A life’s purpose

“By leaving a bequest in my will, I’m continuing this marvellous tradition of paying it forward.”

Saying that Robert Ryan and Martin Méthot (BSocSc ’83, MBA ’87) are involved in their community is an understatement. Even their dogs, Zippity-Doo-Dah and Rufus, are enthusiastic volunteers, visiting dementia wards in retirement and nursing homes, as well as schools and libraries, to make people feel better. “You just have to get the bag with their therapy dog bandanas, and both dogs bark with delight,” says Martin.

Robert volunteers with Ottawa Therapy Dogs, sings with the Ewashko Singers and sits on the board of Serenity Renewal for Families. He has been working as a fundraising professional for over 25 years in various not for profits, international NGOs and universities in Canada, the United States and Europe. His career, he says, has opened his eyes to how great the needs are at home and abroad. He is very happy to be back at the University of Ottawa working in the Development Office.

As for Martin, now retired from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada after spending most of his executive career tackling global health issues such as poverty, HIV and health security, he brings his skills and passion to local charity work by volunteering and sitting on the boards of organizations such as Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services and Ottawa Therapy Dogs. 

Several years ago, when Robert was manager of planned giving at the University of Ottawa, his beloved godmother, Virginia McCoy, a former public educator in Boston, Mass., passed away and left him a bequest.  On receiving it, he thought to himself: “What better way to honour Virginia’s legacy than to create a scholarship in her name?” Creating the McCoy-Ryan Graduate Scholarship at the School of Music proved to be a fitting tribute to Virginia, as Robert — a talented singer — and Virginia shared a passion for education and music.

The fund, created in 2003, has helped dozens of music students pursue their graduate degrees. Robert recently decided to include a residual bequest (a type of planned gift of a percentage of one’s estate) to secure the scholarship’s future. As the couple’s wills contain reciprocal terms, Martin had to be on board with this generous bequest as well — and he was. “I think everybody deserves to be remembered,” he says. “Everybody also deserves to have access to great education.”

Robert agrees, especially since he was a scholarship recipient  when he was an undergraduate at Vassar College, as well as when he pursued graduate studies at McGill. “By leaving a bequest in my will, I’m continuing this marvellous tradition of paying it forward,” he says.  “In some small way, my love of music will live on long after I’m gone.”

As they continue volunteering with their dogs and supporting many worthy causes, the two, together for 21 years, hope to inspire others to do the same. As Robert says, “Life does have a purpose, and that’s to help others.”

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