Barb and Jon Ryan to receive the University of Regina’s highest honour

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: June 5, 2019 11:30 a.m.

Barb Ryan (right) and Jon Ryan (left) are the first parent/child duo to receive honorary degrees from the University of Regina on the same day at the same convocation ceremony.
Barb Ryan (right) and Jon Ryan (left) are the first parent/child duo to receive honorary degrees from the University of Regina on the same day at the same convocation ceremony. Photos: Seattle Seahawks / U of R Photography

At the University of Regina’s 45th annual spring convocation being held at the Conexus Arts Centre today at 2:00 p.m., Barb Ryan and Jon Ryan will make University of Regina history. The two worthy recipients will be the first parent and child to receive honorary degrees on the same day at the same U of R convocation ceremony.  An honorary degree is the highest recognition the University can bestow. 

Barb Ryan

Honorary Doctor of Laws 

Barb Ryan is receiving an honorary degree from the University of Regina for her compassion, kindness and her willingness to nurture everyone and anyone who will let her. Besides her own four children—Erica, Jill, Steve and Jon—the extended family under her care includes refugees, immigrants and international students who have settled in Regina. 

Mothering her own kids gave her good connections in the community that Ryan put to use after her husband Bob died at age 54. She joined the Regina Progress Club, which had provided the down payment for a settlement house for refugees. That experience led her to the Regina Open Door Society and the work the organization does with immigrants. Ryan was deeply moved by the stories of what the immigrants had endured to reach Regina, and their resilience. Since then Ryan has hosted two families from Africa and a refugee family of eight from Syria, helping them to settle in their new home community. 

She is a member of a support group called Women to Women, where members meet monthly with newcomers to teach them a skill or craft. Through the World University Service of Canada program at the University of Regina, Ryan invites into her home students from other countries who are away from their families. She has also employed her networking skills in support of fundraisers such as the Progress Club’s Festival of Trees and the Champagne Classic women’s golf tournament in support of the children’s ward at the Regina General Hospital. 

Ryan has been recognized with the 2012 Saskatchewan Diamond Jubilee Award, the 2016 Red Cross Humanitarian Award, the Canada 150 Award, and the Saskatchewan Volunteer Award. 

“It’s an honour, and it’s lovely to have your labour of love recognized in the community,” Ryan says of receiving the honorary degree. “I tell my grandkids we are really lucky to live here, and I try to show them we have to share; we have to give back.” 

Jon Ryan

Honorary Doctor of Laws 

Thanks to video replay, honorary degree recipient Jon Ryan will be forever remembered for the touchdown pass he threw that sparked his team’s comeback playoff victory in 2014, sending the Seattle Seahawks to the NFL Super Bowl. The scoring toss also earned Ryan a “first” in the league record book, as the first punter to throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game. While that video will be played over and over, Ryan insists one of his greatest accomplishments was to be named a team captain by his fellow teammates for four consecutive years. That recognition, he suggests, came from leading by example on and off the field, and treating everyone he met during his workdays with the same respect. 

Ryan was born and raised in Regina. He played running back, placekicker and punter with the Sheldon-Williams Spartans, and then punter and wide receiver for four seasons with the University of Regina Rams. In his final year he was named a Canada West first team all-star and CIS all-star, as well as receiving three team awards from the Rams. 

Ryan began his professional football career as a punter for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers for two seasons, and then spent two years with the Green Bay Packers, followed by 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. He was part of the Seahawks Super Bowl championship team in 2013. 

Ryan founded the Gear Up Foundation to provide proper equipment and more training for coaches working with kids playing minor football in Regina. The Foundation’s programming has since expanded to other communities across Saskatchewan, including support for a start-up team in the northern part of the province. 

“It’s a great honour to be recognized with this honorary degree, and to receive it at the same convocation that my mother (Barb Ryan) is getting one is pretty cool,” said Ryan.