A machete attack by an intruder at his Belize home nearly ended all prospects of a nursing career before it began for Owen Smith, Accel. ’14. The wounds the Peace Corps volunteer suffered—A Journey of Healing and Forgiveness—a lost ear, damaged arm, severed finger, injured neck, and facial deformities—were terrifying, he admits. But the blade never touched his spirit.
“When I remember that my life was spared and I look back on all the individual circumstances that have led me to where I am today, it reminds me that everything does happen for a purpose,” Smith says of his eventual healing and transition 19 months and multiple surgeries later to the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. He is being aided in his studies by a John R. and Ruth Gurtler Foundation Scholarship, established in memory of Ruth Ward Gurtler ’29.
Smith, a Pennsylvania native who plays guitar and piano and speaks Spanish and some of the Maya Q’eqchi language, says he feels fortunate for his recovery, not angry over the attack. Three months afterward, he returned to the Belizean village where he served. The experience left him more determined than ever to make a difference in nursing and passionate about working with the growing Latin American population in Baltimore. “Living in Highlandtown and volunteering at the Esperanza Center and CASA de Maryland [a volunteer site for the Community Outreach Program], I often feel like I am still continuing the Peace Corps service I started in Belize.”
The John R. and Ruth Gurtler Foundation Scholarship
The John R. and Ruth Gurtler Foundation Scholarship, established in memory of alumna Ruth Ward Gurtler ’29, offers full tuition to a returning Peace Corps volunteer.