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Redbird legacy: 3 generations made ISU their collegiate home

Barbara Ryba, Elise and Sonnie Blocki

Barbara Ryba, Elise and Sonnie Blocki

Three generations of women made ISU their collegiate home, beginning with Barbara (Wellner) Ryba ’67. The Peru native majored in Latin as she prepared for a teaching career. Her sister, Sandra (Wellner) Becker ’70, completed an education degree as well.

Barbara taught many years, beginning at the middle-school level. She chose to stay home when she and husband, James, started a family. They had three children, with Sondra “Sonnie” (Ryba) Blocki ’91, the oldest.

Sonnie saw what ISU meant to her mother, equipping Barbara to teach her whole life. She now tutors and helps individuals prepare for the GED, still living in her native Illinois town. Sonnie continued the family’s legacy, transferring after completing an associate’s degree.

“It was a natural transition for me. It felt like home,” Sonnie said. She studied biology in preparation for graduate school and physical therapy work. She is in private practice in Peru, specializing in breast cancer recovery. She and her husband, Scott, are parents of daughters Elise and Allison.

Elise followed her grandmother and mother, starting at Illinois State last fall as a freshman studying international business. Already enrolled out of state, she made a last-minute change to ISU when realizing the campus is where she wants to study.

“It was just a natural fit for her,” Sonnie said. “I am absolutely thrilled she can experience Illinois State and its small-town feel on a big campus.” Barbara and Sonnie have both maintained friendships with college friends and expect Elise will also build relationships that last a lifetime.

Both have been to campus several times to visit Elise and enjoy the University again through her eyes. It is especially fun for Sonnie, as she lived in Hewett and Elise is in Manchester.

Not much else has remained the same for the elder graduates, especially the rec center and dining hall experience. There is the same school spirit, however, which has created a special bond in the Ryba family. Sonnie explains it simply by saying, “We are Redbird proud!”

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