RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps, recording conversations between loved ones. Today the education of a single dad. His name is Will Smith, and he was 27 when he enrolled as a freshman at Bowdoin College in Maine. His age wasn't the only thing that set him apart from his classmates. When Will Smith set off for school, he had his infant daughter, Olivia, in tow. She's now a teenager. He's battling colon cancer, and just after that diagnosis, they sat down together to look back on their college days.
WILL SMITH: I wasn't planning on having you as my roommate. I actually thought that if Bowdoin College knew I had you, they wouldn't let me come to college, so I hadn't mentioned it to anyone. And I got a job working at Staples cleaning at night and I had to take you in with me at work sometimes and hide you in the closet.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I think I lost something like 27 pounds just from stress and not eating because I didn't have enough for both of us. My basketball teammates were my first babysitters. I just remember coming from class and there were four giant guys and then there was this 18-month-old who was tearing up the room.
OLIVIA SMITH: Were you ever embarrassed bringing me to class or just having me in general?
SMITH: I felt a little awkward, but never embarrassed. There were times when the only way I could get through was to come in and look at you and see you sleeping and then go back to my studies, and my graduation day from Bowdoin is a day I'll never forget, you know? All of my classmates, they stood up and gave me the only standing ovation.
SMITH: I remember walking up with you and having my head on your shoulder.
SMITH: Yeah. The dean called both of our names as they presented us with the diploma.
SMITH: So technically I already graduated from college.
SMITH: Nice try.
SMITH: The degree only has my name on it, so you still got to go.
SMITH: I really admire your strength, and I love you.
SMITH: I draw my strength from you. I always have and I still do.
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MONTAGNE: Will Smith with his daughter, Olivia, at StoryCorps in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress, and you can watch StoryCorps' newest animated film at npr.org.
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