2019 IW Winners

Executive of the Year - Sault Ste. Marie

Theresa Mudge

Theresa Mudge

When Theresa Mudge moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., she thought she’d be there for six months. That was 16 years ago.

The executive director of the city’s ARCH Hospice grew up and went to university in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before her husband’s career as an engineer and forrester took them west for a short-term contract.

“When I graduated university, I got married on a Saturday and five days later went on an incredible adventure,” said Mudge. “We fell in love with Northern Ontario almost immediately.”

In Ontario, they expected a “Toronto feel,” and were pleasantly surprised by how welcoming everyone in Sault Ste. Marie was; it reminded them of their own East Coast hospitality.

While her husband had a job upon arrival, Mudge made the move without one lined up. She had a master’s degree in health administration, though, which she describes as “similar to an MBA but more health care focussed.”

“I researched grant funding opportunities and presented a portfolio to the vice-president at Sault Area Hospital,” said Mudge. “That interested him. He was surprised I’d take the initiative.”

She started as a corporate planning analyst and within two years, she was working in operations management, corporate planning, and governance management.

“I’ve always had this sense that I knew I loved leadership and I knew I loved health care, so it was a natural fit,” said Mudge.

She worked at the Sault Area Hospital for a decade before coming into her current role somewhat unexpectedly. She had just returned from a cruise when a friend, Mike Murray, showed her the posting for the position at ARCH, saying: “Theresa, I saw this. I think you’d be perfect.”

“I had three days and I applied on a whim. Within two weeks I had a job offer.

It was incredibly serendipitous,” said Mudge. “I went to hospice not knowing a lot about it, and fell in love with the beauty of the model of care. The humanity and compassion that exists in a hospice environment is second to none.”

Mudge has always been drawn to helping people, but says her success was sparked by one person in particular: her Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Reid.

“She was one of the most pivotal people in my life because she believed in me,” said Mudge. “I look back at my life and have so much gratitude for her because I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not had that influence.”

That spark led Mudge to where she is professionally, as well as personally, and she hopes to have the same impact on others one day. “I don’t think we ever truly know the ripples we create in our lives,” said Mudge. “But the idea that we can all make them gives me great joy.”

Outside of work, Mudge and her husband are raising their six-year-old son with a sense of adventure and lifelong learning. They travel extensively while maintaining a home base in the city they now consider home.

“I’m so happy because we love the splendour of Northern Ontario,” said Mudge. “It’s an incredible playground; it’s been a good anchor for us.”