"But the co-ed idea never will spread," maintains Cleveland's best woman tennis player.

"The reason it seems is that the U.S. Lawn Tennis association elders would be aghast at the very suggestion and would never, never sponsor a mixed tournament, anymore than the University of Illinois will allow co-eds on the college golf team."

The story suggested that Edna Smith's main intention in getting into the men's tournament was to improve the standard of women's tennis in Cleveland.

Edna Smith, went on collecting trophies in city, state and national competitions. One of the first Arab American graduates of Ohio State University, she began a twenty year teaching career in the early 1930's in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, and in Sisters College, the forerunner of St. John's College. She married James Shalala in 1939 and when their twin daughters were in school she herself returned to the classroom, switching careers to earn a law degree. Edna Smith Shalala became the first woman attorney of Syrian-Lebanese descent to practice law in Cleveland.


By the mid thirties, American colleges were experiencing an academic invasion that would set the stage for broad changes in the educational systems of institutions of higher learning.

The children and grandchildren of the immigrants of the early 1900's, graduating from high school in the years of the Depression, realized that a high school diploma was no longer adequate if they were to establish a firm footing in the professional and economic mainstream of American life.




With the sons and daughters of native Americans, the ambitious Syrian-Lebanese waited table in college cafeterias, did housework and baby sitting in faculty homes and worked at any odd job that would help them earn that coveted sheepskin.

Cleveland Arab-Americans went to Ohio State, Western Reserve and neighboring universities. Getting their Bachelor's degrees, a few continued the struggle into medical and law schools and other specialized fields.

While the ambitions and determination of all of these students was noteworthy, there was one Cleveland student whose struggle for higher education was an epic of perseverance, self sacrifice, and victory over a physical handicap that in the thirties carried a stigma that was not limited to the group but was universal.

Born in St. Louis, Raymond Shibley was blinded, as numbers of children were at the time because of improper eye care at birth. When the family moved to Cleveland, Nasif Shibley, his father, opened a grocery store, staunch in the belief that a self-owned business would afford independence and security for the family. He feared for the future of his son and was determined that the boy would not have to rely on the kinds of jobs open to the blind for his livelihood.

"My father had an obsession about it," says his daughter, Anne Shibley Bird. "He was in his forties when he died, and through his last illness he pleaded with my mother and myself to keep Raymond in school and see that he got as much education as possible. He would say, 'Don't ever let your brother have to carry a tin cup, or sell pencils on the street. You must promise that this will never happen."




Toward this goal for higher education, Nellie Shibley, the mother and her daughter Anne, threw all their resources. The grocery store was open for long hours, seven days a week and the energies of mother and daughter were spent in making it successful in order to finance the son's education.

On graduation from East High School, Raymond applied to Western Reserve University but was rejected on the grounds that he would be unable to keep up with his classes because of his handicap.

Mother and daughter, fortified by friends and well wishers in the entire community, bombarded the admissions office with pleas, demands, and letters of support until finally the exception was made and the young man enrolled.

In June of 1937, Raymond Shibley was graduated from Adelbert College of Western Reserve with a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts with a major in French. He graduated cum laude in a class of approximately one hundred and fifty.

This was not yet enough. While his sister remained at home to run the family business, Raymond Shibley and his mother travelled to Lebanon, to the family village of Aiteneet. There he was married to Latifie Abu-Nader, and the young couple set sail for Paris and the Sorbonne.

Of a class of seventy in French phonetics, thirty-five failed the courses. Raymond Shibley, in spite of difficulty with the written exams, which he wrote with stylus and typewriter, topped the remaining thirty-five to receive a mention tres honorable, the first American student in the Phonetics Institute to achieve such a high score since 1926.