When Brigid Smith of Sewell, N.J., graduated from La Salle University last month, she became the fifth generation of La Salle alumni. Starting with her great-great-grandfather, John Spellman, Sr., who graduated in 1904, more than 30 family members have graduated from La Salle.
“Everyone in my family loves La Salle, and my mom grew up nearby in the Logan section of Philadelphia, but I never felt pressure to come here,” said Smith, a graduate of Our Lady of Mercy Academy. “I visited a lot of schools, but I immediately felt comfortable when I visited La Salle’s campus—I loved it.” Although she is sad for this phase of her college career to be over, she is planning to return to La Salle in the fall to enroll in the One-Year MBA program. Smith, a double major in management and marketing, graduated magna cum laude and was named the top graduating student in the Management Department.
Education has always been a priority across the family’s five generations. According to Maureen Mitchell Kelly, Smith’s grandmother, “Education was viewed as an element of our lives as basic as food, shelter, and religion. Our children and grandchildren were always aware that the family definition of a basic education included college.”
The family tradition began 107 years ago when John Spellman, Sr., enrolled at La Salle. After graduating, Spellman went on to own a business and later served as manager of the audit department of Baldwin Locomotive. His son and grandson, John Jr., and John III, continued the tradition, graduating from La Salle in 1936 and 1961 respectively. Over the generations, Spellman descendents with family names of Mitchell, Kelly, Motley, and now Smith, have graduated from La Salle.
While more than 30 family members have earned La Salle degrees, Smith, and her sister Meaghan, who just completed her sophomore year at La Salle, are still among some of the first females in their family to attend La Salle. Though founded in 1863, the University did not become fully co-educational until 1970. In 1985, Anita Kelly Guecia, Smith’s aunt, became the first woman in the Spellman lineage to graduate from La Salle. Smith’s mother, Moira Kelly Smith earned her MBA in 1991, becoming the first female in the family to earn a master’s degree.