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Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside

Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside is the recipient of the 1982 Pearson Peace Medal. The Pearson Peace Medal is Canada’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize, established four years ago by the United Nations Association in Canada to honour, in Lester B. Pearson’s name, Canadians who have made an outstanding contribution to international understanding and cooperation.


Previous winners include: Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger in 1979; J. King Gordon in 1980; Lt-Gen. E.L.M. burns in 1981; Hugh Keenleyside in 1982.This year (1982) the official presentation took place on Thursday October 28th and the three previous recipients were all invited to be present. It is a pity that they could not attend because their biographies, together with that of Dr. Keenleyside, read like the pages of a first-class history book: four fascinating lives which together touch most of the great themes in Canadian public life of this century.

Hugh Keenleyside’s public career began in 1928 when he joined the fledging Department of External Affairs: one of only two candidates accepted out of 256 who wrote the first examinations ever held by the Department, The other successful candidate was a young history instructor and athletic coach at the University of Toronto named Lester Pearson. Almost immediately thereafter, in 1929, Keenleyside was sent off to open the first Canadian mission in Japan where he remained until 1936. Appointed Assistant Under-secretary of State for External Affairs in 1941, he served as Canada’s Ambassador to Mexico from 1944 to 1947 before being tapped for the very different role of Deputy Minister of Mines & Resources and Commissioner of the North West Territories.

From 1950 to 1958, Dr. Keenleyside served as Director-General of the UN Technical Assistance Administration. There he earned a reputation for energy and foresight during the early seminal years of international development cooperation. In 1959 he was named Under Secretary-General of the UN for Public Administration, but left that position the same year to return to his home province of British Columbia in order to head first the B.C. Hydro and Power Authority.

Hugh Keenleyside has also been active in a host of voluntary organizations. During the war years he acted as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of Carleton University, later serving as a member of the Senate of the University of British Columbia and as Chairman of the Board of Governors and Chancellor of Notre Dame University of Nelson B.C. He is founder of the Arctic Institute of North America and a Life fellow of the Asiatic Society of Japan. He was also Honorary Chairman of the Canadian National Committee on the UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat) and Associate Commissioner-General of Habitat in 1976. And in spite of a record and range of experience that reflect great credit both on himself and on his country, he still found time to write several books (including two volumes of memoirs) and to read, practice gourmet cooking and play poker, the three leisure interests he listed in the International Who’s Who.

Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside
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