An Uncommonly Conventional Career



Confederation College Alum Bill Greaves Has Worked Some of the Largest Convention Centres in North America
by Graham Strong

When you walk onto the floor of a 1.3 million-square-foot convention centre in Las Vegas, you marvel at the displays, the pageantry, the sheer size of it all. What you don’t tend to think about is the work it takes to get this temporary indoor town the size of Kenora or larger up and running every weekend without a hitch.

And of course, there is always a hitch. It’s the hitches that Confederation College alum William (Bill) Greaves, Jr. used to live for.

“I love putting on my cape and flying in to save the day for a meeting planner who lost their nametags or something,” Bill said. “And I’d say, ‘Okay, come on, let’s figure it out.’ I love being that problem-solving guy. You can’t run an event that size and not have something go wrong.”

It’s a long way from where Bill started, both physically and philosophically.

Originally, back in 1975, Bill planned to go to Lakehead University to become a phys-ed teacher. A low mark in chemistry left him with a decision: go back to pick it up or move forward with something else. He was bussing tables at the Open Hearth fine dining room in the Landmark Inn as a part-time job during high school. His father, William Greaves, Sr., was Assistant to the President at Confederation College and suggested that the then-new Hotel Management program might be a good fit. It wasn’t a career Bill had considered before, but he was hooked the first semester.

Bill Greaves

“I was a jock; I was never really academically inclined. But when I went into the program, it was like a switch clicked on. I did quite well. The Canadian Restaurant Association recognized me as the most likely to succeed when I graduated.”

Succeed he did. He pretty much had his pick of jobs after graduation and chose Canadian Pacific Hotels. Now Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, it was and is one of the premier hotel chains in the world. He started in a student summer placement at one of the restaurants in the Algonquin Hotel in New Brunswick before moving to the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.

“My goal in life at that point was to become the general manager of a hotel,” Bill said. The company gave him opportunities to experience all aspects of the hospitality business from sales to managing banquets, catering, and restaurants as sort of a loose management program.

However, other opportunities drew him away from CP Hotels and he eventually landed a dream job as Catering Manager at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver. 

“It is a high-end hotel that’s very customer focused, so it fit my own values really well.”

As it turned out, the move impacted his personal life, too. He met his future wife Dawn there, which had the downside of forcing him to leave the hotel.

“She was my boss at the time, and the company frowned upon couples working together.”

That led to other positions in Vancouver including Delta Hotels, where he worked as the Director of Catering for almost a decade. He headed up an elite service team, overseeing events that brought dignitaries in from around the world including Pelé, Lance Armstrong, Jay Leno, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and President Bill Clinton.

In 2000, their lives changed again when Dawn had an opportunity to move from Vancouver’s oceanic climate to the hot, dry desert of Las Vegas. Both had two kids from previous marriages, but they were leaving the nest at that point.

“We didn’t really have anything to hold us; the timing was right,” Bill said. “We kind of thought we’d go for five years and come back, but we’re still here. We just never came home.”
Bill worked at the Venetian Las Vegas and the Bellagio before moving on to Caesars Entertainment, where he worked at almost all their convention centres on the Las Vegas strip for the next 18 years. He officially retired in April 2022

Bill has no regrets about leaving his phys-ed dream behind. In many ways, he never left it anyway.

“The restaurant and convention centre business can be a complete hair-on-fire, pedal-to-the-metal work environment. Sports and physical activities, which I still enjoy today, really provided a balance to the craziness.”

Sadly, Bill’s father passed away recently. He came back to Thunder Bay after so many years for his father’s funeral and reflected on growing up here. Bill is thankful for the head start that Confederation College gave him.

“I have these debates with people from time to time about getting a diploma from college versus just getting a job in the industry,” Bill said. “I still had to work my way up – it’s like my Dad always said: the only job where you start at the top is digging a hole. But I know that my college diploma and experiences there opened doors for me in the industry that I love.”

Dawn and he now work together part time as consultants, picking and choosing clients across the United States who need help with event planning and management.

“We’ll fly in and work together in unique locations in Orlando, Dallas, Nashville,” Bill said. “So the career continues, but in a different way. It’s just fun.”

Bill Greaves, Convention