Hughes, Clara

Degree conferred: Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.)

Orator: Mason, Gordon

to be Doctor of Letters

Clara Hughes is one of only five athletes in history — the second woman and the first Canadian — to win multiple medals in both the winter and summer Olympics.

In 1996, at the summer Olympics in Atlanta, she won two bronze medals in cycling. Her return to her first sport, speed skating, was marked in 2002 by winning a bronze medal in the 5,000-metre race at the Salt Lake City winter games. In 2006, at the winter Olympics in Torino, she took both a silver and gold in speed skating. Four years later, she topped off these achievements with a bronze medal in speed skating at the Vancouver Olympics. Fittingly, she was the flag bearer for the 2010 Olympic Team and proudly led Canadian athletes into BC Place in Vancouver, an emotional moment not only for her but for the millions of Canadians who have watched her career with pride and affection.

Clara Hughes’ early achievements were in cycling, and they were stunning: 18 times a National Champion; bronze, silver and gold medals in both the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games; a silver medal in the World Championships in 1995; and, those double bronze medals for cycling at the 1996 summer Olympics. In total, she has won more than 100 competitive cycling events.

Not resting on these laurels, in 2000 she began to reap recognition for her competitiveness on the blades as well as on the bike. There were three World Cup victories in speed skating between 2002 and 2005; an Olympic bronze in 2002; a bronze and four silver World Championship medals from 2003 to 2009; the breathtakingly exciting silver and gold medals at the Torino Olympics in 2006; and most recently the bronze in Vancouver.

It is not surprising, then, that Clara Hughes was named La Presse Personality of the Year in 2006; received the Sport and Community Award of the International Olympic Committee in 2006; was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Manitoba; is an Officer of the Order of Canada; and will be inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame next month.

Following her silver and gold medals at the 2006 Olympics, Clara Hughes donated $10,000 to Right to Play, an international advocacy organization born of athletes’ social concerns for the world’s disadvantaged children. Challenging Canadians to match her donation, Clara Hughes has seen more than $400,000 raised to help children in Canada and the Third World discover themselves through physical participation. Co-chair of the Advisory Board of Right to Play Canada, Clara Hughes has travelled extensively, including to Africa, to demonstrate that playing a sport, even at the most rudimentary level, can develop a sense of self-esteem within a child. Following her 2010 winter Olympic success in Vancouver, she donated her $10,000 bonus to the Vancouver Take a Hike Foundation, which is dedicated to introducing youth with addictions to outdoor adventures that build self-esteem and rehabilitation skills.

Clara is quoted as saying: “If you dream, and you allow yourself to dream, you can do anything.” As an athlete, she has captivated the hearts and dreams of all Canadians. And as a humanitarian, she has inspired others to dream.

Citation written by Dr. Gwendolyn Davies

From: Honoris Causa - UA Case 70, Box 4

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