Wil Smith ’00: ‘A Father, A Daughter And Lessons Learned’ (NPR)

Wil Smith '00 and his daughter, Olivia. Photo: StoryCorps.

Wil Smith ’00 and his daughter, Olivia. Photo: StoryCorps.


As StoryCorps celebrates its 10th anniversary it’s revisiting some of its most loved stories. Among them is the inspiring story of Wil Smith ’00 coming to Bowdoin as a single father in 1996 at the age of 27. His story, a conversation between Smith and his now teenage daughter Olivia, first aired on NPR’s Morning Edition in June 2012, and was rebroadcast on Wednesday’s program. They speak of those years together at the College, and how, through his struggle to meet the demands of their lives, he need only look to her for inspiration.

“My graduation day from Bowdoin is a day I’ll never forget,” says Smith in the piece. “You know, all of my classmates, they stood up and gave me the only standing ovation.” Smith would go on to work at the College for 10 years, becoming Bowdoin’s associate dean of multicultural student programs, before leaving in 2010 to become the dean of community life and multicultural affairs at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass., where he also coaches girls’ basketball and softball.

The updated piece notes that before his and Olivia’s interview last June, Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer. After undergoing chemo treatments, he is now cancer-free and happy to be able to assist Olivia in her college search. Listen to the story or read the transcript.


  1. Loved this piece when I heard it last year, it brought tears to my eyes. What a great dad, and obviously very hard working.
    After hearing this piece was thrilled when my daughter decided to apply to Bowdoin, as I knew it would be a place where she would do more than just book learn, but learn the intangibles as well.
    She’s a freshman there, and is learning so much more than just science!

  2. Steve Hermans says:

    I never felt prouder to be a Bowdoin alumnus than when I listened to Wil Smith’s description of his classmates’ standing ovation for him at graduation.

  3. Amy Aselton MacLean says:

    We were blessed to have had Wil coach our son, Ben, while in Portland and his character is what impressed us so much. Through a mutual friend, we have followed Wil’s and his daughter’s many challenges and successes over the years and our family is so happy to hear they are doing well. Our lives, like so many, have been touched and greatly enriched by Wil.

  4. Amy Aselton MacLean says:

    Correction: “hear THEY ARE doing well.”

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