Clara Hughes, LL.D., October 19, 2006


Clara Hughes, O.M.

Clara Hughes is a highly decorated athlete, a philanthropist, a language student - currently studying French, a role model and inspiration for young people in Canada and beyond our borders. She is the only Canadian ever and only the fourth Olympian in the world to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Ms Hughes is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at the Winter and Summer Olympics. Earlier this year Ms Hughes was recognized with the Order of Manitoba. Today her distinguished achievements and contributions are recognized through the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Ms Clara Hughes was born in Winnipeg on September 27, 1972. She grew up playing a variety of sports, including ringette, hockey, volleyball, soccer, softball, track and field. In 1988 she began speed skating at the age of 16, and in her first year earned a silver medal at the National Championships. Two years later, Ms Hughes entered the world of cycling, which led her to her first Olympic competition. With over 100 victories in cycling, including 2 Olympic bronze medals, in 2000/2001 she shifted her focus back to speed skating. Since that time she has become one of the top long-distance skaters in the world winning Olympic Gold in 2006 at the 5000 meter distance with a truly exceptional effort and a most exciting finish. As a dual sport Olympic athlete her achievements are unsurpassed: Two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games; a bronze medal for speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games; one gold and one silver medal in speed skating at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

In addition to her stellar athletic accomplishments, only a few of which have been highlighted here, Ms Hughes is a goodwill ambassador and humanitarian who has a longstanding involvement with Right to Play (RTP), a not for profit international organization that uses the positive power of sport and play as a tool for healthy development of children and youth in 23 countries in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Following her gold medal performance in Turin, Ms Hughes personally donated $10,000 to Right to Play and issued a challenge for other Canadians to support this cause - to date her enthusiastic challenge has raised over $424,000, 85% of the $500,000 goal. This past May, Ms Hughes traveled to Ethiopia to visit RTP programs to participate first hand and to see the impact on children’s lives.

Her passion for the health and welfare of humanity extends to the natural environment as well. Currently a resident of Glen Sutton, Quebec, Ms Hughes is working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada as a spokesperson to raise funds for the protection and long term management of the Sutton Mountain Range.

A passionate advocate for art, sport, the environment, and youth world-wide, Ms Hughes represents the best of the Olympic ideals. Her unprecedented success as a Canadian Olympian and her enthusiastic acts of generosity at local and global levels distinguishes her as an outstanding role model, and a most deserving recipient of our recognition with this honorary degree.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to ask in the name of the Senate of the University of Manitoba that you confer upon Clara Hughes, the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

-citation delivered by Dr. Kelly MacKay, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies