By: Kattie Parsons
Lee University named the 2012 Distinguished Alumni of the year
on Saturday, Nov. 3, as part of Homecoming festivities. This year
Lee recognized the courage and dedication of two alumni, Andrew and
Tori Smith. Both are natives of Chattanooga, Tenn., and graduated
from Lee with degrees in history in 2009.
The Smiths were chosen for this award because of their
experiences in military service, including bravery, sacrifice, and
an overwhelming optimism, over the course of the past year.
This spring Andrew, serving with an Airborne Division of the
U.S. Army, was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was severely
injured in an explosion while engaged in combat. He and Tori
are currently at Walter Reed Medical Center, near Washington D.C.,
as he completes his rehabilitation and prepares for a transition to
Through this difficult time he and Tori have remained committed
not only to one another but to their country and to their faith. In
the face of great adversity, they have demonstrated a quiet
assurance that there is a greater purpose at work in their
"The Smiths personify the sort of student who 'finds
himself/herself' and becomes the kind of graduate that Lee can be
proud of," shared Lee President Paul Conn, quoting one of the
Smith's history professors, during Saturday's ceremony.
"The courage they have shown and their ability to inspire all of
us in their own time of difficulty is why they have been chosen as
this year's Distinguished Alumni of the Year."
Upon graduation Andrew accepted a job as a manager at Target and
continued to work there for one year. However, Andrew knew since he
was a boy that he wanted to serve his country. He enlisted in the
United States Army and on Nov. 10, 2010, Andrew boarded a plane for
After graduation Tori taught history for one year at Hamilton
Heights Christian Academy. In 2011 she enrolled in Michigan State
Law School and began her path to earning her second degree.
The two began dating after Andrew returned home from basic
training and were married Dec. 23, 2011. The following February the
United States Army 82nd Airborne unit was deployed
to Afghanistan, taking Andrew with them, while Tori continued law
school in Michigan.
March 8, 2012, Andrew was on his first patrol mission when fire
was opened on his patrol. From the incoming fire, Andrew and his
comrades sought shelter in a nearby ditch. While the other members
of the patrol missed the hidden improvised explosive device (IED),
Andrew did not.
The explosion claimed both of Andrew's legs and left him with
severe injuries to his abdomen. Since the injury Andrew has
undergone numerous surgeries and persevered through hours of
physical therapy at the Walter Reed National Military Medical
Center in Bethesda, Md.
Throughout all of these obstacles Tori has stood by his side,
from waiting anxiously in a hospital room to cheering him on in
therapy sessions. The two currently reside in an apartment on the
Walter Reed campus.
When Andrew is released from Walter Reed later this year, the
Smiths plan to move back to their hometown of Chattanooga.
Andrew is still sure of his desire to serve his country
through whatever means possible.
"Although what happened was tragic, we know that God will use it
for His glory," said Tori. "Even through all the hard times He can
use our life as a testimony to His faithfulness and provision."
PHOTO: Pictured (l to r) Andrew and Tori receive the
Distinguished Alumni of the Year award from Dr. Paul Conn, Lee
University President (Photo by Randi Vasquez)