Share this article

print logo

We've known what traits Rex Ryan took from Buddy ... Or did they come from Doris?

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Buddy Ryan and his twin sons are known around the NFL as brassy showmen.

Doris Ryan shouldn't take a backseat in that department. Buddy's ex-wife and the mother of Rex, Rob and Jim Ryan is a take-no-drivel dynamo.

Doris Ryan was Phi Kappa Phi as an undergrad at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University), has a master's degree in education from the University at Buffalo and a Ph.D. with specialties in educational psychology and educational administration from the University of Chicago.

The Canadian government recruited Doris and other American higher-education administrators to lay the groundwork for a burgeoning doctoral program. The tradeoff to move north: no taxes in either country for three years, "a very attractive offer for a newly divorced woman with three children to raise," Doris said. She took the boys to Toronto with her.

She was a researcher for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and a professor at the University of Toronto. She eventually would become vice president at the University of New Brunswick, Canada's first female education administrator.

Along the way, she encountered misogyny and anti-Americanism.

"It was not without some pain," Doris Ryan, 80, said this month in her suburban Las Vegas home. "We had to cross quite a few picket lines to even get into the building. A lot of 'Yankee, go home!'

"Then they listed me as D.W. Ryan in course books. But the minute students found out D.W. was a woman -- and these students were teachers wanting to be principals or principals wanting to be superintendents -- they would walk out and drop my class."

She responded in true Ryan fashion: by being a provocateur.

"About that time hot pants came in," Doris said. "I would just show up in hot pants with my boots and hose and everything."

Sounds like something Alabama Kitty Ward would've appreciated.

Alabama Kitty (she hated the name and went by Bamma) was Doris' mother. Bamma never remarried after her husband died of tuberculosis; Doris was 2.

Bamma raised three children in Ardmore, Okla., turned her eighth-grade education and domestic skills into a job running a boarding house, bought restaurants and became Oklahoma's first female real-estate broker.

That's where Doris got her independent streak and the inspiration to ignore gender barriers in pursuit of professional happiness.

"My view of my mother was that she always worked and enjoyed it," Doris said.

And it's easy to see why Doris' brother, Robert, would take a bold chance by moving out West to try being an actor. Robert made it as far as Las Vegas, where he worked in the casino industry and married -- as you might've guessed -- a showgirl. She performed in the famous Bluebell Girls cabaret troupe.

"We all remember her at Bamma's house," Doris' oldest son, Jim, said, "because my Uncle Robert's wife did the splits in the living room."

Story topics: / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment