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Remembering "Ambassador Anne"

February 26, 2019 by Kristin Hanson

The Johns Hopkins Class of 2009 aims to endow a scholarship to honor classmate Anne Smedinghoff, a U.S. diplomat killed in Afghanistan

On Saturday, April 6, members of the Hopkins Class of 2009 will gather to mark their 10th college reunion — but also a more somber milestone. Six years ago on April 6, their classmate, sorority sister, and friend, Anne Smedinghoff, A&S ’09, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Although absent in person, Smedinghoff will join their celebration in spirit: The Class of 2009 made endowing the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Scholarship their reunion fundraising goal — and they’re within striking distance of meeting it.

Family, friends, and colleagues made gifts to establish a fund at Hopkins in Smedinghoff’s honor shortly after her death in 2013. Despite a surge of initial contributions, the fund’s total leveled off short of the $100,000 total required to endow a scholarship at Hopkins.

More than a dozen young people cluster together for a photograph, holding a flag that says Johns Hopkins University.
Hopkins alumni in New York raised glasses — and funds — at a gathering to mark Anne Smedinghoff’s birthday in September 2018.

“My personal reaction was, ‘Anne’s name is on it, so it has to succeed and become a real thing,’” says Marissa Neto, A&S ’09, one of Smedinghoff’s Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sisters who has made gifts and hosted events to promote the fund. “With the 10-year reunion coming up, there was renewed interest. More people were able to mobilize around it.”

Since last summer, when the Smedinghoff Fund became the organizing reunion fundraising effort for the Class of 2009, more than 50 alumni have made gifts totaling $6,625. Many of those donations came during special events, including a four-city joint happy hour that coincided with Anne’s birthday in September 2018. As of late February, all donations made to the Smedinghoff Fund totaled more than $95,000 — less than $5,000 from the endowment threshold.

The Smedinghoff Scholarship will benefit a Hopkins undergraduate with an interest in international development or the Foreign Service, which Smedinghoff joined shortly after graduating from Hopkins (an annual award given by Hopkins’ Foreign Affairs Symposium now bears Smedinghoff’s name). She completed her first post in Caracas, Venezuela, before returning to Washington, D.C. That’s when she told her former Hopkins roommate Elisabeth Meinert DelGrosso, A&S ’09, she already had her sights set on her next destination.

“The world is a tough place right now on the international level. This scholarship will be an investment in an individual who comes in with a positive perspective on diplomacy — and that aspect of this fund really resonates with people.”

Elisabeth Meinert DelGrosso, A&S '09 on the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Scholarship

“She said there was a press posting in Kabul (Afghanistan). It was a big promotion,” DelGrosso recalls. Smedinghoff’s friends and family understandably had concerns, given the news about Afghanistan at the time. But they supported her when she received the assignment, and DelGrosso saw Smedinghoff off before she left the United States.

“She was so excited,” DelGrosso says, “so I gave her a hug and sent her off on the Metro to the airport.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaches out to shake the hand of a man shortly after arriving in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2013.
Among Smedinghoff’s tasks in Kabul: escorting former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry around the city. Here, she is pictured just behind Kerry’s right arm.

Among the varied and challenging tasks Smedinghoff handled in Kabul was serving as the primary escort for then-Secretary of State John Kerry on a March 2013 visit with then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Smedinghoff’s adventures were a topic of conversation at a gathering of her close Hopkins friends — including Neto and DelGrosso — on April 6, when they learned of her death.

“We were at brunch, and it took a minute to wrap our heads around that it was actually real,” Neto recalls. “We spent the rest of the day walking around in a daze.”

Six years later, the shock remains fresh for those who knew Smedinghoff well. But they hope her memory inspires others — particularly those in the Class of 2009 — to open doors for future students who share Smedinghoff’s passion for and dedication to international development.

“The world is a tough place right now on the international level,” DelGrosso says. “This scholarship will be an investment in an individual who comes in with a positive perspective on diplomacy — and that aspect of this fund really resonates with people.”

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Topics: Alumni, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Support Scholars