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Connecticut events celebrate life of LAU early founder


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The Rev. Robert Stoddard (left), LAU's former vice president for Development, and LAU President Joseph Jabbra at Smith's childhood home in Norwich, CT.


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LAU presents a Lebanese cedar to the people of Norwich and the Mohegan Tribe.


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Jabbra and members of the Huntington family at the LAU reception and "Veils" exhibit.


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The unveiling of a plaque commemorating Smith's childhood home.


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Jabbra examining the 1838 sampler made by Smith's student in Lebanon.

Click on any photo above to view all five images

June 23, 2009—

June 18th marked the 207th anniversary of the birth of Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith, the American missionary who founded a school for girls in 1834 that eventually evolved into LAU.

Smith’s hometown of Norwich, Connecticut, honored the vast and far-reaching achievements of one of its favorite daughters on June 21 and officially proclaimed that day as Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith Day in the city.

With LAU President Joseph Jabbra, Vice President for University Advancement Richard Rumsey and Alumni Programs Manager for North America Edward Shiner in attendance at the celebration, the day provided the opportunity to reflect on the long history of the university and the unique connection that it has with this old New England town, which is in the middle of celebrating its 350th anniversary.

The Reverend Robert Stoddard, LAU’s former vice president for Development who has conducted extensive research on Smith’s life both in Connecticut and abroad, was on hand to provide details about her short (Smith died at 34) yet fruitful life and how it took her from her quaint hometown in eastern Connecticut to Beirut and beyond.  

“It is remarkable what this talented young lady accomplished considering she passed away at such a young age,” said Norwich Mayor Benjamin Lathrop.

“Sarah’s incredible legacy of creating an educational opportunity that continues to build bridges is extraordinary and we’re proud to be celebrating her life and achievements as part of our city’s anniversary,” Lathrop added.

In addition to Stoddard’s discussion and the mayor’s proclamation of Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith Day in Norwich, Dr. Jabbra spoke to the gathering and offered the crowd a view of LAU today. He said it was fitting that a university with such a global history like LAU would develop into a world-class institution that continues to touch people’s lives throughout the world.

A copy of a future stone marker was unveiled in front of the home were Smith was born in 1802.

The LAU delegation also presented town officials with a Lebanese cedar that was planted near Smith’s birth site as a way of honoring the connection she created between Norwich and Lebanon. A reception featuring Lebanese cuisine followed the festivities that evening.

Members of the Native American Mohegan Tribe, based in nearby Uncasville, also took part in the celebrations. Before sailing for the Middle East in the early 1830s, Smith played an important role in preventing the Mohegans from being forced by the U.S. government to move to the western part of the country.

As part of the day’s activities, the LAU delegation attended worship services at the Mohegan Congregational Church which, like LAU, traces its roots back to the work of Smith.

A day before, Norwich’s Slater Memorial Museum opened its presentation of “Veils,” a photographic exhibit created in conjunction with LAU’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World that features images of women from around the world wearing veils. The museum has also augmented the exhibit with some contemporary photographs of both LAU campuses.

The museum’s director Vivian Zoe said the exhibit “brings into vivid view the many varied lives of women in the Middle East.”

The museum “is honored to host this important exhibition and to be a cog in the wheel celebrating Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith’s life … Sarah Smith’s bravery and intelligence reflect the majesty of Norwich natives from the beginning of time to the present,” she added.

The exhibit will run till August 2.



Read a previous story on Stoddard’s lectures on Sarah L.H. Smith.


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