Nicholas Brathwaite, BSc ’82, at the Hamilton Club after receiving an honorary degree from McMaster University. Brathwaite delivered a convocation address to the DeGroote School of Business’ class of 2018 during the School’s June 12 graduation ceremony at FirstOntario Concert Hall.
Technology entrepreneur. International business leader. Notable philanthropist. Nicholas Brathwaite still has difficulty coming to terms with it all.
“Based on any statistical analysis, I should not be here today,” he told DeGroote’s graduating class of 2018 during McMaster’s June 12 convocation ceremony. “I am the grandson of a man who was an abused child, who stowed away on a boat at the age of 12 and never saw his family again.”
Brathwaite was on hand to accept an honorary degree from his alma mater, “one of the top universities in the world,” for a lifetime of professional successes and public service. Looking back, it’s easy to understand the mixed emotions.
His paternal grandfather, Charles, was indeed a runaway child who fled Barbados for nearby Grenada with little education. Despite growing up poor with no electricity or running water, one of Charles’ children, Sir Nicholas A. Brathwaite, would later become the country’s fifth Prime Minister.
The younger Nicholas Brathwaite was born on the Grenadian island of Carriacou, and shared his family’s passion for self improvement. He graduated from McMaster’s Department of Chemistry in 1982, and later received a MSc in Chemistry from the University of Waterloo. He began his career at Intel, and earned his first patent while gaining expertise in semiconductor assembly and packaging technologies.
He went on to become a founding member of nCHIP – a company that specialized in developing an industry-leading, multi-chip module assembly process. When nCHIP was purchased by Silicon Valley-based Flextronics in 1995, Brathwaite became the company’s Chief Technology Officer.
His vision and leadership were instrumental in growing revenues from $150 million to more than $20 billion. Brathwaite retired from the company a decade ago, and became a founding partner of Riverwood Capital. The latter’s portfolio of companies has included GoPro, Ticketfly, Accellion, and Synapsis, among many others.
Ever the philanthropist, Nicholas and his wife, Janice, launched the PETNA Foundation to champion projects that focus on youth, education, and community development. One such initiative includes offering support for T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), the only tertiary educational institution in Grenada. The TAMCC partnership involves input from McMaster and the Government of Grenada.
The Brathwaites have also provided financial assistance to several undergraduate and graduate students in various programs, including education and information technology. They recently partnered with Grenada’s Ministries of Health and Education and New York University’s College of Dentistry to deliver a two-week dental assessment and treatment program open to all public school students throughout the country.
Brathwaite’s message to DeGroote graduands was one that extolled innovation and collaboration. “No business is created by just one person,” he offered. “It takes a team, and that team should include people who will encourage, support, and challenge us … If no one is questioning your views or ideas, you’re probably playing it too safe.”
In recent years, McMaster has embraced the virtues of interdisciplinary education. At DeGroote, the School partnered with McMaster’s Faculty of Humanities to launch the Integrated Business and Humanities (IBH) program in 2017. The School also co-leads the Health Leadership Academy (HLA) with the Faculty of Health Sciences, and is collaborating on a forthcoming Minor in Innovation with the Faculty of Engineering.
On an institutional level, McMaster is committed to creating a brighter world. A key aspect of this mission is supporting interdisciplinary research, with a particular focus on health and wellbeing. It’s an ambitious plan that aligns well with Brathwaite’s core values.
“I urge you to define your success not based on money, fame, or fortune, but on the impact you can have on the lives of others,” he told the class of 2018.
“Your accomplishments at Mac should allow you to take the next steps of your life’s journey with the confidence that you have been well-prepared with a solid foundation. You’re ready to face the future, no matter what that future may be.”
Front row, left to right: Leonard Waverman, Dean, DeGroote School of Business; Nicholas Brathwaite and his family, Janice, Alyssa, and Haley. Back row, left to right: Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor, McMaster University; David Farrar, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), McMaster University; Suzanne Labarge, Chancellor, McMaster University; Eva Klein, Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Faculty of Health Sciences.