"My sense of community service comes from working at the newspaper, where it wasn't always easy to serve the community because there are always conflicting views, there are always conflicting opinions and there are always conflicting interest groups. So as a newspaper you try to serve the highest ideal and not be pulled by various competing interests."
Linda Hughes has dedicated her life to making Alberta a better place. Whether through journalism, community outreach, higher learning or public health, Linda has always worked for the betterment of society and the lives of those around her. She has inspired countless people, from women watching her break through glass ceilings to disadvantaged youth. Her contribution to public life continues in her current role as Chair of the Board of Alberta Health Services.
Linda moved from Victoria, B.C. to Edmonton to begin her career at the Edmonton Journal in 1976. She went on to become City Editor and News Editor, before becoming Editor-in-Chief in 1987. In 1992, she became Publisher and President of the Journal, the first woman in Canada to hold the position of publisher at a major newspaper.
Throughout her 15 years in this role, Linda fostered a culture of “courageous public service journalism,” dedicating the paper to serving the community. Whether it was sharing the minority voice or pursuing stories that governments of the day would rather have seen ignored, Linda’s time as CEO of the Edmonton Journal is considered by many to be the high water mark of journalism in Alberta’s capital.
Throughout Linda’s tenure as CEO, the Journal fostered and sponsored countless community initiatives, including the Journal Games, cultural festivals, literacy promotional events, and efforts to renew Edmonton’s downtown core. Linda’s career in journalism concluded in 2006, following three years as general manager for all CanWest properties in Alberta, including the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald and four Global television stations.
Upon retiring from the Journal, Linda took the opportunity for something new and travelled to Bhutan to become a volunteer consultant for the Bhutan Observer. Over her two months there, Linda was able to provide business and editorial advice to this fledgling newspaper as the Himalayan Kingdom was beginning its transformation to parliamentary democracy and experiencing its first taste of a truly free press. Linda continued her dedication to community building in her term as Chancellor of the University of Alberta. From 2008 to 2012, Linda acted as an ambassador for the university and worked to build connections with the community at large, stating “the more the university is embedded in the community, the better it is, both for the university and for the city.”
This philosophy is embodied in Linda’s work to establish a program called U-School, which aims to foster the hopes and dreams of students from Indigenous, rural and socially vulnerable metro communities. U-School brings students in Grades 4-9 to the University of Alberta for a week-long, hands-on introduction to the opportunities and excitement of post-secondary education. The program continues to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of Edmonton and area students to this day.
In 2008, Linda accepted a new challenge – tackling homelessness in Edmonton. As Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Committee to End Homelessness, Linda led a diverse group of community, government and business leaders as they explored the root causes and potential solutions of homelessness. Together they created the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, a document which continues to impact Edmonton’s policy direction.
Linda has also dedicated herself to enriching and improving Alberta’s health care system. Following her service on the Board of Directors of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Linda became the Chair of the Board of Alberta Health Services. One of Alberta’s major employers, Alberta Health Services has a budget of over $14 billion and a workforce of more than 100,000 healthcare professionals and staff. The work encompassed by Alberta Health Services includes fully-integrated health services for over 4 million people, and affects the quality of life of each and every Albertan. The monumental task of chairing the board responsible for this organization is a fitting next step in Linda’s career spent bringing institutions and communities closer together.
Linda’s dedication to community also shows in her tireless contribution to community organizations. She has served on countless boards of directors, including the Edmonton Community Foundation, the Edmonton Homeless Commission, the Telus Community Board, the University of Alberta Board of Governors, the NorQuest College Foundation, the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, the Strategy Council for the Mazankowski Heart Institute, the Advisory Panel on Metro Edmonton’s Future and the National Newspaper Awards, to name only a few. She is currently a board member of Torstar Corporation.
Linda’s many outstanding contributions to Edmonton and to the province have been recognized by her community and peers. She has been awarded an Honourary Doctor of Laws and Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Victoria, an Honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta, an Honourary Doctor of Letters from Athabasca University and an Honourary Diploma and Distinguished Citizen Award from MacEwan University. She was honoured by the YWCA with their Lifetime Achievement Award and with the Trailblazer Award by Canadian Women in Communications. She has also been inducted into the Alberta Business Hall of Fame and has received the Alberta Centennial Medal and the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal.
Linda’s lifetime of contributions to Edmonton, and Alberta, encompass education, health care, philanthropy, literacy, journalism, volunteerism and public service. Her tireless volunteerism and exemplary leadership have shaped Edmonton for over 40 years, and she continues to work to improve the lives of Albertans each and every day.
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence