Builders of the Program

Robin Ryan

Arriving at Douglas

Robin (1932 – 2011) became the second SPSC faculty member in 1971, a year after the department’s establishment in 1970.

Robin started his teaching career in Bullfinch, Western Australia, at the age of 21. He taught for three years before moving to Canada (the move, in part, inspired by the mountains of Banff on the postcards sent by his pen pal). In Canada, Robin continued to teach, while also updating his qualifications. He obtained his Bachelor of Education degree at UBC, taking courses in the summer over a period of seven years. He then went on to obtain a Master of Science degree at the University of Alberta.

The latter institution was how Robin first connected with Gert. Gert, who had also gone through education at the University of Alberta, got in touch with the University’s head of Physical Education when Douglas College was looking for more SPSC faculty. Robin, whose name was suggested, was called in for an interview at Douglas – and the rest was history. With Robin’s arrival, the SPSC program was able to increase its offered course sections and student intake (which was already hitting capacity by the end of the first year).

Teaching Out of the Car Trunk, Part 2

As a founding member of the SPSC program, Robin shouldered many responsibilities similar to that of Gert’s.

Because the College had no permanent campus in the 1970s, Robin would travel around the Lower Mainland, teaching classes at various locations. Like Gert, he would start from New Westminster, go to Richmond, drive out to Surrey, and then head back to New Westminster – all in a day’s work. He taught the relevant theory in the portable classrooms at these locations, and then drove to various tracks and fields to carry out the practical side of the lesson.

Robin would store all the sports equipment for the classes – basketballs, badminton rackets, track and field equipment – in the trunk of his car, shuttling them out to the various locations before bringing them back to the College’s storage room at the end of the day. This method continued for about a decade, up until the College gained its first permanent campus at New Westminster in 1982.

“…[Robin] was teaching the basketball course, so same thing: [he] would do his theory in the classroom, and then he would have a bag or basketball[s]…at the back of…his space wagon, and then we’d go to the Arenex at Queen’s Park or whatever gym. He’d carry his stuff into the gym with him [and] teach his class.”

gert, describing the similar process robin went through to teach

Enthusiasm in Sports

Robin was very sociable and enthusiastic as a faculty member. He actively tried to get students engaged in athletics, and continuously worked on building up the College’s sports teams. He coached the volleyball and badminton teams, which both went on to nationals across Canada.

 “Robin would walk around [and] down the hallway, and he had students that he knew and [would] say: ‘Hey, why don’t you join the badminton or volleyball team?’”

ann [robin’s wife], on robin’s proactiveness in encouraging students to join teams

A CD of Robin’s songs

Robin retired in 1997, after working at the College for 26 years.

In his retirement, Robin took up songwriting, creating and recording songs which he often shared at faculty gatherings. He also enjoyed a bit of a bucolic lifestyle, keeping chickens and goats, as well as spending his time gardening and pruning trees. He passed away on December 15, 2011.