My Story - The University Days
I always knew life was really going to begin at university and I wanted to do something that would uniquely distinguish me from the crowd. To illustrate the former point, on the night of my high school graduation ceremony I was on the playground shooting hoops. I guess that high school graduation was not important to me. The day after I left high school, I hitchhiked to Acadia University (about 60 miles from my home in Nova Scotia) to introduce myself to the head basketball coach, a distinguished former American high school coach. I told him I wanted to be the student manager of the team. I got the job. I had played basketball on my high school team but was nowhere sufficiently talented to compete at the university level.
Shortly after arriving on campus in September, I wrote a letter to about 80 American universities asking that they send me their football and basketball brochures. Intercollegiate sport is a much bigger business in American schools than in Canadian schools and many responded. I had an idea that was going to put me on the "up and comers" map.
After the school year was over, my father, the telephone company engineer, secured a great job for me in the computer department. Little did he know. I quit the job after about three weeks and I had saved every cent. It was a Friday evening when I told my father I had quit. He was livid. His encouragement to me that night was, “If this is the kind of decision you are going to make with your life, I’m through. I will not pay for any more of your education. You are on your own.” That summer I sold advertisement space in the sports brochure I had planned for the university and did the same for two more years. I essentially paid for the rest of my education
myself. It represented one of the great achievements of my life and garnered attention as people started to say things to me, including the university president, Dr. Beveridge, who knew me by name. I would cash in on this later.
Furthermore, my father unknowingly taught me a great lesson. If you seek to do something truly unique and to separate yourself from others, do not allow yourself a Plan B. Make a plan, pursue it with conviction, and either fly or drown. You must be willing to live with either outcome. As a student who produced a first in the university’s 140-year history, I flew. I still have copies of the brochures from each year. Highly extroverted behavior, right?
After two years at Acadia, I took a year off of school to contemplate life. It was time to leave Nova Scotia and head to bigger pastures. I landed a spot at The University of Western Ontario in London, about two hours from Toronto, Canada’s financial center. Upon graduation, despite not having a business degree and despite the fact that no major investment bank was recruiting in the Social Sciences department (I majored in Economics and minored in History), five of the nine Canadian-based international investment firms offered me an interview. The sports brochure was front and center as a topic of conversation. They all had the same question. How? So, brimming with confidence, I told them. Three scheduled a second meeting with me for testing and all three subsequently offered me a job.
I had secured a highly coveted brass ring and adult life was about to begin as a trainee at the Toronto-based international investment bank, Midland Doherty.