John Sweeney '22 didn't choose his dream school, but he fell into it.

Every time Sweeney sat up in bed abruptly, he banged his head on the ceiling. This happened a lot. His freshman dorm room at Sacred Heart University had three beds, all lofted to create more space. The ceiling was a nuisance, but the real danger lurked below. 

The Sweeney family

During his senior year of high school, Sweeney and his twin brother toured colleges from Florida to Maryland to St. Bonaventure. He whittled down a list of nearly two dozen colleges, but Siena wasn't on it. His mom, Mary Parlett-Sweeney, is Siena's Chief Information Officer, and his dad is a Siena graduate. Sweeney says he wants to be like his dad, but he didn't want to follow his exact path. Siena was too comfortable. He wanted to get away.

Sweeney has a vague recollection of being in the ambulance, but didn't really gain consciousness until he reached the hospital. His roommates would later piece together what happen. In the middle of the night, just weeks into his freshman year at Sacred Heart, Sweeney rolled out of bed and fell head first from the high rise bunk. His roommates called public safety who arranged for the ambulance. His mom drove through the night to meet him at the hospital.

Not all concussions are experienced equally. Sweeney's was particularly nasty. He could barely walk. He had a hard time focusing. He wore sunglasses indoors because of a sensitivity to light. He decided to withdraw from Sacred Heart and recover at home. By the spring of 2018, he was ready to enroll in a couple of courses. He figured he would earn some credits at Siena that he could then transfer elsewhere. Except, once he got here, he never wanted to leave. 

In the spring of 2019, Sweeney's first year as a full-time Saint, he got sick and was back in the hospital. Fr. Mark, Br. George, and Fr. Sean all paid him separate visits. In the wake of his fall, he never felt any genuine concern from his first college. Not like this. He said the difference was night and day. As soon as he got back to campus from the hospital, Sweeney was all-in on Siena.

He's a manager for the women's basketball team . He's a tour guide and spent hours poring over and memorizing facts about the College. He even made the cover of the 2019 summer issue of Siena News. When he started the college search process, the only thing knew for certain was that he did not want to attend Siena. And now...   

"My whole world is Siena.

All the time I think about how life would be different if not for the accident. I talk about it with my dad a lot. I think things happen for a reason. I was dealt the hand I was dealt to give me a wake-up call. It changed everything. If you told me senior year of high school about all the opportunities I would have thanks to Siena... it’s just awesome.

One of my favorite things is to know that if I need something, I can go knock on my mom’s window and smile at her. She always makes things better." 


John Sweeney '22