Alumna Anne Smedinghoff Is a ‘Beautiful Soul’

Fellow 2005 Fenwick graduate and Math Teacher Kevin Roche reflects about his late friend and classmate’s generosity – and her lasting legacy.

By Kevin Roche ’05

The Chicago Sun-Times headline the week Fenwick alumna Ms. Smedinghoff was tragically killed in early April 2013. She was 25.

It was about the time that Anne was killed that a show called “The Newsroom” came out. Aaron Sorkin started his hit HBO show with a piercing diatribe by the star Will McAvoy, contesting, “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

I concur; polarizing viewpoints from those that refuse to find the middle ground, lackluster statistics on our health, academic performance, and mass incarceration, and embarrassing stories about our elected leaders are a few of the examples that have me nodding along with the tirade. The character played by Jeff Daniels ends his rant hopefully with, “but it can be.”

Anne is my ‘but it can be.’

Anne was killed in a terrorist attack delivering books to a local school in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in 2013. She was a part of the United States’ diplomacy efforts to create lasting and sustainable peace in Afghanistan by fostering positive relationships. Anne died a martyr-like death, being killed while spreading nothing but goodness; she was delivering books to young kids.

Anne was a classmate of mine for 12 years of our young lives. From crowning The Virgin Mary her 8th-grade year to riding her bike 4,000 miles in college to raise money for cancer research, she exemplified, even before her foreign service career, what makes me so proud to be an American. Anne “stood up for what was right, she fought for moral reasons, cared for her neighbors, never beat her chest, reached for the stars, aspired to intelligence; didn’t belittle it, and was courageous,” just what Will McAvoy commended America’s past for.

Although it is the better part of a decade that we have been without Anne, I see her everywhere in my life. On one of my running routes, there is a black and white portrait of her (top and at left) along the train tracks. At St. Luke’s, I see her parents who are regulars and ministers during the Mass. Coaching girls’ cross country, the program she was a part of, I see Anne in the supportive, altruistic teammates. Walking to my parent’s house, I pass by the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Garden at the public library. I see Anne when I talk to her teachers like Mary Beth Logas who encourages her students to understand the system in order to do the most good. I see Anne in my colleague, fellow ’05 grad, and dear friend of Anne, Crissy (Tallarico) Lilek, who exudes the same serene magnanimity that Anne did. I see Anne everywhere.

At each athletic event, during “The Star Spangled Banner,” I think of my contemporaries and former students that have selflessly dedicated themselves to serve our country. Different faces come up each time and I beam with pride knowing such wonderful people. Without fail, Anne Smedinghoff crosses my mind during, “the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” I become emotional as I imagine the attack on her as she was about to donate those books, but I also see the American flag raised high over Lake and Lathrop by fire truck ladders as her family leaves with her in casket after the funeral Mass at St. Luke’s.

I hope that I continue to get overwhelmed thinking of Anne during our national anthem. I never want to forget the strong, intelligent, independent, and loving soul that was lost in the spring of 2013. Even with the constant reminders in my life, I know that without deliberate effort my connection can be lost. Fenwick’s yearly April lecture is a pivotal reminder for me of how great America can be because of people like Anne, who give all that they have to make the world a better place.

The 2019 Anne smedinghoff memorial lecture on government service is Monday, April 8, in the Fenwick Library (7 p.m.): our guest speaker this year is alumnus and Army Lt. Col. Nick Bugajski ’96 (right), Chair of the Military Science Department at Loyola University.

Read more about Anne:

https://annesmedinghoff.com/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/oak-park/ct-xpm-2013-05-27-ct-met-anne-smedinghoff-bookbag-20130527-story.html

https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/04/10/river-forest-responds-to-the-death-of-anne-smedinghoff

https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Funeral-Today-For-Slain-American-Diplomat-203384881.html

About the Author
Alumnus Kevin Roche ’05 is a Math Teacher at Fenwick High School. An avid runner, he is Head Coach of the Friars’ Girls’ Cross Country Team and an assistant track coach. Mr. Roche enjoys “challenging students to grow into young men and women of character,” he says.

After studying engineering at the University of Illinois and practicing as a consultant for a few years, he felt called to be in the classroom. “I am very grateful to be able to have the slightest of impacts in these Friars’ lives,” he adds. “I enjoy teaching both in the math and computer science portions of our department. He also is the moderator for TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science).

 

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