How time flies: Looking back on my quindecennial with NCC

Doug Bliss, Atlantic regional director, Canadian Wildlife Service, Linda Stephenson, Atlantic regional vice president, NCC and Charles Duncan, director of WHSRN executive office unveil commemorative print of semipalmated sandpipers by artist Robert Lyon (Photo by NCC)

Doug Bliss, Atlantic regional director, Canadian Wildlife Service, Linda Stephenson, Atlantic regional vice president, NCC and Charles Duncan, director of WHSRN executive office unveil commemorative print of semipalmated sandpipers by artist Robert Lyon (Photo by NCC)

November 14, 2013 | by Linda Stephenson | 1 Comments

They say “time flies when you are having fun.” Guess that explains why the past decade and a half seem to have gone by at warp speed. You can break it down to be 5,475 days, or 780 weeks or 180 months, but any way you slice it, this is my quindecennial (15-year) anniversary with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

I well remember that fateful day back in 1998 when my father, the late Harold Hatheway, appeared in front of my desk at the office of my previous employer. In his hand he held an advertisement for an Atlantic Director with Nature Conservancy of Canada.  After glancing at the position description, I told him it was the perfect post-retirement job for him and I totally thought he should throw his hat in the ring (I may have suggested he be careful in his hat selection, as he certainly had some odd ones...).

Left to right: Darwin Gillcash of Amalgamated Dairies Ltd, Linda Stephenson, NCC regional vice president, Atlantic region, Honourable Gail Shea, Member of Parliament for Egmont and Minister of National Revenue and Terry Shea with PEI Mutual Insurance Comp

Left to right: Darwin Gillcash of Amalgamated Dairies Ltd, Linda Stephenson, NCC regional vice president, Atlantic region, Honourable Gail Shea, Member of Parliament for Egmont and Minister of National Revenue and Terry Shea with PEI Mutual Insurance Comp

Well, apparently I had it wrong. All wrong. According to Dad, it was the perfect job for me, not him.  Since I was happily, and rewardingly, entrenched in working with youth at risk, I thanked Dad, but indicated that I really wasn’t interested. He left, but returned the next day, and the next day and the day after that. And I wonder where I get my persistent streak. On the fourth day — which was also closing date for applications — it was my hat, not Dad’s, that got thrown in the ring. I tend to favour hats with long bills, which my daughter claims make me look like a shorebird.

I remember getting excited as I prepared my application, realizing I might actually be interested in the job, and that perhaps I did have some transferable skills. There was no question that I loved the great outdoors. Growing up, family vacations were to remote lakes, where we pitched a tent. With my older sister Margot as the only alternative, holiday playmates were generally frogs and snakes. Eventually, my Dad built a camp (not a cottage), which had no “conveniences” and was accessible only by the waters of Oromocto Lake. In later years, as a concession to my Mom (who as it turned out, never really went there), a new camp, with questionable road access was constructed. 

I feel closest to my Dad when I am sitting in the sun porch at the camp and looking out over Oromocto Lake. I know he was immensely proud of me when I joined NCC.

But I digress. Getting back to the skills I felt I could offer NCC, another one of them was fundraising. I knew how to raise money and I was pretty good at it. When my head and my heart are wrapped around a cause, I have no compunction about “making the ask,” which when it comes to NCC, I really think is “offering the opportunity to invest in the future.” I knew a fair amount about real estate practices and law, having been married to a realtor since 1981. I had been directly involved in my husband Bud’s career, so figured I knew my way around an Agreement of Purchase and Sale with a high degree of confidence. Heck, I even knew what caveat emptor meant!

Long story just a tad less long, I interviewed for, and was ultimately offered the position. Looking back, there are some funny (well, maybe vaguely amusing) stories about the interview process, but ‘nuff said that I signed on the dotted line. On November 2, 1998, I became the inaugural Atlantic Director for Nature Conservancy of Canada in the four Atlantic provinces. My title changed to Regional Vice President years ago, but it has remained the same great job.

Linda Stephenson, Gerald Keddy, Minister John Baird with a barred owl at Deep Cove announcement, Nova Scotia (Photo by NCC)

Linda Stephenson, Gerald Keddy, Minister John Baird with a barred owl at Deep Cove announcement, Nova Scotia (Photo by NCC)

The 15-year-old ad for the job states: “Eventually, your success will lead to the establishment of a permanent Atlantic office.”  Well, not only do we have a permanent Atlantic office in Fredericton, we have a staff in seven locations across the four provinces.  As a staff, we are supported by an incredible cadre of senior volunteers, a couple of whom predate my involvement with NCC.

I remember back in 1998, NCC’s budget for the entire country was $8,000,000. I’ve now seen the Atlantic Region’s budget top $10,000,000. As a non-profit, charitable organization, we depend on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations and governments who believe in our mission and trust our ability to deliver it; $10,000,000 is a lot of trust! That said, there is so much left to do and the time to do it is now, so I squeeze my eyes tight and hope our amazing donors continue to support our work.

I have an anniversary card on my desk from my staff on which many of them wrote, “Here’s to 15 more.” That might be a bit much, but I’ve got a good few years left in me yet, and I hope to continue to chronicle my NCC journey! Stay tuned!

About the Author

Linda Stephenson is the vice-president, regional operations for NCC.

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