Teacher shot in Libya grew up in suburban Detroit

Ronald Thomas Smith II.
Ronald Thomas Smith II.

WARREN, Mich. — A Michigan-raised teacher who was shot to death while jogging in Benghazi, Libya, was “very excited about the work he was doing” in the North African nation, a close friend said today.

Ronald T. Smith II, 33, died today in the same city where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack last year.

Smith was a 1997 graduate of Woods Tower High School in Warren, according to Nathan Hlavin, who said they knew each other for 20 years.

“He had a heart for Libya (and) saw it as a great opportunity to help people,” Hlavin told The Associated Press.

Smith got a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State and a master’s degree from the University of Texas, Hlavin said. He said Smith planned to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and become a professional chemist, probably for a corporation, but veered away from that path in favor of a possible career in the church.

But, as it turned out, the seminary was not for him, so he took up teaching overseas, first in Egypt, Hlavin said.

Smith had a deep Christian faith, Hlavin said. “It was very much a part of who he was.”

Hlavin, 35, the director of an IT company, said he last saw his friend over the summer when Smith visited the Detroit area. They had dinner at their favorite Lebanese restaurant.

“He seemed very excited about the work he was doing,” Hlavin said. “He believed he was making a difference in his students’ lives.”

Hlavin said he got a number of texts while he was at work but ignored them because he was busy. Later, he saw a reference online to an American teacher dying in Libya.

“I thought, ‘Oh God. That can’t be him.’ And it was,” he said.