Current faculty Mike McCabe and former faculty Julia (Cohan) Quinn shared a moving remembrance of Wil Smith with the all-school community on the fifth anniversary of his passing this week. Smith served as Berkshire’s first Dean of Community and Multicultural Affairs (the position now known as Dean of Diversity and Inclusion) from 2010 to 2015. He also served as the head coach of the girls varsity basketball team and an assistant coach on the football team, up until his death on February 22, 2015 from colon cancer.
As five years have passed, all of the students who worked directly with Smith are now out in the world, making contributions to their collegiate and post-collegiate communities. However, the lasting nature of Smith’s tenure at Berkshire remains visible and identifiable for those who knew him. Mr. McCabe and Mrs. Quinn’s stories of his impact, his force of character, and his selfless commitment to others, helped invoke his spirit.
Mrs. Quinn, who coached girls basketball with Smith for four years at Berkshire, shared about his deep commitment to understanding and recognizing how fortunate we are. "Before every game, Wil reminded the girls that they were lucky to be able to play the game of basketball and that so many girls around the world didn’t have this opportunity,” remembered Quinn. “It was a privilege, and he expected the girls to honor and cherish this privilege. As he would say, ‘For all of the girls around the world who don’t get to play this great game of basketball—on their shoulders we stand.’”
McCabe, who coached both girls basketball and football with Smith, shared a second important pillar of Smith’s philosophy, a commitment to service. "Wil dedicated his life to service, and he was as selfless, humble, competitive, and compassionate as anyone I've ever met,” said McCabe. “I am proud to keep his legacy alive at Berkshire with Keep Working Week, and his story is an important one to hear, even for those who weren't lucky enough to know him.”
It was a fitting and powerful beginning to “Keep Working Week,” a week first celebrated at the time of Smith's passing. Smith’s last wish for those who knew and loved him was that they honor his memory by remaining fiercely committed to their goals, by being present and selfless in service to each other, and by relentlessly focusing on the importance of doing the work.
Berkshire continues to uphold Smith’s legacy through his mantra, “Keep Working,” in tangible ways. “Keep Working” and the hashtag #keepworking can be found emblazoned across the fronts of team warm-up jerseys, or invoked by teachers and other students during times of stress and challenge, as well as at the end of many a social media post.
There is also an endowed "Wilbur Smith, Jr. Scholarship," in Smith's honor that supports tuition and expenses for a diverse student of need in perpetuity. To give to the Wilbur Smith, Jr. Scholarship, please contact Myra Riiska at 413-229-1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Smith’s story, please feel free to check out the following links to media remembrances of his life.