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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
October 20, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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Michael H. Rea, Alumnus



Michael H. Rea (MBA ’98) learned early on about the importance of living life to the fullest and doing as much possible with the time you have. As a child, he had open-heart surgery, and was taken to death’s door twice.

“There is something that snaps inside of you when you escape death. Whether it’s for a fleeting moment, something snaps when you die.” said Rea. “You don’t understand what ‘carpe diem’ is until you understand what a day is.”

It is this type of thinking that prompted him to create his own focus of study when he came to Laurier in 1997 to do his MBA. At the time, corporate social responsibility wasn’t as well known as it is now, but Rea knew he wanted to focus on this topic after coming across a company in Costa Rica trying to enrich the lives of its employees.

“There is a growing social demand for companies to be more transparent about what they are doing from both an environmental and social perspective, and to ensure that profits are not generated at the expense of the communities in which they operate.”

Today, Rea lives in South Africa where he runs SustainabilityServices.co.za, a company he founded to provide companies with assurance and advisory services around sustainability reporting. His company is one of the top assurance providers in South Africa, and is edging up to be number two in all of Africa.

Rea, who also recently won the 2010 Community Leadership Award from Laurier’s School of Business & Economics, also lives by the saying, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” And he gives back in many ways.

He is the on board of Cotlands, one of the largest non-governmental organizations in Africa. He writes their annual reports, helps organize food gardens and water reticulation projects in rural communities, hosts volunteers, and helps “granny-headed households” sell woven Zulu baskets to support their grandchildren left orphaned by HIV and AIDS.

In addition, Rea volunteers with the Orlando Children’s Home, an orphanage in Soweto, and has created the Soweto Marimba Youth League (SMYLe) Trust. SMYLe is a youth development project in Soweto, which uses music as a mechanism to encourage more than 100 under-privileged primary and high school learners to stay in school.

“I grew up in Cambridge, and my parents were very hardworking, blue-collar workers, and if they taught me one thing, it’s that having work is a privilege, not a right, and that being privileged comes with an expectation that you give back.”

His future plans include giving back to Laurier. Rea is currently working on a PhD and his ultimate dream is to return to Laurier to teach in the MBA program.

“I really do consider Laurier to be one of the greatest gifts of my life.”