Judge J. Elliott Hudson Award – 2018 Winner, Kathleen Pratt LeGrow

Presented at the 2018 Alumni Annual Dinner on June 2, 2018 by Mark DeWolf, BA’68, about Kathleen Pratt LeGrow, BA’70. 

I had the privilege of knowing Judge Elliott Hudson in the days when he and his wife Ruth attended every King’s alumni function they possibly could, and I am sure that, were he with us today, he would heartily agree with something that a fellow alumnus wrote to me when I informed him that Kathy Pratt LeGrow would be nominated for the annual award created in the Judge’s name. I quote: “I believe that Kathy exemplifies the best of King’s in terms of her accomplishments and contributions to her community.”

And I’m sure that in just a few minutes’ time, there won’t be a single person in the room — except perhaps Kathy herself in a characteristic fit of humility — who will not agree with that declaration.

Having received my B.A. degree from King’s in the Spring of 1968, I found myself so hooked on the University of King’s College and King’s student life that I hung around for a good number of years afterwards, and even as a Dalhousie graduate student, I continued to take part in many King’s activities. As the Don of Radical Bay in the early 1970s, I naturally got to know many of the students who had arrived just as I was graduating.

Kathy Pratt, a force of nature from the rocky shores of Newfoundland, was one of the students who most clearly comes to mind from that period, for even among the most cheerful and lively newcomers, her strong personality stood out. And although she threw herself into two fairly serious Student Union activities — the Academic Committee, which did some very valuable work in the year she served, and the Canadian Union of Students Committee, on which she served as Treasurer — I can also say that Kathy liked a good party as much as any of us. She quickly became a confidant of some other friends I had at King’s during this period, and it was likely from those friends that I learned of Kathy Pratt, the Royal Canadian Navy Reservist.

And it seemed I was always hearing something of her from John Close — our Northern Ireland transplant — or Bob Hyslop or Bill Burchill, Cochran Bay residents all.  Even when she was living in a shared apartment in the turret of a rather grand house that still stands at the corner of Halifax’s South Park and Morris Streets, Kathy was still very present in all of our thoughts, simply because she was someone you just didn’t want to stop knowing. And knowing about.

But I must confess that for a good number of years after those oh-so-enjoyable days at King’s, I didn’t know very much about Kathy, or what she was up to, for upon her graduation with an Honour’s degree in Sociology, she returned to Newfoundland to pursue graduate studies at Memorial University.  And although some of my friends kept in touch with her in the years that followed, I sadly did not. It was only when she began to make all sorts of people sit up and take notice that I again learned of her subsequent activities, endeavours and achievements.

And what endeavours and achievements those have been.  At the risk of putting Kathy’s humility to the test, I will try now to summarize.

After earning a Master’s degree at Memorial, Kathy worked in the field of social work for several years, her efforts focused on helping marginalized and vulnerable citizens at the Waterford Hospital where she helped establish a work therapy program, and also with the Unified Family Court. But in 1987, her career shifted course.  LeGrow’s Travel, a quite successful Newfoundland company founded by her husband Curtis, needed someone to step into a leadership position, and in 1987, Kathy became that firm’s Operations Manager.

But solidifying the success of that company didn’t stop Kathy from giving back to her community.  She joined her local school board and held leadership positions during the years that Newfoundland’s denominational school system was restructured. Ultimately, she was elected chair of the Canadian School Boards Association, and in 2005 she was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her accomplishments in educational leadership.

In 2002, Kathy Pratt LeGrow gained recognition for her philanthropic work in helping to establish a soup kitchen at George Street United Church, providing meals to hundreds of citizens in the downtown core of St. John’s.

In 2003, she was named the Business Person Volunteer of the Year by the St. John’s Board of Trade, and in 2006, she initiated a major fundraising campaign called Hot Soup/Cool Jazz that supports homeless youth. Under her leadership, the event continues to operate successfully and has become a significant sponsor for many youth-serving agencies.

Since 2009, she has been active with the Provincial Committee of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council and is the Honorary Colonel of 37 Service Battalion. She currently represents Newfoundland and Labrador on the National Executive Council of Honorary Colonels of the Canadian Army and supports the establishment of a military museum at Memorial University.

In 2010, Kathy launched and personally endowed the Jimmy Pratt Family Foundation, a charitable research funding organization with the purpose of increasing our knowledge about resiliency in children. She currently chairs the Board of that foundation, ensuring that it continues its focus on child-centred, family-focused projects.

She has also served on the Board of Directors of the former Healthcare Corporation of St. John’s, where she was Chair of the Quality Assurance Committee, continuing her strong interest in primary health care.

In 2014, Kathy Pratt LeGrow received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Memorial University, and she is also the recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

For more than 20 years, Kathy has been President and CEO of Pratt Representatives, and she has been invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, an honour that “recognizes individuals who have demonstrated excellence and achievement in any field of endeavour benefiting in an outstanding manner the province and its residents.”

Lest you think that a life of such significant accomplishment elevates Kathy Pratt LeGrow to some distant sphere of being, far above ordinary mortals, allow me to quote again from the message I received from that former alumnus, who himself has gone on from King’s to forge a distinguished legal career. He writes, “She is a wonderful person, very bright, kind, generous and approachable” He also writes, “I think it is amazing that she has maintained a lifelong connection with the friends she made way back in the 1960’s.”

And I am so pleased to see that she is seated with some of those friends this evening.

So, in conclusion, it is my great pleasure and honour to present the 2018 Judge J. Elliott Hudson Award to Kathy Pratt LeGrow.