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UBC Sports Hall of Fame welcomes esteemed class of 2024

Vancouver – The UBC Sports Hall of Fame will add three outstanding athletes, a dominant team and a crew featuring some of the most important builders to ever set foot on UBC campus as members of the honoured class of 2024. This year’s class of inductees includes Blair Bann, Penny May, Shawn Olson, the 1974-76 Men’s Rugby Team, Ken Woods and the Gold for Life Committee.

As with previous classes, there was no shortage of nominees to choose from this year. The selection committee was tasked with choosing from a substantial pool of accomplished alumni thanks to the sustained success of UBC Athletics.

The newest inductees were celebrated on Wednesday with a special Hall of Fame reception ahead of the annual UBC Athletics Big Block Awards. This year’s inductees have all made an indelible mark on the UBC community and will now join the ranks of the prestigious UBC Sports Hall of Fame. Please join us in celebrating the UBC Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2024.


Blair Bann

An incredible leader and teammate, Blair Bann, is the most highly decorated UBC men’s volleyball player of all time.  The libero for the TBirds from 2006-2011, Blair broke records as a member of the CIS All-Rookie team, a four-time Canada West Libero of the Year, and a three-time CIS Men’s Volleyball Libero of the Year. More than a decade after his graduation his record still stands as Canada’s all-time leader in total digs.   
While at UBC, Blair was selected to join the Canadian Men’s Volleyball National Team. With Team Canada he quickly made his mark on the international stage as one of the best liberos in the world. He helped Canada claim gold and silver at the Norceca Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2015 and 2013. The team also won bronze in the 2017 FIVB World League (Canada’s first ever podium finish in any international FIVB event), where Blair was named the Best Libero in World League.  

Blair made history for Canada when he led the team that qualified for back-to-back Olympics in 2016 and again in 2020. Blair was key to Canada qualifying for both Olympics, particularly the 2020 games, where he led Canada to an undefeated record at the Norceca Continental Qualifier and was named best receiver and tournament MVP. Blair played 10 seasons professionally in Germany and France before retiring in 2021. He is now pursuing a career in coaching with a professional team in Korea. 


Penny May

In the early 1970s, the UBC women’s track and field team dominated Western Canadian and even U.S. competition. All around track star Penny May was an integral piece of this golden age in UBC’s athletic history. A fierce competitor, Penny was making headlines internationally before even starting at UBC. At the 1971 Pan American Games she won a silver in the pentathlon and bronze in 100 m hurdles.

At UBC, in the 1972 season she competed in six events at the Western Canadian University Championships, winning gold in the 40-yard hurdles and with the sprint relay team and silver in the long jump, and the 50 metre hurdles. That same year Penny took home the gold in pentathlon at the Western Canadian championship. At the conclusion of that season Penny was awarded the Marilyn Pomfret award as UBC’s top female athlete for her outstanding performances at home and on the international stage. The following season, UBC’s women’s track and field team exhibited an even greater degree of domination. At the Canada West Championship, Penny won gold in the long jump and 50 metre hurdle, and silver in the shot put. She was now the Canadian record holder both indoors and outdoors in the 50 metre, 100 metre and 200 metre hurdles. 


Shawn Olson

Shawn Olson has left a legacy of excellence, as both a UBC Football player and coach. As the quarterback for the T-Birds in the 1990s, Shawn led UBC to four Hardy Cup finals, and the 1997 Vanier Cup Championship. During his five years as a Thunderbird, Shawn led UBC in passing, and was named a Canada West All Star three times. He still holds the school record for most rush Touch Downs by a quarterback and is ranked top 5 all-time for total TD’s, total passing yards and rushing yards by a QB.
In 2010 Shawn returned to UBC to lead the football team, this time, as head coach. He had great success on the field, right from the get-go, posting UBC’s best record in 12 years, and earning the Thunderbirds’ first playoff win and Hardy Cup appearance in 15 years. In 2011, he was named Canada West Coach of the Year and guided the football program through the sports targeting review.
Shawn truly earned the title of “builder” through his efforts to support initiatives to improve UBC football facilities that resulted in a new Varsity training facility, renovations to Thunderbird stadium and the renovation of the Heritage alumni room, and championed the need for a full-time varsity strength and conditioning coach. Shawn is a key member of the Thunderbird Football Alumni and he continues to rally his former teammates to ensure there is a connection between the current student athletes and the alumni. 


MEN’S RUGBY 1974-76

1974-76 Men's Rugby Team

The 1974-76 UBC Men’s Rugby Team is considered to be one of the best Thunderbird rugby teams to ever play the game. Coached by UBC Sports Hall of Fame inductee (2000) Donn Spence, this team put up an amazing record of 20-2 in the 1974-75 season and an impressive 25-6 record in the 1975-76 campaign. Among the big victories from the 1974-75 season, the Thunderbirds won: the Canada West Intercollegiate Championship, the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Championship, the Whitman Boot, World Cup Champions, McKechnie Cup and a record setting 103-0 victory over the University of Washington Huskies. Early in the season, the Thunderbirds also defeated one of the United Kingdom’s top University sides, the touring University of Edinburgh, convincingly 28-7. The 1975-76 season was marked, by the first in which UBC competed in the Vancouver Rugby Union’s First Division, repeat Canada West InterCollegiate, Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate, and World Cup Championships. In the Spring of 1976, this team defeated the touring Japan National Rugby Team at Thunderbird Stadium. Subsequently, UBC then traveled to Japan for a 6 game tour against university champion, club champion, regional all-star and a select Japanese team, finishing that highly successful tour with a record of 5-1, and a second defeat of Japan.
This incredibly talented and driven group was propelled to success through their true collegiality and commitment to teamwork. Of the 35 Thunderbird team members over these two years 13 would go on to represent Canada on the international stage.  



Ken Woods

As a UBC graduate and tireless philanthropist, Ken Woods has spent his adult life helping young student-athletes pursue excellence in academics and athletics.  
After years of being actively involved with his alma mater as a fan of UBC varsity basketball and as a director on the Thunderbird Golf Society, Ken saw an opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of young athletes. In 2015 Woods donated one million dollars to fund the Ken Woods Thunderbird Award. Since then, dozens of gifted student-athletes and future leaders have been supported by his generosity.  His support has been transformational to UBC Athletics, particularly to the sports of golf, basketball, soccer and more. 
Ken goes above and beyond with his efforts to support the aspiring leaders and innovators who come through UBC Athletics – meeting with players and trying to help everyone along with their dreams. Since establishing his endowment, Ken has gone on to support many teams with additional funding, including contributing to the new women’s softball field and funding team travel and improved competition. He is ardent about ensuring UBC teams have opportunities to compete against the best on both the national and international stage. Outside of UBC Athletics, Ken is a passionate philanthropist and supports many community initiatives in healthcare, the arts, academia and sport. 


Gold for Life

The Gold for Life Committee has been responsible for ushering in a new era in UBC Rowing. Created back in 1998, this group co-chaired by George Hungerford and Roy McIntosh, is comprised of passionate alumni and rowing supporters who are dedicated to seeing UBC Rowing succeed. Over the past 25 years, this group has propelled the program to new heights through their tireless fundraising efforts. The biggest development was providing a much-needed permanent home for UBC Rowing – the spectacular John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse. 
The program had been in a tough place throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, as UBC trained and stored equipment in False Creek. It was thanks to the hard work of the Gold for Life Committee, that turned the dream of providing the Thunderbirds with a permanent home on the Fraser River – into a reality. The Gold for Life Committee has continued to lead the charge for fundraising, driving the success of the UBC Rowing program, which has captured 11 National Rowing Championships since 2004. 

It is impossible to calculate the number of volunteer hours that has been generated by the Gold for Life members, but the impact of their work can be seen in the very fabric of the current Thunderbird program. The Gold for Life Committee is the definition of what a builder is, and the committee members all exemplify what it means to truly be a UBC Thunderbird.

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