Brian Smith, a former production supervisor for The Daily Princetonian, has passed away at the age of 66. Smith served on The Daily Princetonian for 24 years, from 1986 through 2010, after being brought on by long-time production supervisor Larry DuPraz.
Smith’s professional duties at the ‘Prince’ included helping with the production and layout of the newspaper at a time when the ‘Prince’ was transitioning to modernized printing and just starting to have a digital presence.
“He would always lay out the ads first and then we would know how many inches we had for various stories, and we would know how long our stories could be. When we were finished with our story, we would send them over to Brian, who would lay them out and put them in the newspaper,” recalled Christine Whelan ’99, the 122nd Editor-in-Chief for the ‘Prince.’
However to many of his friends, family, and mentees, he was so much more than his professional job description. Smith was also an artist: during his time at the ‘Prince,’ the newspaper would present two annual awards, “Athlete of the Year” and “Student of the Year.” For the recipient of each award, he would draw a portrait of them and present it at the newspaper’s annual banquet.
He would also often host the ‘Prince’ alumni barbecue during Princeton’s annual reunions celebrations. He was described by many as kind, calm, and patient.
“[Brian] always exuded a deep sense of calm and professionalism, and you were always constantly learning [from him] and striving to make the ‘Prince’ an even better and more technologically advanced paper,” said former ‘Prince’ Director of Advertising Sales and Development Katie Ko ’09.
“Brian never threw up his hands with me, no matter how late at night it got or how dense I was being,” said former ‘Prince’ Arts Editor Elise Meslow Ryan ’94.
Though many of Smith’s mentees came to Princeton to receive a formal degree and took classes under various professors, some admitted that through their extracurricular ventures at the ‘Prince,’ they felt a greater connection with Smith.
“I spent more time with Smith than really any other specific member of the faculty at Princeton. I think that’s true for a lot of people,“ said Tom Weber ’89, former Chairman of the Class of 1989 Daily Princetonian Managing Board and current President of The Daily Princetonian Board of Trustees.
Whelan echoed a similar sentiment, remarking on the things she learned from Smith during their many interactions.
“While I had many wonderful professors who inspired me academically, when it came to how to get a job done and how to show up day after day, that was Brian,” she stated.
Rick Klein ’98, the 121st Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Prince,’ recounts a memory he shared with Smith where the two embraced after hearing the Yankees had won a game over the radio in 1996, the same year the Yankees went on to win the World Series.
“We gave each other a big hug, it was such a nice, genuine moment. He was as much a part of that paper as any student there ever was,” Klein shared.
“I think the difference between him and a professor would be that he was doing the work alongside us,” Klein added.
Smith’s legacy is present in many of his mentees, some of whom went on to work and hold large positions at the Washington Post, NBC News, ABC News, and CNN, among others, with some stating that Smith contributed to the reason they’re successful today.
“[Former ‘Prince’ staffers] were populating the ranks of journalism and to know they came through Brian's classroom in recent decades to me spoke really loudly and proudly about that legacy,” said Klein, who works as the political director at ABC News in Washington, D.C.
Joe Gesue ’93, a former sports editor for the ‘Prince,’ commented on Smith’s influence on his career and success.
“I’ve been fortunate to make a career in media, and I’ll never forget how [his] influence and guidance helped me take those first crucial steps down this path,” he said.
Gesue works as the senior vice president for NBC Olympics & Paralympics Editorial and has worked on Olympic primetime shows since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
“I think we were lucky to have someone from that side of our lives who took his role as mentor and teacher as seriously as he did,” Weber added.
Though Princeton undergraduates came and went over the years, Smith stayed in touch with many of them after they married and had kids of their own. It is this willingness to engage students that will be missed most by all.
Smith is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Sharon Smith; his son and daughter-in-law, Tyler and Maggie Smith; his daughter, Olivia Smith; his brother, Dr. Mark Smith, of Stockton; his sister, Dr. Maureen O’Brien, Honolulu, Hawaii; and many loving cousins, nieces, nephews, dear friends, and beloved pets.
Justus Wilhoit is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to email@example.com.