For this graduate, the La Salle legacy continues

May 3, 2023

Leah Brown, ’23, is following in her family’s footsteps by receiving a degree from 20th and Olney.  

The connection Leah Brown, ’23, has to La Salle University spans generations.  

Brown’s late uncle and aunt, Warren E. Smith, ’54, M.D., and Rosa Lee Smith, both have strong ties to the University. The Warren E. Smith, M.D., Scholarship Fund is an endowed scholarship created in 2003 by alumni, family, and friends in honor of Warren, who died in 1990. Brown’s uncle was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from La Salle’s pre-med program and became one of the nation’s first African-American psychiatrists.  

Brown’s aunt helped create La Salle’s Academic Discovery Program, a special admissions program providing free support services for students whose records indicate that they could benefit from extra academic assistance and who also meet certain criteria of financial need. 

The couple’s daughter, Robin Smith, Ph.D., ’83, is also an alumna. Like her father, she graduated from La Salle and became a licensed psychologist.   

“I made the decision to attend La Salle after hearing how much they enjoyed it,” Brown said.  

Brown will be able to share her family legacy during Undergraduate Commencement as she is the student Commencement speaker. 

Brown will be able to share her family legacy during Undergraduate Commencement as she is the student Commencement speaker. This role is chosen through a selection committee and audition process.  

The Lorton, Va., native will earn undergraduate degrees in political science and criminal justice. She’s passionate about learning the ethics of the criminal justice system, the police system, and racial bias. She’s also received training outside of the classroom through internships at the Pennsylvania Prison Society and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.  

She solidified her career aspirations through hands-on experience and the support and guidance of La Salle’s tightknit community.  

“My classes and internships, especially my first internship with NETWORK, are where I really got my kick for criminal justice,” she said. 

Brown plans to pursue law school after graduating from La Salle. She said working in police reform is a large goal of hers but specializing in civil rights or criminal defense law would also be great tools to have. 

Closing her undergraduate chapter at La Salle is emotional for Brown, but this period, she said, has allowed her to dive more into her family history through writing her student Commencement address. Not only will she be able to share the Smith’s legacy with her graduating class and their families, but she’ll be able to wish her fellow graduates off with final thoughts on how they can achieve anything they put their mind to. 

She said being able to celebrate La Salle’s inclusive environment through her address is an exciting moment.  

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “The University supports its Black community and the communities of people of color, so having a woman speak and, above all, a Black woman, it means a lot for me.”  

—Meg Ryan