Former Globe And Mail Columnist "Humbled" To Receive Agnes Benidickson Award

[Hugh Winsor]

Hugh Winsor, Arts’64, is humbled “and a bit surprised” to receive the Agnes Benidickson Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Ottawa Branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA).

Surprised? He shouldn’t be.

Mr. Winsor feels the accomplishments of past Benidickson recipients – such as Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge (Arts'65, LLD'02), federal cabinet minister Flora MacDonald (LLD'81), and the longest-serving Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken (Arts’68) – are more impressive than his own.

Many in the Queen’s alumni community would say Mr. Winsor’s career as a columnist with the Globe and Mail makes him a well-deserved recipient of the award.

Mr. Winsor spent decades writing about the Parliament Hill happenings of prime ministers and MPs. His insightful columns earned him a Charles Lynch Award (from the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery) and induction into the Order of Canada.

Queen’s had a hand in shaping some of the columns he wrote. When wrestling with a story about complex moral and political judgements, he often thought back to the political theory course he took with the late Professor Ted Hodgetts.

“There was hardly a day that went by that I didn’t think of something that Ted Hodgetts had said about (philosophers) Locke, Hume, Mill or Bentham that applied,” says Mr. Winsor.

Mr. Winsor took time out to answer questions about his career and his Queen’s student days.

Question: How does it feel to be this year’s Agnes Benidickson Award Recipient?

Answer: Honoured and a bit surprised, and humbled, given that I have known and admired several of my predecessors whose contributions to Queen’s would, in my opinion, far outrank my own. But what was particularly heartening is that some of my advocates in the Ottawa Alumni Branch had taken the course in media, polls and public policy that I gave at the School of Policy Studies and must have felt it was worthwhile and relevant to them as they pursue their careers in public life.

Question: Is there one professor, class or lesson you had at Queen’s that had a big impact on you?

Answer: I would say two professors and their courses that not only had a big impact at the time but have stayed with me in almost a half century of journalism. First was the political theory course I took from the late Professor Ted Hodgetts. It was theory with practical applications, (he had secretary to the Lambert Royal Commission on the structure of government and the public service.) When I started writing editorials and political columns that forced me to make informed and often moral judgments on complex and ambiguous situations, there was hardly a day that went by that I didn’t think of something that Ted Hodgetts had said about Locke, Hume, Mill or Bentham that applied. The other seminal encounter for me was Professor John Meisel’s course on political sociology. Politics was not only important but could sometimes be fun and nuggets from my association with Prof. Meisel which continues to this day have often found their way into the Globe and Mail and other publications.

Question: Which Prime Minister did you enjoy working with/writing about the most?

Answer: Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I was much younger and more impressionable when I returned to Canada from Tanzania in 1969 and Mr. Trudeau had been prime minister for less than a year. In my view, the two decades that followed were the golden age of the post-war era and Prime Minister Trudeau towered over it. He promoted profound, principle based changes but was also often politically maladroit (he almost lost the 1972 election). While there were often fundamental issues at stake, there was also a camaraderie and respect among politicians, public servants and media. And in the broadest sense we shared a common goal of enhancing the public good.

Question: You have done charitable and volunteer work with a number of organizations. What is the one cause that you are most passionate about?

Answer: In my earlier years, it was probably a conviction that the developed and prosperous countries had both the capacity and the obligation to support the development of the so-called Third World. That was a common theme that ran through my involvement with CUSO International, Oxfam Canada, the North-South Institute and it found its way into my journalism. But in latter years I have become involved with healthcare organizations, particularly the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and the necessity of promoting and funding cardiovascular research in addition to providing day to day clinical care. We have the talent and the facilities, we just need to support and promote them.


Join us and help honour Hugh Winsor. Online registration for the April 26 Agnes Benidickson Award Reception in Ottawa is now open.