On September 7, I had the great honor of receiving the Rockne Memorial Society’s Award for Courage. The Rockne Memorial Society is a new organization dedicated to honoring and remembering the great life and contributions of Notre Dame’s legendary coach (and player), Knute Rockne. To be recognized in his name was, of course, an honor. To share the stage with the other winners, was a thrill. Most notably, the Rockne Champion Award winner: Coach Muffet McGraw.

When I landed in Chicago en route to the ceremony, I received a text from a friend congratulating me on the award. She then commented, “I feel bad none of your family is there…” Jamie was in London, my parents were in Arizona, and my (teenage) boys thought going to their high school football game with friends sounded like more fun than being polite at an event while their mom got an award (as James added, “Again.”) But I did have family there.

Members of the Rockne Memorial Society generously donated a table for each award recipient, and I was allowed to invite guests to attend with me. I was also invited to say a few words. Perfect. I can do both.

My short remarks were my story told briefly through the friends who joined me at our table, and one who could not. Tim Welsh, my coach, was off doing what he does best: coaching other coaches. But I started with the words he shared with us many years ago: The purpose of Notre Dame Swimming is to pursue athletic-excellence, with self-discipline, and love for one another. Thank you, Tim, for living each day with love, and for teaching us to do the same.

I came to Notre Dame in 1991 to be part of their athletic excellence. Our athletic director at the time, Dick Rosenthal, was a huge champion of women’s sports and he was a remarkable advocate for Title IX at Notre Dame. He always took care of us as students and as athletes. Thank you, Dick.

The night of the accident, State Trooper Kevin Kubsch was one of the first responders at the site of our accident. He protected us from the start, and we are still friends today. Thank you, Kevin.

When I arrived at Memorial Hospital, one of the first people I recognized was our young (at the time, but still looks young 26 years later!) associate athletic director, Missy Conboy. She was a familiar face among the chaos, and she assured me that my parents had been called and were on their way. She also made sure my best friend from Arizona – a St. Mary’s student – was called and on her way to the hospital as well. Missy’s presence and assuring words were a huge comfort to an 18-year-old going into emergency back surgery. And she has been a friend and mentor ever since. Thank you, Missy.

Over the past 12 years, I have been involved with the University of Notre Dame’s Monogram Club board of directors (the Monogram Club is comprised of varsity letterwinners). Also, over the past 12 years, I have experienced great change (I wrote my book), great thrills (speaking at ND’s commencement in 2012) and great challenges as well. In short, I have grown professionally, personally and spiritually. And there is no doubt my involvement with the Monogram Club, and my friendships at the University, have guided and supported me. And often times, when I need to talk through something, Dick Nussbaum receives a phone call. Thank you, Dick.

The Rockne Memorial Society presented me with an award for Courage. After one of my heroes, John McCain, died, I heard this definition of courage: Courage is not the absence of fear in one’s life, it is overcoming your fears to carry on. Each of my guests, my ND family, have given me the courage to overcome my fears and carry on. Go Irish!

From L to R: Bill and Missy Conboy, Charlotte and Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat and Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)

THE 2018 ROCKNE MEMORIAL SOCIETY AWARDS From L to R: Bill Mountford & Missy Conboy, Charlotte & Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat & Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)