Dr. Mary Ryder, M.A. ’81, has a unique ISU bond. Her family’s 110-year connection spans four generations. Mary’s grandmother, Irene (Valentine) Blacker, attended Illinois State Normal University (ISNU) in the summers of 1911 and 1912, along with her sister Daisy. Another sister, Kathryn, attended in the summer of 1916. The sisters taught in country schools and completed continuing education credits.

Irene had three daughters: Geneva, Guyneth, and Ruth. Each attended ISNU in the 1930s. All three taught in country schools, with Geneva becoming a high school math teacher. They lived at 601 Normal Avenue in a home that is still standing.

“How this second generation made it to college during the Depression is special,” Mary said. “Their farmer father, my grandfather, sold a cow to pay their tuition.”

Ruth (Blacker) Ryder ’38 met her husband, Bernard ’40, at ISNU. Their three children were also graduates. Michael ’67 studied physical science, Richard ’70, majored in chemistry, and Mary did her master’s work in English. A Distinguished Professor Emerita of English from South Dakota State University, Mary is shown above holding a photo of herself with her parents and siblings.

The Ryder siblings share a Redbird connection with two cousins, Janice Blacker ’72 and Shirley Blacker ’79. Daisy’s granddaughter, Mary Beth Norris ’77, graduated the same decade.

The fourth generation consists of great-grandchildren of Irene and Daisy: Jamie Schumacher ’92; Kelly Reid ’07, M.S. ’14; Philip Drazewski, M.S. ’14; and Sara Spencer ’13, as well as her husband, Kyle Koerner ’12.

The Redbird roots deepen through Mary’s father, Bernard, who joined ISNU in the 1950s as an associate professor of chemistry. He taught 28 years, became a full professor and chaired the Chemistry Department nine years.

“Our family legacy mirrors the development of the institution from a Normal school to a mid-sized, multi-faceted university,” Mary said. “My dad came in 1956 with President Robert Bone, and his role as first head of chemistry in 1966 coincides with the transition to ISU.”

The legacy continues through scholarships Mary created in Mennonite College of Nursing and the Chemistry Department to honor her parents.