UAlberta president receives Peter Lougheed award

(Calgary) In accepting Canada’s Public Policy Forum’s award for leadership in public policy Sept. 26, University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera urged Albertans to rededicate themselves to Peter Lougheed’s extraordinary vision.

The award, named in honour of Lougheed—Alberta’s 10th premier and U of A alumnus, who passed away Sept. 13—is presented to Western Canadian leaders who have had a national impact on policy and good governance. Samarasekera’s acceptance speech centred solely on the immense impact Lougheed’s life had on the province, the nation and the university.

She talked about how his years spent at the University of Alberta embodied the university experience—as a Golden Bears football player, president of the students’ union, editor of The Gateway student newspaper and law student. He so cherished his time at the U of A, it is said he always wore his U of A ring. Lougheed’s attachment to his alma mater was no secret as his funeral procession made a special stop in front of Rutherford House, where he once lived as a student, before continuing to Calgary for his burial.

“He would come, unfailingly, to the annual Peter Lougheed Scholarship luncheon and confer a touch of greatness on us all by his presence, but especially the students,” said Samarasekera. “He would shake their hands with that inimitable twinkle in his blue eyes and capture their attention with his genuine curiosity about their lives and their dreams.

“He would pass the torch, over and over again, to an outstanding group of young men and women, the Peter Lougheed scholars, whom he called on to shape Alberta’s future by using their gifts and talents for the highest purpose.”

Besides recounting Lougheed’s many accomplishments, Samarasekera dedicated her talk to reviving Lougheed’s ideals.

“The 21st century is being called the Human Capital Century. Peter Lougheed was ahead of his time, because he had the foresight to usher this era into Alberta decades ago,” she said.

Samarasekera recalled a talk Lougheed gave at the university’s 2008 Charter Day Dinner, an event in honour of the U of A’s first 100 years, where he recounted with pride the policies he put in place as premier in support of higher education, including leading the country in post-secondary education. To do this, Alberta became the first province to create a ministry of advanced education, and Lougheed followed that up by creating a wave of scholarships, the Heritage Fund and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

“What an extraordinary vision. What exceptional leadership. Tonight we recognize exemplary leadership in Canada. We would be wise to heed Premier Lougheed’s example of leadership.”

Joining Samarasekera in accepting the award were Don Martin, renowned journalist and author; James Palmer, partner in the law firm Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer; and Nancy Southern, daughter of famed U of A alumni Ron and Marg Southern, and deputy chair, president and CEO of ATCO Group.

Canada’s Public Policy Forum is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of government in Canada through enhanced dialogue among the public, private and voluntary sectors.