Bill Etherington, BESc'63, LLD'98

Director, Celestica Inc.
Former Chair, CIBC
Former President and CEO, IBM Canada Ltd.


Dr. Etherington received the Lauchland Engineering Alumni Medal in 1994.

Q & A

Any advice you would offer an incoming Engineering student?

As you begin your engineering program, commit to taking full advantage of all that the faculty and the university has to offer both academically and socially. Western is a great university. Most of us look back on those days wishing that we had worked and played even harder. Remember, this is the chance to make life-long friends and fully prepare yourself for the great and varied opportunities that life will present to you.

How did engineering launch your success?

Luckily, I graduated in 1963 in Electrical Engineering just as the computer age was beginning. I remember that our Electronics professor was not sure that semiconductors would totally replace vacuum tubes but they sure did with a vengeance and the general purpose computer was introduced. As luck would have it, IBM was hiring a large number of Engineering graduates since the start of the selling process in those early days often required a technical explanation of the technology to customer executives. I joined the IBM Office on Richmond Street at Oxford and stayed almost 40 years working across Canada and around the world … it was my Engineering degree that made all that possible.

Why do you value your Engineering degree?

I have always been proud to say that I graduated in Engineering with all that the degree implies - problem solving; building systems and products; seeing what can be; and, most of all, pragmatism. While I went straight into sales engineering (not traditional engineering), I found many ways to apply what I learned in those Western Engineering classes and labs in sales and as I progressed through senior management to ultimately lead IBM’s global sales team out of the NY corporate office.