Faculty of Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Ryan Award winner was 'a remarkable human being'    

(June 1, 2017)

Accepting the Ryan Award on behalf of the late Stephen Sigurdson, Law’84 are his wife, Leslie, Law’84 (middle); and their daughters, Amy (Com’15); Laura, Law’13; Claire (Com’12); and Heather (Harvard student)
Accepting the Ryan Award on behalf of the late Stephen Sigurdson, Law’84, are his wife, Leslie, Law’84 (middle); and their daughters, Amy (Com’15); Laura, Law’13; Claire (Com’12); and Heather (Harvard student). (Photo by Studio66)

When the 2017 H.R.S. Ryan Law Alumni Award of Distinction was bestowed posthumously on Law’84’s Stephen Sigurdson, the honour was a fitting tribute to a beloved alumnus who died unexpectedly in November 2016 at age 56. The award announcement, at the Celebrate Queen’s Law alumni reception on May 4, was coupled with the announcement of a Professorship in Sigurdson’s honour.

“I know that Steve would be humbled and honoured to be recognized with the Ryan Award,” said his wife, Leslie (Black) Sigurdson, Law’84, who accepted on her late husband’s behalf.

Speaking at the event, Dean Bill Flanagan recalled Sigurdson as one of Canada’s most highly respected corporate lawyers and as a loyal booster of Queen’s Law who sat on the Dean’s Council beginning in 2011 and assumed the Vice-Chair position in 2015. Even more important, Flanagan said, was the fact Sigurdson was “a gentleman, who was kind and thoughtful . . . a remarkable human being who was loved and admired by all.”  

Stephen Sigurdson spent the initial two decades of his distinguished legal career at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. He shouldered a variety of leadership roles there, serving as Managing Partner of the firm’s New York office, 2000-2004, and as one of its two National Managing Partners, 2004–2008. 

In 2010, Sigurdson joined Manulife, Canada’s largest insurance company, working in various capacities – including Executive Vice-President/General Counsel and as Chief Legal Officer for Manulife globally. In 2015, he spearheaded Manulife’s $4 billion acquisition of Standard Life Canada. That complex transaction, which almost doubled Manulife’s assets in the group retirement business, added more than $6 billion in assets to the company’s Canadian mutual fund business.

The respect and affection Sigurdson’s classmates, colleagues and friends accorded him is reflected in their generous support for the memorial fund that on the suggestion of his wife and four daughters was started in his name. In a tribute to Stephen, the generous contributions of Queen’s Law alumni and friends created the Stephen Sigurdson Professorship in Corporate Law and Finance. With a $1.5-million endowment raised to support the position, the professorship will further enhance the school’s business law program.

Betty DelBianco, Sigurdson’s friend and Law’84 classmate, spearheaded the memorial fund initiative. “I think everyone felt the need to do something concrete to pay tribute to this wonderful man,” she said at the reception, noting that a professorship in Sigurdson’s name is a meaningful honour. 

Leslie Sigurdson echoed those comments. “The professorship is a wonderful, lasting legacy to an exceptional and incredible person,” she said, “and a little ray of sunshine for our family.”

By Ken Cuthbertson