Fenwick High School held a special mass Tuesday to honor a former student slain Saturday in Afghanistan.
Anne Smedinghoff, a foreign service worker, died in a suicide bombing. The 25-year-old River Forest native is the first U.S. diplomat to die on the job since last year's Benghazi, Libya attack.
The students at Fenwick spent Tuesday getting to know the diplomat through her teachers.
"For one so young, she seemed so focused and determined to unravel the big problems," said Smedinghoff's AP Spanish teacher, Irene Drago, who spoke of her quiet intelligence and special gift for foreign language.
"Teachers are supposed to inspire students," Drago said. "But most teachers quickly realize the reverse is often true. Anne inspired me."
Other staff members challenged students to think of Smedinghoff as an example as someone who chose a career of service over personal gain.
"A typical [Fenwick] Friar is a person who takes ordinary gifts and does extraordinary thing with them," Dr. Gerald Lordan said. "Nothing that Anne did is beyond your capacity."
Those words clearly had an impact on graduating seniors.
"A lot of people would seriously consider doing something other than being a U.S. foreign officer. But she took her talents and she ran with it," said senior Cairo Lewis.
"Being in Venezuela and then Afghanistan, it really is inspiring to me thinking about what I want to do with my life, seeing a person being so motivated, so quickly," senior Jack Miller said.
After graduating from Fenwick, Smedinghoff attended Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies She joined the U.S. Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteered for missions in perilous locations worldwide.