Hughes, Leona H.
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April 27, 1909 - July 24, 2008
Dr. Leona H. Hughes, 99, of Sarasota, Fla., died July 24, 2008. She was born in Oak Hill, Ohio, on April 27, 1909, and was raised in that community. Dr. Hughes was predeceased by her parents, John T. Hughes and Eunice Howells; and her husband, Lewis Hughes. She is survived by many friends near and far.
After graduating from Oak Hill High School, Leona earned her bachelor's degree from Ohio University and her master's degree from NYU. She also holds honorary doctor of humanity degrees from both Ohio University and the University of South Florida. In addition to a lifetime of volunteer work and philanthropy, her career included employment with Ohio University, service as an assistant principal at a school for children of the U.S. Marine Corps, and the operation of a car dealership with her husband. After the death of her husband in 1971, Dr. Hughes assumed the presidency of Hughes-Burnett Inc., a family-owned company in Sarasota, and she continued her philanthropic work.
She remained active in Ohio University affairs since her freshman year there in 1926. She was dedicated to its development, serving on both its National Alumni Association Board and its Foundation board. She was honored as the University's Alumna of the Year in 1984 and received the highest honors from the university's board of trustees and Foundation. She created multiple scholarships through the university, including Manasseh Cutler scholarships, which emphasize the development of leadership potential. Dr. Hughes enhanced numerous other areas of the university with her support, including the College of Arts and Sciences, Konneker Alumni Center, Ping Institute for the Teaching of the Humanities, Greek life, Alden Library and others. Locally, she became a charter member of the Suncoast Ohio University Alumni Chapter, receiving the group's Distinguished Service Award in 1986.
Her love for the Phi Mu Fraternity began with her membership in the Delta Delta chapter at Ohio University, and mirrored her close ties to the university itself. Dr. Hughes funded Phi Mu scholarships, served as an officer of the fraternity for many years, holding every office, and was named Outstanding Alumna at the Phi Mu national convention in 1982. She organized national Phi Mu convention activities, served as its national social service director, and was instrumental in the establishment of the fraternity's Magic Carpet program, providing funding for Phi Mu students studying overseas. She served on the board of trustees, became the group's first-ever Trustee Emerita for life, and was an officer of the Phi Mu Foundation for 16 years, retiring as its president in 1986. In 2000, she became the first Phi Mu alumna in the history of its Foundation to receive the distinguished Fleur de Lis level of giving award.
In 1947, Leona and Lewis Hughes began spending winters in Sarasota. They built their home here in 1950 and established themselves as active and involved members of the community. Dr. Hughes was one of the earliest members of the board of directors of the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Foundation, now known as the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation. Through the Foundation, Mrs. Hughes endowed the Lewis and Leona Hughes Chair in Nursing Informatics at the University of South Florida, a unique program enabling registered nurses to complete bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in nursing, and building a partnership between Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the University of South Florida. This program is the first of its kind in the nation. In 2001, the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation gave Leona a new award, the Doctor of Philanthropy, for her longtime support.
Leona and Lewis were founding members of the Field Club in Sarasota, with Lewis serving as the club's sixth commodore. Leona was also involved with PEO Sisterhood, the American Red Cross, AAUW, Habitat for Humanity, Plymouth Harbor and the Presbyterian Church. She served as a trustee for the Bank of America Client Foundation for many years, only retiring from her service within the last several years. A vibrant lady, Leona Hughes is fondly remembered as a pioneering woman of vision, compassion, and great generosity. Her legacies will continue to inspire future generations to follow her lifelong mission of helping others.
A memorial service will be held Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 2050 Oak St., Sarasota, FL 34237. Toale Brothers Funeral Home in Sarasota is in charge.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Bank of America Client Foundation, Leona Hughes Fund, and directed to the attention of Ruth Ranck at 1605 Main St., Suite 800, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Published in Herald Tribune on Aug. 3, 2008