Nov. 17, 2011
By Craig Chval Sr.
A long-standing family joke claims that two-year-old Greg Meredith wasn’t particularly talkative. In fact, as the story goes, he didn’t talk at all. The reason he didn’t talk, according to family lore, was that he was busy planning.
Apparently, those were some plans. Ever since Meredith started sharing and executing those plans, he hasn’t stopped – going from All-American hockey player at Notre Dame, to Rhodes Scholar finalist, to National Hockey League player, to Harvard Business School graduate, to ultra-successful businessman, to large-scale philanthropist, to devoted husband and father, to one of just 11 former Notre Dame student-athletes ever to receive the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award.
By the time Meredith was in his early teens in his native Toronto, he had decided that he didn’t want to have to rely upon financial support from his parents to attend college, since they had three other children to put through college.
“My dad worked very, very hard, but four college tuitions was going to be a lot,” explains Meredith. “So I set as one of my goals as a teenager that I didn’t want my parents to have to contribute to my college education.”
Meredith achieved that goal, and the importance he placed on achieving that goal played a key role in his decision to turn down an opportunity to play hockey at Harvard, instead accepting a hockey scholarship to Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame struck me as having a spiritual grounding and a sense of people going there to prepare themselves professionally and for careers, but also to prepare themselves as people,” he offers.
Preparing himself for life beyond college was something Meredith showed up ready to do from day one; while his hockey talent relieved his parents of any financial burden for his college education, Meredith’s family nonetheless was a huge influence.
“My parents and my grandparents encouraged me to look down the road a good distance,” he says. “They emphasized that what you did at 18 was going to influence the opportunities you were going to have when you get older.”
Meredith certainly incorporated that advice into his goals while at Notre Dame, winning four hockey monograms while also excelling in the classroom. In addition to being a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship, he earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
“I look back at the time that I spent at the school, and it did more than build me up as a hockey player, but it also got me thinking about where I wanted to take my life,” he says. “It was truly one of those experiences that shaped your life.”
Meredith give much of the credit for his development at Notre Dame to his head coach, Lefty Smith, who still holds the record for the most victories by a head coach (307) in Notre Dame hockey history.
“Because of the way the team was pulled together by Lefty, it kept you pretty grounded,” says Meredith. “There were a lot of very good hockey players who were also great people.”
Along with Smith and the coaching staff, Meredith credits team chaplain Fr. Jim Riehle and head athletic trainer John Whitmer with helping he and his teammates grow into young men.
“They wanted you to be mature individuals and to grow up,” says Meredith. “They gave you just enough freedom to explore things and when you got a little bit off track, they always figured out a way to send a message that would keep you in balance.”
As Notre Dame’s all-time leader in goals (104) and power play goals (43) – distinctions he still holds – the first place Meredith took his life following graduation was the National Hockey League. Drafted by the Atlanta Flames while still at Notre Dame, Meredith made his NHL debut during the 1980-81 season. Injuries plagued Meredith’s NHL career, which included three goals for the Flames in the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not only was playing in the NHL a dream come true, but the ups-and-downs of being a professional hockey player provided experience Meredith found valuable as a student in Harvard’s rigorous graduate business program.
“I learned a lot, particularly when you’re struggling,” he says. “It definitely built up some scar tissue.
“When you’ve been in a situation when you’re rung up on the phone and told that you’re moving tomorrow because you didn’t quite cut it here and you’re being traded or sent to the minors, the meeting you’re having the next day for one of your classes doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it might have, had you never been through those experiences,” relates Meredith.
After Harvard, Meredith joined Salomon Brothers in New York City in 1986. The original plan was for Meredith to spend two years in New York, learning the company and the industry and then move back to Toronto to open a Salomon Brothers office.
“Twenty-five years later, I’m still here,” laughs Meredith, who spent seven years with the firm. Along the way, he met his wife, Audrey, and worked for a number of firms, developing a reputation for providing capital market expertise and management practices necessary to successfully launch or revitalize a wide variety of businesses. Meredith now serves as managing partner of Proctor NBF Capital Partners, a firm he founded and named in honor of his grandfather, John Proctor.
Even as Meredith has had great success in the business world, he has leaned upon his experience at Notre Dame and his upbringing to plan the most important aspect of his life – helping others, and modeling that for his children. The Meredith Family Foundation, which he established in 1997, provides support to many agencies dedicated to helping others, particularly young people with disabilities. Organizations supported by the Foundation include the LOGAN Center in South Bend, the St. Joseph’s County Special Olympics and Camp Millhouse, a summer camp for children with significant intellectual disabilities.
“Working with some of the organizations in the area who work with people with significant disabilities has helped me remain tied not only to the University, but to the surrounding community,” says Meredith.
“Coming out of Notre Dame, that’s what we were taught to try to do – to ask ourselves what we should be doing to make things a little bit better in somebody else’s life, whether our own lives are going very well or whether we’re struggling,” he says.
And that’s something that Meredith doesn’t view as simply writing checks on behalf of the Foundation. It’s something in which he and Audrey and their two children – Kristen, a freshman at Middlebury College (“It took her a while to summon the courage to tell me that she was turning down Notre Dame,” chuckles Meredith) and J.P., an 11th-grader at Collegiate School in New York – are active participants. In the summer of 2010, the entire family traveled to Peru to assist with the work being done among the poor by Fr. Joe Uwen, a Notre Dame classmate of Meredith’s.
“One of the reasons we did that and have our kids involved was to give them a sense of how to give back and how we think about helping others,” he says.
A couple of the causes nearest to Meredith’s heart involve Notre Dame hockey. He’s purchased season tickets in the new Compton Family Ice Arena, which was formally dedicated last night, for the benefit of students at LOGAN Center. He’s also spearheading a campaign to the enlist the friends of Fr. Riehle, who also served as chaplain to the Notre Dame athletic teams and as executive director of the Monogram Club, to underwrite the Notre Dame student section in the arena, which is named in memory of Fr. Riehle.
“Our hope is that all of the seats in the student section will have the name of a friend of Fr. Riehle by the time the campaign is over,” says Meredith. “He has had such an impact on all of the people in the Monogram Club.” (Anyone interested in participating in the campaign may contact Meredith at email@example.com)
As Meredith contemplates his return to campus for the dedication of the Compton Family Ice Arena and the state of Notre Dame’s hockey program, it is clear that he appreciates the respect Irish head coach Jeff Jackson demonstrates for Smith, who built a program and built hundreds of men in 19 seasons.
“Now that the program is having some significant success, it’s been really terrific to see Jeff point back at the way that Lefty built the program, and the kind of program we had,” says Meredith. “We did have a lot of people who were really exceptional hockey players and really amazing people.”