Remembering a friend and diplomat

Fall 2021 by Heather Salerno

What happened next? | Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Scholarship

This has been adapted from a story that first appeared in the Johns Hopkins Magazine Fall 2021 Issue. 

In the years leading up to their 10th college reunion, the Class of 2009 worked to raise funds to establish a scholarship in memory of their classmate, Anne Smedinghoff, A&S ’09. The 25-year-old press officer for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was one of five Americans killed in April 2013 in southern Afghanistan when a convoy they were traveling in was struck by a suicide bomber.

An international studies major and co-chair of the annual student-run Foreign Affairs Symposium while at Johns Hopkins, Anne Smedinghoff had a love of adventure and was passionate about trying to make the world a better place.

Members of the class were just $5,000 shy of their goal in February 2019 when we spoke with them about their fundraising efforts. Here’s what happened next.

Honoring Anne

Profoundly saddened by Smedinghoff’s death, a group from the Class of 2009 launched efforts to endow a scholarship at Johns Hopkins in her name shortly after she was killed. Elisabeth Meinert DelGrosso, A&S ’09, says the move seemed appropriate since Smedinghoff had been a scholarship recipient herself; she was a winner of the prestigious Hodson Trust Scholarship, a four-year, merit-based award given to incoming students who demonstrate academic excellence.

“Early on there were conversations around how to do something in her honor that really pays it forward,” says DelGrosso, who met Smedinghoff as a freshman and became her close friend and roommate throughout their time at Johns Hopkins. “Because that’s what Anne was all about.”

DelGrosso and others held fundraising drives during the university’s annual alumni weekends, as well as special events such as a four-city joint happy hour in September 2018 that coincided with what would have been Smedinghoff’s 31st birthday. Donations from family, friends, colleagues, and Hopkins alumni poured in, and organizers hoped they would collect enough to meet their $100,000 goal by the time the Class of 2009 celebrated its 10th reunion. DelGrosso recalls being on a train headed to Baltimore for the reunion when she got a text that a last-minute anonymous donor had put them over the endowment threshold. She was thrilled to help announce the news that weekend, which was met with cheers from their classmates.

The Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Scholarship is a need-based award granted to an undergraduate who wishes to pursue international development or the Foreign Service. Krieger School senior Alice Hubbard says she’s humbled to be the inaugural recipient. An international studies major, Hubbard, who is pursuing a five-year BA/MA dual degree through the School of Advanced International Studies, was aware of Smedinghoff’s inspiring life and career prior to receiving the scholarship since she had joined the Foreign Affairs Symposium as a freshman; the symposium gives an award every year to an individual who embodies Smedinghoff’s values. “Learning about her and her legacy has definitely made me see the importance of the work of diplomats around the world,” Hubbard says, “and it’s made me consider that future for myself more deeply.”

Anne’s family members say they are deeply touched by the outpouring of support from her friends and classmates. “Seeing so many come together to create this scholarship and keep it going is a vivid reminder that Anne made a difference in her life and in the lives of others, those she knew at Hopkins and those who will come to know her through this scholarship,” say her parents, Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff. “This collective effort is an investment in the extraordinary power of individuals to change the world — one scholarship recipient after another. In this way, at a place she loved, Anne will forever be woven into the lives of others.”

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Topics: Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Support Scholars