Brad Sabatini ’03: My Worst Moments at Randolph

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 13 August, 2018

2X0A7369wIt is a School tradition for an alumnus to address the faculty and staff at the start of each school year. Seeing who our former students become, and hearing their perspectives on their student selves, is a good reminder of our longer-term objective, to educate students not just to succeed at the next level or in college, but prepared for life, as people and parents and partners.

This year's speaker was Dr. Brad Sabatini '03, who warned us before he spoke that his story was about getting into trouble.

"Those stories," quipped a colleague, "are often the best ones!"

Sabatini familyWhen we moved back to Huntsville a year ago, said Dr. Sabatini, it was never a question for me whether or not we would send our kids to Randolph. My wife, on the other hand, was a different story. She was a product of public schools in Mobile, and she wondered, often very loudly, why we would spend so much money for something that is free elsewhere. 

She argued that one could receive a great education anywhere with the right motivation and, to some degree, I think that she was correct, but I suggested that she visit Randolph and see what it was all about. 

So she scheduled a tour with Ms. Below, and she got a chance to walk the same halls that I did as a child and witness a 2nd grader have a near fluent conversation in French with Ms. Below. She got to see children doing pottery while learning about the history and the art and the science and the culture behind the art, as opposed to just drawing to satisfy a mandated discipline. (Kudos to Mr. Howse because apparently, he made a pretty big impression.)

She saw technology and neuroscience—my college majorbeing combined at every level of some learning opportunity. And she came home that night, and she looked at me, and she said, “Okay, I get it.”

“Okay, I get it.”

Let me tell you, you know you have someplace special when you can silence your doubters to the point that all they can say is, “I get it.”

And so a month ago, she became the first member of our family to slap the big R decal on the back of her car.

Randolph is truly a special place. Its facilities are second-to-none, it's on the leading edge of just about anything, and it has a hot dog bar. But what truly makes this place special is everyone in this room. You all foster an environment that is supportive, but also challenges students to push themselves and each other to be the best academicians, athletes, members of the community, and most importantly, the best human beings that they can be.

You foster an environment that is creative and encourages the exchange of ideas without fear that they may be different from those sitting beside them. Without you, this Randolph is just a collection of buildings, but with you, it is truly something special.

When I was asked to speak, I was given a couple of talking points, like the suggestion to talk about some of my best moments here at Randolph. There are too many to recount. I remember making flip card science posters with my mom in kindergarten and 1st grade. By the way, my mom wanted me to mention that, so if you see her about town, you can tell her that I did! There were technology fairs in elementary school with Mrs. Kammerud, being pushed out of my comfort zone in 5th and 6th grade to sing a solo in the play, rapping about scat at Tremont, getting my first taste of surgery in Mrs. Walker's Comparative Anatomy class, and dominating the pitch on the soccer field, earning multiple state titles for Coach Todd. These are just a few of the amazing moments I had during my time at Randolph, but today I've decided to do just the opposite.

I’m going to tell you about my worst moments. It is from these that I've learned the most.

I’m going to tell you about my worst moments. It is from these that I've learned the most. 

My junior year, during my Interim trip to New Orleans, I made a poor choice. I drank two beers in our hotel room. It wasn't long before exaggerated rumors of our frat house style exploits on this trip started to circulate around school, and it wasn't long before the administration found out. I'll never forget when Dr. Downey pulled me out of class and asked me if I drank on that trip. I admitted to him that I had.

I could have denied it. They had no evidence. It was just rumors, but at some point you have to face your mistakes and take responsibility. They could have easily expelled me. I've known many people who went to private schools and told me that their school would have tossed me out and not thought twice about it, but fortunately, Randolph saw this a different way. They saw it as a chance for me to grow. And so I was suspended and challenged to make the most of my time away from Randolph.

Not having a way to leave my house, I decided that I was not going to allow myself to watch television or to surf the Internet, but rather I was going to spend my time dedicated to an upcoming and serendipitously-timed English project, the I-Paper [now the I-Search], which was an essay about self-reflection. 

Now my writing skills are absolutely horrendous—even today, trying to write scientific peer-reviewed journal articles is like pulling teeth for me and sometimes can take monthsbut somehow, I managed to pull out an A on that paper.

My suspension began on a Saturday when Randolph was hosting a major soccer tournament. Coach Todd helped arrange an opportunity for me to address the team before the tournament, to apologize for how my actions had cost them their starting goalie. But once my time was served, Randolph welcomed me back with open arms, never making me feel marginalized for what I'd done.

Instead of casting me off and cutting ties, they gave me a second chance and supported me. The culmination of this came the following year when the administration selected me to be a chaperone on the Interim trip to Chicago. 

This shows the dedication that Randolph has to develop young adults for the real world, by showing the faith they had in me to put me back on that horse.

Brad Sabatini 03

That following year, I wrote my college admission essay on the personal growth that had come from this experience, and I was accepted early decision at Vanderbilt.

My successes at Randolph were memorable, but I believe it was my failures that have helped develop me into the man I am today.

And so, I implore you to always remember that you may teach your students art or chemistry or English or physical education, but you're preparing them for life and helping them to face the challenges that are thrown at them. Help them to be prepared to make the tough decisions when they may seem unpalatable, to know their self-worth and that of those around them, to stand up for what they believe in, and finally to be able to fail and get back up again. This was my experience at Randolph and this is why we made the decision to complete the circle and send our children here.

Brad Sabatini graduated from Randolph in 2003 and attended Vanderbilt University, majoring in neuroscience and psychology and, graduating magna cum laude. He went on to study medicine at the University of South Alabama, and today he works as an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in foot and ankle surgery, at the Orthopedic Center. His publications and body of research demonstrate his commitment to expanding knowledge and extending professional resources for his field. Additionally, Brad has spoken on a variety of orthopedic topics focusing on our understanding of the body, the effects of surgical techniques, and best practices in repairing the body.

Brad was born and raised in Huntsville, where his parents still live and work. His older brother, Michael ’98, and younger sister, Alyson ’07, also went to Randolph. Michael is a chemical engineer in New Orleans and Alyson owns an Allstate agency in Vestavia Hills. Brad and his wife, Meggy, are the parents of sons Jack Thomas II and Bradley Jr., who begins his journey this year in Kindergarten.

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Topics: alumni, Randolph alumni

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