s been one of the neatest experiences to be part of an organization–that one, gives me a chance to give back to the school and serve the university, but also to stay in touch with the current student-athletes, who are really phenomenal people.”

Senior Deputy Athletics Director Missy Conboy (’82 basketball), who was among those comforting the swimmer following the accident, is looking forward to seeing the unique perspective Scott DeMaria brings to the presidency.

“Because of who she is and her name recognition, I think people are going to be paying close attention to what’s happening on her watch,” Conboy said.

“Obviously her remarks last year [at commencement] and her poise and her message cultivated a lot of interest in Notre Dame and Haley personally, and I think she’ll be able to put that to great use when she’s in a leadership position in the Monogram Club.”

Facing seemingly insurmountable odds, Haley Scott DeMaria rose from tragedy to become one of the most inspiring and accomplished individuals in the university’s history.

It’s been more than 21 years since she started walking again. This month, she began a new set of first steps – leading the Monogram Club, where she will continue the great work of predecessor Dick Nussbaum (’74 & ’77 baseball), build her own legacy, serve, and positively impact the lives of Notre Dame’s student-athletes and Monogram winners.