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The BG News
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September 21, 2023

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Kidnapping survivor to speak at University

Elizabeth Smart is coming to the University on Tuesday as the first speaker in the University Libraries’ “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories” series.

The series will fundraise money through ticket sales and Smart will tell her story of moving on from her 9-month kidnapping in 2002 when she was 14 years old.

The event will raise money for the library and Smart will be speaking at two different events.

Smart will be speaking at 2:30 p.m. in Olscamp 101, just for students, and then there will be an event later in the evening, for which people have to pay for tickets.

Paul Stiffler, chairman of the event host on the University Libraries Advocates Board, hopes the event is more than a fundraiser; he hopes it’s also a learning experience for students and for audience members.

“[It’s] being able to provide a venue for speakers to be able to emphasize information available to the public through the library,” Stiffler said. “There’s help in the library to find these subjects, read about it, learn about it.”

Elizabeth Smart was chosen because a few library staff members had seen her speak and she sets a good example.

“We felt Elizabeth Smart was a very good example of a situation that was dreadful when it happened but there was almost a happy ending … she was saved,” Stiffler said.

Janet Parks, a member of the advocates board, said the board likes to have “events that draw attention to this wonderful library we have.”

“I want people to know their library is keeping up with the times and providing information to a broad constituency,” Parks said. “I think Elizabeth Smart’s message in and of itself is an important message.”

Stiffler said he hopes Smart talks about moving on from her experience.

Kari Johnson, manager of Administrative Services at the University Library, went to see Smart speak in Michigan in March.

“Her story is great. It’s very motivational to see the adversity she’s overcome, how she’s moved past that and become an advocate,” Johnson said. “I think she’s going to be great. I think she has a great message for students here.”

The money will go to the University Library. The advocates board decided to allocate the money to digitize The BG News and Key Yearbook/Magazine in honor of two University alumni.

The project will be called the David and Judy Miller Digitization Project and is being done partly in honor of David Miller, who died this summer, Parks said.

“It seemed to be the most meaningful to all of us,” said Sara Bushong, dean of the University Library.

Miller was a member of the advocates board and on the staff of Key Magazine and The BG News during his time as a student at the University.

The board decided to use the money for digitization because “it’s very big these days and very important,” Stiffler said. “When David passed away this summer … [it was] an important way to honor his memory.”

Miller was a founding member of the advocates board and very pro-University, according to Stiffler.

The library also wanted to bring Smart because she has a book, “My Story,” out now.

“We wanted to bring in someone who has a book to promote reading,” Bushong said.

The afternoon event will host about 600 students and the evening event will host about 350 people, Bushong said.

Since Smart’s story is a sensitive one, there will also be advocates there to talk to anyone who needs them, she said.

“It’s not a sad story; it has hope,” Bushong said. “She speaks very calmly, very passionately. She has strength in her voice, but graceful strength.”

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