One of the great thinkers and doers of our time
Canadians lost a great leader and one of their most distinguished elder statesman when former Alberta Premier and Queen’s Chancellor Peter Lougheed, LLD’96, died on September 13 at the age of 84. His loss was mourned by Albertans and Canadians from coast-to-coast, and nowhere more than at Queen’s, for the great man’s tricolour ties ran deep.
Not only did he serve as the 10th Chancellor of Queen’s University (1996-2002), but Peter Lougheed also counted among his extended family no fewer than four alumni: sons Stephen Lougheed, Com’77, and Joe Lougheed, Artsci’87 and ’89 (President of the Queen’s University Alumni Association in 2001); niece Dianne Lougheed Keefe, Arts’73, Ed’75; and great-niece Jennifer Keefe, Artsci’09.
Dr. Bill Leggett, LLD’04, who was instrumental in recruiting Lougheed as Chancellor of Queen’s and who was Principal during his six years of service, recalls, "My memories of Peter – who had retired from politics [in 1985, after 14 years as Premier of Alberta] when I met him – are of a deeply dedicated, very down-to-earth, easy-to-meet, genuinely committed and involved family man who was a lot of fun to be with. Peter had a tremendous sense of humour, great insights, a wealth of knowledge, and was always willing to give his good advice. He will be sorely missed by Albertans, and by all Canadians, especially those of us who knew him as a member of the Queen's family."
Calgary alumna Kim Sturgess, Sc’77, shares her memories of Peter Lougheed, an outstanding Chancellor and also her friend and mentor.
My proudest day as an Albertan and a Queen’s woman was nominating Peter Lougheed to the University Council as our new Chancellor in May 1996. This nomination was the culmination of many months of conversations with Peter, his sons Steve and Joe, and the Queen’s community, including Principal Bill Leggett, LLD’04, and retiring Chancellor Agnes (Richardson) Benidickson, BA’41, LLD’79.
I recall the first phone call from the Principal late in 1995 asking if I thought that Peter Lougheed would consider this nomination. I thought for a moment, and then, knowing firsthand what enthusiastic Queen’smen Peter’s sons Steve and Joe are, I knew this could happen. We had many planning
discussions before the big day when I picked up Agnes and Bill at the Calgary Airport and dropped them off at the Palliser Hotel for their meeting with Peter. The meeting went splendidly. The legend is that afterwards Steve and Joe had a convincing lunch with their dad, paying with their Queen’s affinity credit cards to seal the deal.
The entire Lougheed family attended
Peter’s installation as Chancellor, and I
was privileged to be part of that delightful celebration. The warmth of their family was extended to me, as it has been to many who have been lucky enough to work and play with the Lougheed clan. Peter’s strongest legacy is his wonderful family.
When he returned to Queen’s for his first Trustees meeting, I offered him some basic coaching on the finer points of campus life. The new Chancellor was immediately taken with the ambience of the place and wanted to walk everywhere. He was passionately interested in the students and wanted to know where they lived, how they learned, and what they did for relaxation. Of course, the Clark Hall and Alfie’s pubs were on the tour.
Peter proudly wore his Queen’s tricolour scarf and his leather jacket (red for Arts & Science). He always stayed in the east wing of Summerhill, the official Principal’s Residence, when he was on campus. I recall early in his term when he and I were walking from Richardson Hall back to Summerhill, Peter started to short-cut across the grass. I noted quietly that the Queen’s etiquette was to keep off the grass. He looked horrified and immediately jumped back onto the walkway. I chuckle over this story even today, but it taught me another great life lesson. Peter always respected and followed the traditions of Queen’s – and of other places that he went.
He spoke extensively whenever he was at Queen’s and went out of his way to participate in panels and discussions, all of which provided value to the students and alumni well beyond his efforts when presiding over University Council and attending Board meetings. He was committed to contributing his experience to higher education, particularly in the area of public policy. We worked together on several occasions, and I gained some unique insights into how Peter was able to be such an effective communicator and was able to connect with everyone with whom he dealt.
What I find most remarkable was how hard he worked and how diligent he was. When I sat with him at events and on panels, he would lean over and ask quietly who was speaking, getting the person’s name and a short background, practising the pronunciation of the name, and sometimes writing it on one of his famous note cards to be sure he remembered it. I also learned how he prepared his remarks for these events, using those cards to summarize key thoughts and then rehearse extensively to put those thoughts together in exactly the right way. He made it look easy, but again it reflected his commitment to be the best he could be for any audience and any person. I carry this life lesson with me every day and will be forever grateful to have learnt it from the best.
During Peter’s term as Chancellor, for three years I was privileged to travel with him from Calgary to Queen’s for our Board of Trustee meetings. I took advantage of these special times to talk about life, business, and advice for the future. When we were traveling to Kingston on my last day as
a Trustee, after having served for the maximum 12 years, I was ruminating on how much I’d miss my quarterly visits to campus and my Board participation. That got us talking about his decision to leave the Premiership of Alberta at such a young age
“When you start seeing the same issues come back as you saw when you first started in office, it’s time to leave,” he advised. In the Board meeting next day one of the Vice-Principals proposed a task force to look at the issue of deferred maintenance on campus. When I objected to this, saying we’d already reviewed this matter thoroughly under my leadership, one of my fellow trustees coughed politely and noted that this had been 12 years earlier. When I glanced over and saw Peter smile and nod knowingly, I totally understood the lesson he had imparted and happily handed over the reins to the next generation of enthusiastic Queen’s trustees, including Peter’s son Joe.
Outside Kingston, Peter always referenced his relationship with Queen’s in his speeches and recalled with fondness his times at Summerhill. At many of our events in Calgary, Alberta’s former premier started his personal introduction by acknowledging his position as Chancellor of Queen’s. I was filled with immense pride each time he rose to speak.
Years after his term as Chancellor ended, he still attended Queen’s events in Calgary when he could, and he was always supportive of his adopted alma mater. On a personal note, I valued him as a mentor and as a friend, and I will miss him deeply. We were blessed to have Peter Lougheed in the Queen’s family.
Kim Sturgess, a former member of the Board of Trustees and former President of the Calgary Branch of the QUAA, is founder and CEO of Alberta WaterSMART.