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Scholarship Winner A Colorful Undergrad At Notre Dame

Date: Aug. 23, 2002
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: Profiles

The close, collegial atmosphere the University of Cincinnati College of Law is known for suits first-year student Adam Urra perfectly. It was, in fact, the hallmark of his experience over the past year.

Urra was at the heart of one of the greatest traditional followings in all of sports, serving as the famous Leprechaun mascot for the University of Notre Dame. At football and basketball games, Urra roamed the sidelines in front of thousands and on national TV.

Adam Urra

Now, he's moving on to another phase in his life. Already this month, he's gotten married, and now he is starting law school.

"I'm very excited to be here," says Urra, who spent the summer acclimating to Cincinnati while working in a program called Summer Bridge that helps get underprivileged students on the right path for a college career. "I love Notre Dame, but everyone here seems equally positive. There's that same sense of community, both here in the school and in the city."

Urra is the first recipient of the Michael J. Burke Memorial Scholarship. The full scholarship will be awarded annually in recognition of its namesake, a managing partner of the law firm Keating, Muething & Klekamp, P.L.L. who was a graduate of Notre Dame and the UC College of Law. Cancer claimed Burke's life last December.

Urra had already applied to the college when he received notification about the scholarship. "I was literally home for less than one day last March, between the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament, when I got the letter about the scholarship," he says. "It was so significant. I called my mom, and she just started crying."

Urra is a native of Westerly, R.I., who had his heart set on going to Notre Dame ever since seeing the Irish play football on TV as a child. A powerfully-built former high school wrestler, he first became involved with Notre Dame's cheerleading team before ending up as the Leprechaun. "There's such a spirit about Notre Dame, and you are the face of the university at (games at) places like Nebraska and Texas."

Adam Urra, center, and the 2001-02 Notre Dame Cheerleading team

As the Leprechaun, Urra appeared with Regis Philbin on his TV show and met celebrities like Tiger Woods and Mike Piazza. He once body-surfed atop the student body at a basketball game all the way from the floor of the arena to the top row. He also was the recipient of a spirit scholarship from noted-Notre Dame backer Dick Vitale.

"One of the great things about all of it was the chance to go out in the community to schools and community centers," Urra says. In particular, a trip to a small school in South Carolina during last year's NCAA basketball tournament stands out, as the kids were so excited they were banging their hands on the floor to welcome the Notre Dame contingent. "It was so great to share with them not just the love for basketball or football, but the stories of the sacrifices that you've had to make to get to that point. The whole experience was really humbling, something I'll take with me and appreciate for the rest of my life."

For now, Urra's attention moves on to his newest challenge. A double-major in government and philosophy at Notre Dame, he remains wide open as to what his goals in the law might be.

He and wife Sarah, who works for Procter & Gamble, have been able to buy a first home in Hyde Park, in part thanks to the assistance of the Burke scholarship. "I know I want to be involved in a lot of things," Urra says. "But right now, I'm just taking it slow. That's the advice they give everyone in their first semester."

To meet other UC people, go to the profiles archive.

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