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Statement on the Death in Afghanistan of Anne Smedinghoff ’09

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April 5, 2013
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Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels sent the following email message to students, faculty and staff today concerning the death in Afghanistan of university alumna and U.S. diplomat Anne Smedinghoff.

Dear Members of the Johns Hopkins Community,

There is extremely difficult news today. A recent member of our community, Anne Smedinghoff, a 2009 graduate of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and a U.S. diplomat, has been killed in Afghanistan.

Anne Smedinghoff ’09 (family photo via Chicago Tribune)

News reports say that Anne was killed Saturday in an attack by a suicide bomber as she and a group of other Americans were driving to donate textbooks for Afghan school students. She is reported to be the first U.S. diplomat killed since the attacks last year on U.S. consular facilities in Libya.

Anne, who was 25, joined the U.S. Foreign Service just after her Johns Hopkins graduation and, according to a statement released by her parents, “absolutely loved the work she was doing” in public diplomacy, engaged in direct outreach to the Afghan people. Her parents, Tom and Mary Beth, tell us that Anne “was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war.”

What work could possibly be more important? What more could we possibly ask of a Johns Hopkins graduate than to risk everything to help those who have next to nothing?

Her selfless action for others was nothing new. One of our young trustees, Anne’s 2009 classmate Christopher Louie, says she was “a rock star.” He rode with her in an annual cross-country bicycle trip organized by Johns Hopkins students and alumni known as the 4K for Cancer. It raises money to support cancer patients and their families.

Anne majored in international studies and was a co-chair of the 2008 student-run Foreign Affairs Symposium, called “A Decade of Discussion.” It was an examination of changes and continuities in politics, economics, human rights, war and technology over the previous 10 years; one of the guest speakers was Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News correspondent wounded in Iraq.

Anne was also an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta and a founding member of the Johns Hopkins chapter of Rho Lambda, the national sorority leadership recognition society. She was also elected to the Order of Omega, a national fraternity and sorority leadership honor society.

Anne’s passing brings to mind war-related deaths of three other young Johns Hopkins community members in recent years. Political science graduate student Nicole Suveges, who was also a civilian Army contractor working in Iraq while doing research for her dissertation, was one of four Americans and seven others killed in an explosion in Baghdad in June 2008. In the spring of 2007, Lt. Colby Umbrell ’04 and Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh ’03, both of the U.S. Army, were killed in action in Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry said today that he met Anne Smedinghoff about two weeks ago when he was in Afghanistan. He called her “vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capacity.”

Let us all keep in our hearts the friends and family of the three military members and one Defense Department civilian who were killed with Anne, and with the four other State Department staff members who were injured.

Katherine Newman, dean of the Krieger School, joins me in extending our deepest sympathies, and those of the entire Johns Hopkins community, to Anne’s parents and family and to her many friends, especially her Johns Hopkins friends. May they all be consoled by their memories of her vibrant, valuable, well-lived life and by our appreciation of the absolutely vital work she was doing when she died. As Dean Newman said today, Anne represented everything we believe in as a university and gave her life in service of peace.

We at Johns Hopkins are honored to have had Anne, however briefly, in our midst.

Ronald J. Daniels


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