Sept. 9, 2010
CATCHING UP WITH ... CHRIS PARENT NOTRE DAME MONOGRAM CLUB CORNER
By Craig Chval
Entities that track the sales of licensed collegiate merchandise might want to consider using a new metric. Instead of focusing solely on the retail value of merchandise sold, those bean-counters and statistical wizards should take a look at return on investment.
They could start with the story of Chris Parent.
As a six-year-old growing up in Fairfield, Conn., young Chris received a Notre Dame sweatshirt from his best friend, whose father had attended Notre Dame. That relatively modest gift started to spark Chris' awareness of Notre Dame.
Chris Parent describes his response, at age six, to receiving the sweatshirt as only an attorney could do. "So I started looking into it."
Just a year later, Parent and his family were living in Atlanta, and his father took him to his first Notre Dame game, against Georgia Tech in Grant Field. When not busy dodging liquor bottles and fish thrown by some over-exuberant Yellow Jacket fans, Parent was captivated by the exploits of Notre Dame football heroes Joe Montana, Bob Golic and Vagas Ferguson.
Back in Fairfield, Parent developed into an excellent student and a pretty fair football and lacrosse player. He figured lacrosse was his best bet in the long run.
"When you're 5-7 and not exceptionally fast, football wasn't panning out in college," he says.
A highly-regarded prep lacrosse goalie, Parent was courted by a number of top college lacrosse programs. Although midwestern lacrosse was still in its infancy, Parent was still intrigued enough by Notre Dame to attend lacrosse camp there.
"I really fell in love with the school" recalls Parent, who spurned opportunities to play lacrosse along the east coast to attend Notre Dame.
If that sweatshirt was the first domino that fell on Parent's journey to Notre Dame, his relationship with the late Rich O'Leary was the final domino.
As Notre Dame's first varsity lacrosse head coach, O'Leary ran the camp that Parent attended, and the pair formed a strong connection. By the time Parent enrolled at Notre Dame, O'Leary had decided that he couldn't provide the lacrosse program with the dedication it had begun to require while also handling his other responsibilities within the athletic department. Kevin Corrigan had become Notre Dame's first full-time head coach, but O'Leary's presence was still strongly felt within the lacrosse program.
"He was a prince of a man," says Parent. "He took me around campus, and helped me get acclimated."
It didn't take Parent long at all to get acclimated on the lacrosse field, earning the starting goalie job and helping Notre Dame to its first-ever NCAA tournament berth as a freshman in 1990.
Over his four-year Irish career, Parent helped Notre Dame to three NCAA bids, leading the team in saves for three straight seasons, earning second-team all-Midwest Lacrosse Association honors in 1992 and playing in the 1993 North-South All-Star Game. Nearly 20 years after his graduation, Parent still ranks in Notre Dame's all-time top five in career victories, career starts and career appearances by a goalie. His 29 saves against Loyola in 1990 are the most ever in a single game by an Irish goalie, and he stands sixth in all-time saves for Notre Dame.
Not a bad return on investment for that Notre Dame sweatshirt.
But Parent's contributions to Notre Dame weren't limited to lacrosse. He graduated cum laude with degrees in government and English, and after obtaining a master's degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, Parent returned to earn his law degree from Notre Dame in 2000, serving as an assistant rector in Alumni Hall.
"It was one of the great experiences in my life, a real group of characters," says Parent of his Notre Dame lacrosse teammates.
Parent married his wife Melissa, a classmate at Notre Dame Law School, and was working in New York City on 9/11, interviewing a death row inmate when the World Trade Center was attacked.
"It was one of the strangest days in my life, with those buildings coming down as I was interviewing a guy who had committed seven murders," he reflects.
Not long after 9/11, Chris and Melissa moved to her native Denver, where Chris now practices with the firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. He has litigated cases over ownership of the Denver Broncos and a trademark dispute involving the slogan, "What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas."
Parent also devotes much of his time and energy to helping others. In July, Chris and Melissa traveled to Haiti to assist in the aftermath of last January's devastating earthquake. They were joined by former Irish lacrosse player Rob Williamson and Williamson's son Colton on the relief trip.
The devastation was stunning.
"It's so close to the U.S.," remarks Parent. "It's a two-hour plane ride from Miami, but it's a world apart. It could be such a paradise, but there is such a level of corruption."
Parent also was struck by the spirit of the Haitians he encountered.
"People are all the same, whether they're in Denver, Chicago or Jacmel, Haiti," he says. "People are fantastic wherever you go, even though they don't have the same opportunities.
"The profound thing and the sad thing is the lack of opportunity for these kids, who if they were in the U.S., they would have so many opportunities."
Parent, whose trip to Haiti and a previous relief trip to Nicaragua were organized by Forward Edge International, is determined to continue to have an impact in Haiti.
"I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to throw money at it and get a quick-fix, a band-aid," says Parent. "It's a weird thing in that we need patience, but we also need involvement in relationships and systems. Sometimes, it's best to just lead by example and by doing things."
To make an even greater impact in Haiti, Parent is working with Forward Edge, Notre Dame and his law firm, which includes among its specialties water law, a critical issue in Haiti.
Parent attributes his heart for helping others to his parents, his high school (Fairfield College Preparatory School) and Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame does a terrific job of knowing and showing people that there's a world outside your own little world, and to think bigger," he says.
Parent also was inspired by his former Notre Dame lacrosse teammate, Mike "Steel" Sennett, captain of the '91 Irish squad. Sennett died of a heart attack in 2007, but not before leaving a legacy of service to others.
"He helped us understand how important our team was, and how great it was to represent Notre Dame," explains Parent.
"His passing influenced me to do more with my life," he says. "Looking at all the things he had done with his life inspired me to think about more than billable hours."
Chris and Melissa are the parents of two daughters, Madeline (Mimi), age 9, and Sophie, age 6. The girls already are Notre Dame fans and budding lacrosse stars.
"We haven't pushed the ND thing too hard," Parent insists, "although they know the fight song and they watch Notre Dame football every Saturday in the fall."
No doubt wearing Notre Dame sweatshirts.
If you're interested in learning more about the assistance Chris Parent is helping to bring to Haiti, or if you'd like to help, contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.