By Fred Faust:
Monday, January 18, 2016 at noon is the annual celebration at the Tsongas Center of the life and lessons of Martin Luther King Junior. Organized by Lura Smith for her foundation at Middlesex Community College, It is a meaningful way to spend a part of this national holiday.
About the Interview: Lura Smith is an expressive, purposeful and busy woman. Getting her to sit down for an interview shortly before the MLK, Jr. event that she organizes with husband Robert and others is not an easy task. The breakfast, which she describes annually as “the best day of my life,” includes an extensive program that accommodates several hundred guests. Also, Lura Smith does not really ‘sit down’ for an interview. She is too busy demonstrating stories about her family and incredible upbringing in New Orleans. This includes the acting out her mother’s lessons, which she has since passed along as a motivational speaker. Her office cannot come close to containing the energy of this Assistant to the President of Middlesex Community College. As a simple interview does not do justice to this interesting and instructive story, we plan to reconvene shortly for the record. In order to highlight the holiday event, however, this is a preview describing the genesis of the MLK, Jr. event in Lowell. Smith invites all parties to attend Monday’s event at noon.
Lura Smith on the Origins of Martin Luther King Day in Lowell.
“Eighteen years ago, my husband and I said, you know, we’ve been living in Lowell for a long time. My husband, myself and our two sons, as an African American family, we just wanted to make certain that we were doing something that spoke to that which we believe in. So we made a decision to invest the money and to do a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. That was at the Nesmith House back in 1999.”
About 75 people attended the first free event to honor Dr. King. Two important attendees were Dr. Carole Cowan, who recently retired as the President of Middlesex Community College, and George Duncan, founder and Chair of Enterprise Bank and Trust. Both encouraged Smith to further promote the event and pledged to support it. This was to become the Lura Smith Fund at the Middlesex Community College Foundation.
“We felt that those who did accept the invitation early on understood that this was about fully embracing Dr. King’s legacy,” remembered Smith. “Much to our surprise, these people didn’t just show up but were asking us, ‘who do I write my check out to? I want to contribute. I want to feel like I’m doing something.’”
Dr. Cowan said to me, ‘Lura, this is wonderful. I had no idea this is what this event was going to be. Now it’s time for us to implement this.’ Another earlier contributor she recalls was Duncan of Enterprise Bank. Duncan invited Smith “over for coffee.” After attending an early event, Duncan and the bank became generous financial supporters.
Since 2000, the Smith Fund and MCC Foundation has become a great asset to many students hoping to pursue their dreams in terms of education and career.
“Dr. King gave us all the words and marching orders,” says Smith. “The event is about the mingling, the fellowship, about building the community and human spirit across the lines.”
With respect to Martin Luther King, Junior and the ideals well represented by Lura Smith, attending the King celebration gives prospective to an important part of American history. Given recent local and national events, it presents opportunity for important dialogue. A full interview with Lura Smith should be published within the next few weeks.
An earlier and moving profile of Lura was written by Nancye Tuttle of the Lowell Sun.