The Ride to Recovery
After a catastrophic accident, Steven Goodell ’80 returns to practicing law
by Roy Kesey
By the mid-2010s, Steven Goodell ’80 had built a multifaceted law career: He represented local townships in Mercer County, N.J., was special counsel for the Diocese of Trenton and was general counsel for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. He stayed healthy by training and racing with his competitive cycling team. Then one morning in October 2016, the wheels came off his life.

His team was preparing for an upcoming race, riding in what Goodell describes as “a rotating, rhythmic paceline” — something like a bicycle chain in motion, each cyclist a separate link, all sharing the burden of fighting the wind. They were riding at 30 mph when those in front saw traffic slowing sharply ahead. Word didn’t reach the rearmost riders in time, and the group collapsed in on itself. Goodell found himself on the ground, paralyzed from the chest down.

Steven Goodell headshot
Photo: Dana Romano Photography
A former competitive runner and rider, Steven Goodell ’80 has worked hard to adjust to life as a paraplegic.
Goodell credits his survival to teammate Robin Wahl, a South Jersey paramedic; she stabilized him at the scene and had him medevaced to Cooper University Hospital. He also credits the doctors and nurses at Cooper and at Magee Rehabilitation Center. After leaving Magee in April 2017, Goodell began meeting with legal clients on the porch of his home.

It was another year before doctors were able to remove his feeding tube; a lightweight wheelchair and a specialized stylus further facilitated his return to his career in law. He is now a shareholder at the Hamilton, N.J., firm of Parker McCay, where he practices municipal and land-use law, sports law and litigation. He says his return would have been impossible without a wide net of family, friends and colleagues, starting with his wife, Laurel Pringle Goodell ’80, a lab manager in Princeton University’s Department of Geosciences.

He’s drawn many lessons from the process of recovery, including the importance of perseverance and adaptability. These days, he’s more focused on the essential capital of interpersonal relationships. “I used to be self-sufficient,” he says, “but now, by necessity, I’m much more interconnected. The secret is in sharing the load.”