Margaret Southern grew up in Calgary where she excelled in a wide range of sports activities. A growing family interest in equestrian sports, coupled with a lack of facilities for Albertans wishing to compete, resulted in the Southerns building Spruce Meadows.
Spruce Meadows opened in 1975 and is considered as one of the world’s finest competitive show jumping complexes.
Mrs. Southern received a degree in physical education from the University of Alberta in 1953 and won the Bakewell Trophy that year as the university’s outstanding female athlete. Subsequently, she became the first woman appointed as an instructor in the University of Calgary’s physical education department.
She was a founding, eight-year member of Calgary’s first Parks and Recreation Board and was instrumental in the formation of Calgary’s ambitious land banking program, which ensured lands for future recreational use. Mrs. Southern was influential in the creation and development of Fish Creek Park, the first provincial park within an Alberta city.
She was also a member of the original Downtown Tree Planting Committee, which planted more than 500 trees in 1975, to celebrate Calgary’s centennial. She has made important contributions as a volunteer with Skate Canada and the World Skating Championships. In 1981, Alberta Recreation and Parks presented her with the Energize 81 Award, in recognition of her outstanding volunteer contributions to municipal recreation development.
In 1984, she and her husband, Ron Southern, received several honours, including the Alberta Light Horse Association’s Horseman of the Year Award, and the federal government’s Canadian Tourism Medallion, in recognition of outstanding service to Canadian and world tourism, furthering and enhancing international understanding. In 1986, they received the Calgary Booster Club’s Sportsmen of the Year Award.
Mrs. Southern has held executive positions with the Alberta Equestrian Federation and the Canadian Equestrian Federation. She is former chairman of the business development committee of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, a member of the du Maurier Council for the Arts and holds directorships with a number of major Canadian corporations.