Strategist Karen Hughes named 2013 Dedman Distinguished Grad

Karen HughesCorporate and political strategist Karen Hughes, named by The Associated Press as “perhaps the most influential woman ever to serve an American president,” will be honored with SMU’s 2013 Dedman College Distinguished Graduate Award on Thursday, Oct. 10.

The invitation-only event, sponsored by Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will begin at 11 a.m. in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center.

“Karen Hughes’ extraordinary career embodies what is so special about a liberal arts education. We are pleased to recognize her contributions to Dedman College, SMU and the country, and we are proud to call her one of our own,” said Dedman College Dean William Tsutsui.

Hughes earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Journalism from SMU in 1977. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

She began her career as a television reporter for NBC-Fort Worth affiliate KXAS before moving into public relations in the 1980s. Her political savvy was bolstered during her time as Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984, and by 1992 she was executive director of the Texas Republican Party.

Hughes’ ability to manage public policy, communications and politics helped brand George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative” image, which secured the success of his gubernatorial campaigns beginning in 1994, and his subsequent campaigns for president. From 2001-02, she served as strategic adviser to the president on policy and communications, managing for the White House all communications, speech writing and media affairs.

Hughes served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2005-07, afterward noting that one of her greatest accomplishments had been “transforming public diplomacy and making it a national security priority central to everything we do in government.”

Now based in Austin, Hughes is worldwide vice chair of the public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, advising global business leaders on strategies for their corporate communications and branding. She also serves as a board member for SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College.

Hughes is the author of Ten Minutes From Normal (Viking, 2004), which highlights her time in the inner circle of President George W. Bush, with whom she co-wrote A Charge to Keep (William Morrow, 1999).

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