Meet Our Graduates: Disabled Military Vet Seeks a Future Training Athletes

Brian Goodhart, Student Success Story 2022

Nontraditional student says he returned to RIC to finish what he started.

When Brian Goodhart was growing up, sports was a huge deal in his Central Falls household.

“I was number eight out of 12 children and we played football, wrestling, baseball,” says Goodhart, a 52-year-old nontraditional Rhode Island College student graduating this year with a liberal arts degree.

Despite earning good grades, Goodhart had little desire to attend college after graduating from high school.

“I wasn’t ready for college then,” he says. But after reading material about the Army in the Central Falls High cafeteria one day, he envisioned a path forward.

“I feel like I was made for the Army,” he says. “Being in the Army requires a lot of athleticism, which I embraced, and you have to be smart.”

Goodhart, a specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division, was one of more than 20,000 troops deployed to Panama in Operation Just Cause in 1989, which the United States initiated to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega.

However, it wasn’t until after combat that Goodhart endured a life-altering injury.

In 1992, while driving a motorcycle on his way to his Army base in North Carolina, Goodhart collided with a car on a two-lane highway.

“After the crash, my body flew over the car but I landed on my legs and shattered them,” he says. “For a year I was in and out of the hospital with more than eight surgeries on my legs.”

The Army gave Goodhart a desk job as he went through physical therapy. In 1994, he resumed his job and recovered well enough to return to jumping out of airplanes, serving in both Afghanistan and Operation Bright Star in Egypt.

“Most people would have quit and given up,” says Goodhart, who also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

After returning to Rhode Island, Goodhart landed a job at the U.S. postal service in Pawtucket, where he worked for two decades. He also used his G.I. benefits to obtain his associate’s degree at Community College of Rhode Island, before entering RIC in 2001 as a physical education major. In 2003 he left RIC and wouldn’t return again until 2019, when he decided to major in liberal arts, with a concentration in science. 

“I decided to come back to RIC because I wanted to finish my education,” he says. “If I don’t finish, how can I tell my kids to go to school?’’

Goodhart also decided to pursue another passion – coaching.

“My first job as a wrestling coach was at a middle school in Lincoln,” he says. “Later, a friend told me about an opening for wrestling coach at my high school in Central Falls. I took that position, which led to also coaching football and baseball. I coached those three sports at the school for 10 years.” 

“Through coaching, Brian has found his moment, and he’s really into it,” says his older brother, Andy Goodhart. “He’s always loved to work with kids.”

The Goodhart brothers – who along with their half-brother, Jay Gagne, are members of the Central Falls Sports Hall of Fame – run a nonprofit in Pawtucket to help train young women to play fast pitch softball.

“It’s all about the kids and conducting clinics for them to learn the basic skills,” Brian Goodhart says. “It’s important to me because I’ve been doing athletic-related activities since I was a five-year-old.”

With the knowledge he’s obtained through film courses at RIC, Goodhart says he’d like to produce videos of the practices and workout regiments of budding college athletes.

“In today’s sports world, athletes are being asked to submit videos to colleges to land sports scholarships,” he says.

Perhaps one of those athletes will be one of Goodhart’s three young daughters, ages 15, 13 and nine, who are all active in softball. Goodhart also has a 24-year-daughter, who is an Air Force veteran and the mother of his first grandchild.

Lisa Levasseur, interim assistant director for veteran affairs and military programs in RIC’s Military Resource Center, says she met Goodhart and his daughters briefly in 2021.

“From the moment I met Brian I knew right away that he was committed to being a successful student while juggling the extraordinary job of parenthood,” Levasseur says. “He exudes the characteristics of being a goal-oriented, mission-driven and experienced leader.”