Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Q&A with Susan O’Connor of the Timothy Smith Network



Editor’s Note: Historic Boston is thrilled that the Timothy Smith Network will be joining us at the Eustis Street Fire House as our first floor tenants. This week, we took the opportunity to get to know the organization a bit better by speaking with their Executive Director, Susan O’Connor.

Historic Boston: Who was Timothy Smith, and how was the Network formed?

Timothy Smith Network: It is fitting that the Timothy Smith Network is moving into Dudley Square because Timothy Smith, who was a wealthy Roxbury merchant, made his fortune in Dudley Square in the late 19th century. He resided in Roxbury for most of his adult life, was a life trustee of Roxbury Latin School, a member of the Boston Athenaeum, and a deacon at Eliot Congregational Church. When he and his wife, Mary Ellen, both died in 1918 their last will and testament specified that the proceeds of their bequest be utilized to benefit the highest number of residents of the “old” City of Roxbury which at the beginning of the twentieth century included parts of Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and the South End, along with the present day Roxbury. Although the Smiths could not have imagined technology centers named in Mr. Smith’s honor, their foresight set the stage for a quiet revolution that would occur in Roxbury eighty-seven years later.

In 1996, Mayor Thomas M. Menino created the Timothy Smith fund for “Old Roxbury” to support development of an integrated network of community technology and learning centers throughout Great Roxbury bearing Smith’s name. The first four Timothy Smith Computer Centers opened in 1997. Today at over 30 Timothy Smith Centers throughout the community, Roxbury residents of all ages can participate in a diverse range of training and technology programs through which they can acquire the knowledge and skills essential for today’s technology-driven world.

Historic Boston: Could you tell us more about what Timothy Smith Network does?

Timothy Smith Network: The Timothy Smith Network, in partnership with over 30 community organizations, provides comprehensive technology training and services to residents of the greater Roxbury community. Residents of all ages have access to state of the art computer technology and to programs that build the capacity of the people of Roxbury to succeed in an increasingly technology-driven world. To learn how to effectively to use a computer and the Internet is critical for people of all ages. It is the key to a better job, a richer life, a stronger community. Too often, those who have not been exposed to the benefits of technology are afraid of it or don’t see the role it can play in their lives. At the Timothy Smith Network, we see technology as a tool that creates possibilities, inspires action, and changes lives.


Historic Boston: Why did the TSN decide to move into the Eustis Street Fire House?

Timothy Smith Network: For the past five years, Roxbury Community College has generously provided office space to the Timothy Smith Network. However, if the TSN is to meet its goals and to remain credible with funders and partners, it needs to have its own space, independent of any TS Center.

The Eustis Street Fire House is a perfect location for the Timothy Smith Network in the heart of Dudley Square. The size of the first floor of the Fire House will enable the Timothy Smith Network to grow its staff as well as have small meetings. The location is barely three blocks away from where the Timothy Smith Company store was located on Washington Street at Vernon Street. Having our workspace in a historic building that was functional during the life of Timothy Smith reinforces our ties to the community and will be a constant reminder of his legacy and our responsibility to fulfill his bequest—always benefit the residents of Roxbury.

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