A special joy of spending time in Florida is getting to know people from all over. One of those people, and among my faves, is Rita MacLure. She knows I love a good story. Riding together in a golf cart, she told me a charming one about her nephew in Newton, Prince Edward Island, CA.
Last year, Andrew Greenan was graduating from Kinkora Regional High, the same small country high school from which Rita graduated in 1970. Andrew, Rita said, had decisions to make. Where to apply for college? Whom to invite to his senior prom? As she put it, “All those late-teen, important matters.”
Rita says her younger sister Deanna’s son is “very self-motivated.” At 13, Andrew developed his own online gaming program “and realized a modest profit.” When it came to choosing a university, he researched lots of options. Several offered scholarships. He decided on Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and received a 4-year full ride scholarship. (He’ll add a 5th year to acquire both business and computer-science degrees.)
Andrew learned of the scholarship from a cousin who’d previously received it. Andrew told the Journal/Pioneer, in an article last year, he considers Q.U. “the best there is.”
Janice Broderick, his high school English teacher, wrote his recommendation. She said, “I wanted them to know they are getting one of P.E.I.’s best students.”
Andrew’s prom date was a simple choice: girlfriend Reece MacKenzie. A more challenging decision: How should they arrive at the prom? At Kinkora there’s a long-standing tradition for graduates to arrive in vehicles that represent their personalities. Students have arrived in everything from a farm tractor to a wheelbarrow to a decorated rented flatbed. The procession is called the “drive in.” The whole community lines the street to watch.
Rita reports, “After much deliberation, Andrew decided he must arrive in a Tesla.” I asked Andrew about his fascination with the car. He said, “What I find intriguing is Tesla’s ability to shake up a car industry that’s controlled by billion dollar oil companies.” Not long before, while visiting Rita in Florida, Andrew had driven in a Tesla owned by Rita’s and my friends Bob and Renee Fritsch.
In Rita and Andrew’s small Canadian home province of 135,000, there were only 3 Teslas. 2 were owned by the same man, Harry Smith, a business consultant involved in raising awareness about renewable energy. Andrew sent out some “persuasive” emails and obtained Smith’s contact info. He sent a “polite” email to Mr. Smith, requesting to use his Tesla for prom. He’d be driving about ½ a mile at a speed of 10MPH or less.
This gracious stranger volunteered not just to loan his car, but to be Andrew’s driver. He even took Andrew for a test drive in advance. He said he’d been impressed with Andrew’s “pluckiness and tenacity.”
Andrew reports, “Experiencing the car was like looking into the future. It has unbelievable technology, acceleration and self-driving capability. I’m not a car enthusiast; I’m enthusiastic about developing technology that can impact our future, and that’s what Tesla is doing.”
Aside from impressing his date and neighbors that night, Andrew learned an important lesson. It echoes Kim Cornetet’s thoughts about small acts of kindness. (See the earlier column headlined, Small acts make a big difference for Kim Cornetet and those she touches)
“It may have been a simple act in Harry’s eyes to clean a car, dress up as a ‘chauffeur’ and spend a few hours at our school. But it made my prom experience one to remember. I learned a special lesson. Something that may seem small or insignificant to one person—like Harry’s taking the day to let us use his car—can make a huge impact on someone else’s life.”
Who knew there was so much action on Prince Edward Island? Before hearing about Andrew, all I knew about this province in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was: 1) It was known for succulent mussels, and 2) orphan Anne of Green Gables grew up there.
The scale of the smallest of Canada’s 3 Maritime Provinces hasn’t stopped one enterprising resident. Andrew has big ambitions. His idol is Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, founder of PayPal, Space X and more. With an estimated net worth over $15 billion, Musk is among the world’s 100 wealthiest people.
Andrew’s proud to claim that Elon Musk spent his first year of college at Q.U. He admires Musk not for his fortune but for his ideas. “He’s using his influence and technology for the betterment of the human race.” Andrew grew up learning to care for the planet. P.E.I. enforces stringent rules and recycles almost twice as much waste per person as anywhere else in Canada.
Thanks, Rita, for the fine anecdote (which distracted me from pondering why your golf shot sails so far past mine). Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your story. Good luck at Q.U. And thanks in advance for all you’ll do for mankind.