Habitat for Humanity CEO to speak to 2007 grads tonight

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Neil Hetherington, CEO of Toronto’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, returns to Western tonight to speak to the 2007 graduates at the Last Lecture Event.

Originally from Toronto, Hetherington received his BA in political science from Huron in 1995.

Hetherington said he found his time at Western thrilling and fun.

“I loved Western, probably too much,” he said. “I had a really good time, [and] Huron was good for me [because] it was a little smaller.”

One piece of advice Hetherington hopes to pass along to graduates is having an open approach to life; Hetherington said his life turned out quite different from what he expected.

“I saw Western as a kind of stepping stone to getting into law school,” he said. “I had a real image of where I wanted my life to go, but Western sort of forced my decision when [it] said ‘well here’s a general degree, but you can’t get an honours due to [your] marks.’”

He then received a certificate in construction management at Seneca College to follow up on the company he was running in his summers.

“I was making money and doing well with the business side of that, so I thought I might stay in that field.”

From there, Hetherington and some friends decided to travel.

“We wanted to go on a vacation with a purpose,” he said.

The group ended up volunteering in Hungary, Poland and Uganda.

“We built homes, loved it and thought it was the coolest organization in the world.”

Hetherington returned to Toronto and began working as a building manager for high-rise condos for five years at Tridel in Toronto. Hetherington then decided he needed a change and applied to Habitat for Humanity.

“It was the best decision of my life " not to go and be very rich, but to do something I was passionate about. I had a real calling.”

Hetherington encourages graduates to pursue their calling, whether it’s for profit or not.

“Not-for-profit requires passion, but you can be equally passionate about banking or land development.”

Lastly, he encourages graduates to expand their world view and work with charities and non-government organizations.

“Like the Martin Luther King Jr. quote: ‘Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.’”

He added Habitat for Humanity’s success isn’t derived from individuals, but hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

“Once you have done it, you don’t stop, so there have been more opportunities to get involved. As a result, more homes have been built.”

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