Alumni Spotlight: Nick Hetherington

From the September 28, 2012 edition of The Weekly Post


Alumnus Nick Hetherington’s speech from the 2012 POPA Dinner, September 11, 2012

It is great to be back at Post Oak and in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I never in my life thought I would say I miss the Houston traffic, but I really do miss the hustle and bustle of life in Houston. Being in Bristol, Connecticut, for the past two years . . . life moves a lot slower up there. I mean, a big night on the town in Bristol is at the local Chili’s.

I am very proud to say I am a lifelong Post Oakian. I went up the ranks from Infant Community through Middle School and graduated with the class of 2002. I then attended Episcopal High School and the University of Texas where I graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism. I am currently a content associate at ESPN where I have had the awesome job of cutting highlights for SportsCenter and am also a staff member on the show College GameDay. I still can’t believe they’re paying me to watch sports, but back to Post Oak . . .

I have so many fond memories of The Post Oak School. From the many years of Cinco de Mayo (which I just realized probably should have made me a better dancer) to the school plays, to getting to travel around the U.S. in Middle School—to places like Washington D.C., Crow Canyon, and even Blackwood—I quickly realized when I got to Episcopal that not many kids my age had the experiences I did because of Post Oak. This community truly was my second family for the first 15 years of my life.

In Middle School, we traveled together, worked together—we were a close-knit family and team. I will always remember Coach Tucker constantly reminded me there is no “I” in team, to which I would quickly respond with, “but there is an ‘I’ in Nicky.” But the camaraderie I felt in this community has served me greatly at ESPN where I am part of a team on every show I work for. Whether it is being on a conference call with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit every Monday for GameDay, or even prompting for Chris Berman when he does his two-minute drill segments, one of the first things I learned at ESPN is not to try and be a hero on a show . . . it is all about the team.

Post Oak taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day. First and foremost, it gave me the foundation to be an independent thinker. Even at the lower levels of my education like Lower Elementary, where we got to choose our own topics for book reports. Little did I know that allowing me to read every book written on dinosaurs for these reports would turn into an addiction for reading that helps me to this day coming up with story ideas for show meetings. Post Oak gave me enough freedom within limits to let me learn at my own rate. The teachers cultivated such a loving environment for us that we genuinely loved coming to school. Wanting to go to school and learn was something Post Oak instilled in me at an early age, which helped me especially at the collegiate level, where at such a big university like UT, attendance wasn’t taken in a majority of my classes. It takes a strong-willed individual to want to go to class and succeed. I apply this to my work as well, where for the past year I worked on a one o’clock a.m. to noon shift, from Monday to Friday, to recut the overnight highlights for the morning SportsCenter. Were there times when I just wanted to sleep through my alarm that would ring at midnight? Everyday. Did I enjoy living the life of a vampire for a year, sleeping through the day? No. But this “want” to show up and succeed no matter what I am doing, whether learning or working, has been with me and I have Post Oak to thank for that.

One of my favorite aspects of Post Oak was that I really developed my own voice. Freedom of expression was always encouraged at every level. I remember 11 years ago today, when the planes hit the Twin Towers, I was in eighth grade . . . we all were told what had happened. The chaos and confusion of what happened that day was hard for any 14-year-old to grasp. But we were allowed to talk about it, we were encouraged to journal about it. We were asked to choose a word, paint it on a brick, then we all gathered around the American flag, as a community, to lay our bricks down. It is something I will never forget. We weren’t told what we should think that day; we were allowed to write down exactly how we felt. To be allowed to freely express our thoughts like that is something a lot of children don’t get. This has also carried me a long way at ESPN because Post Oak made me realize I have a strong and unique voice that I can creatively express through my work with highlights.

However, of all the traits that I learned at Post Oak, accountability has carried me the farthest in my career at ESPN. From a very early age, whether in the classroom or in the general community, you are required to take accountability for your actions. What school gives you chores you have to perform each day? How I got stuck on trash duty for multiple years, I have no idea, but it taught me no matter how big or small a task is, to always maintain our environment/community for the good of the group. In such a large work environment at ESPN, a lot of young individuals are trying to move up through the ranks and they don’t care how they get there. It is a cut-throat environment where a lot of people will throw you under the bus. In my evaluations at ESPN, one thing producers and coordinating producers both have said about me is that it is refreshing to see an individual take accountability for his work. That is what I was taught growing up and is something greatly respected by upper level management at ESPN.

This school has meant a great deal to the Hetherington Family. We have forged relationships with teachers, parents, and classmates that we will carry with us forever. I know if either of my sisters were up here speaking, they would be echoing the same sentiment I am about this community. Workwise, I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life, I don’t know if I will ever end back up in Texas, but I do know when I have a family I want to send my kids to a place like Post Oak. I do know for a fact I am the person I am today because of the strong independent foundation Post Oak instilled in me at an early age. I do know that I am proud to say I am a lifelong Post Oakian.