Brendan Condon, a graduate of Notre Dame in 2004, wrote the following essay as part of his recent application to business school. We’re glad to report he has been accepted into the Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business where he will be attending in the fall.

Upon my return to Notre Dame’s campus after one fall break, there was a chill in the air and an early snow was expected. As I had done many times before, I gathered my bags and hailed a cab. The ride was uneventful until I was standing beside the cab preparing to pay the driver. He asked me if I had been born with a cleft lip and palate. I paused for a moment, and I said that I had. He smiled, reached into his wallet and retrieved a picture of his son, who was due for surgery soon.The cab driver said he hoped his son could attend Notre Dame one day, wished me well, and drove off.

This brief encounter was near the end of a journey that began the day I was born with cleft lip and palate. Even though the next 20 years involved many surgeries and required a great deal of support from both my family and friends, I had a fairly normal childhood. While in some ways it is difficult to quantify the effect that this has had on my life, upon reflection, it has shaped me in subtle but important ways.

The most profound impact has probably been in developing empathy for others. Often times I would sit in a waiting room at Boston Children’s Hospital and look around to see other children with conditions far more severe than mine. After my own experience, it is difficult not to have a deep appreciation for the hardships they have had to endure.As a result, I have tried to be more compassionate of those around me and to understand the path that they have traveled.

I also feel that having to deal with so many surgeries has imparted a degree of perseverance and determination. Since there was no straight line between my ultimate goal of a successful resolution and the day I was born in FortWorth, Texas, I was left with the reality that perseverance was the principal component in achieving one’s goals. So, when faced with challenges in my own life, I have concentrated on focused progress towards achieving strong personal relationships as well as professional success.

This experience strengthened my bonds with my family, gave me empathy to understand not only those who have dealt with hardship but also those who simply approach life differently than I have, and allowed me the perspective to approach my goals with determination and vigor. I will always remember my encounter that fall morning, and it would not have been possible without the 20-year journey that preceded it.

— Brendan Condon