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Indiana University

Remembering John Ryan

Your Tribute

Those individuals who would like to publicly share their own tribute to John Ryan are encouraged to e-mail it to iupres [at] indiana [dot] edu( Subject: John Ryan Tribute ). Along with this submission, please be sure to identify yourself and, if applicable, your title and/or organization. Your tribute will be posted as soon as possible.

More Tributes

Tribute by Robert. R. Gosende
United States Ambassador (ret.)

Tribute by Kemal Gürüz
Former President of the Council of Higher Education of Turkey

Tribute by Francisek Lyra
Professor Emeritus, American Studies Center,
University of Warsaw

Tribute by John J. O'Connor
Senior Vice Chancellor and Secretary of the University (ret.)
The State University of New York



"For more than half a century, John Ryan played a pivotal role in the growth and development of Indiana University, and was a major figure in higher education nationally and internationally.

"Dr. Ryan had a remarkable vision for how the university should evolve, both across the state and around the world. He also was a strong leader who took the helm as president at a difficult time and earned the respect of the faculty, staff, state legislature and alumni. Dr. Ryan saw the possibilities for IU as a great state university operating on an international stage at a time when few others were thinking in such terms.

"Dr. Ryan remained a friend of IU after retiring as president in 1987, helping to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the university. I personally have enjoyed John's friendship and appreciated his wise counsel since his return to Bloomington nearly a decade ago."
- Michael A. McRobbie, President of Indiana University

"John Ryan is one of IU's great all-time leaders not only because of his 16 years as president, but also the proud way he carried the IU banner in retirement as chancellor of the State University of New York. Throughout his career of academic leadership he combined a distinct scholarly mien with a deep knowledge of the arts of management and politics. These strengths helped him sustain the internationally recognized excellence of the Bloomington flagship; provide the institutional architecture for IU's regional campuses, recently the subject of a renewed vision; and champion the Bloomington/Indianapolis core campus and research corridor, which is so important to Indiana and its namesake university."
- Gerry Bepko, Interim President of Indiana University 2002-2003; Chancellor Emeritus, IUPUI; Trustee's Professor Emeritus

"John took over at a very tough time, and he was a great president for over 16 years. He won the respect of the legislature, the alumni and the state. He proved to be a great choice.

"Having known him for forty years, I am pleased to comment. He is a man of brilliance, integrity and distinction. Acknowledged as an international leader in higher education and public policy, he is highly regarded by his colleagues in the U.S. and abroad. He has long served as my role model and trusted friend. He is thoughtful and inspiring. His support for distributed education became the impetus for our very successful statewide medical education program. As a teacher and administrator he set the example for others to emulate—an imaginative and steadfast steward of the public trust. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with him."
- Steven C. Beering, dean of the IU School of Medicine, 1974-1983, president of Purdue University from 1983 to 2000.

"Fate brought John to the presidency at a crucial time in our history. He continued the great legacy of Herman Wells, launching in his 16–year tenure a host of innovations, including the creation of SPEA, international outreach, regional campus expansion and campus beautification. But at the heart of all this was John's remarkable humanity. He was Irish to the core—relationships, a good drink, the company of friends, a song, a story—all part of John. John and his wife of 62 years, Pat, made Bryan House the campus living room. What a time!"
- Dick Bishop, Executive Associate, Office of the President Emeritus, IU Foundation

"John's a visionary. He could see possibilities that very few other people could see. He's also a very down-to-earth, fun kind of person. He has a great sense of humor -- the old Irish blarney. Those of us who worked for him admired him greatly."
- Chuck Bonser, Dean Emeritus, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs; Ameritech Professor Emeritus, SPEA; Professor Emeritus, Business

"John Ryan was the perfect choice to serve as President of IU when he did. He was uniquely qualified to move IU from a single campus institution to a multi-campus University and do so with the full support of various governing bodies including the Indiana General Assembly."

"President Ryan intuitively understood the internal workings of major research universities and knew what needed to be changed and what didn't. He enjoyed the confidence of state political leadership and was particularly effective in moving IU's biennial budget request through the appropriation process. "

"He was extraordinarily adept at building public/private partnerships and was well known for his Hoosier style and values. His strong relationship with the Lilly Endowment is but one example of his ability to find outside support in advancing IU."

"John Ryan surrounded himself with skilled administrators and gave them sufficient flexibility and authority to do their jobs. He supported his chosen team with resources and responsibility."

"John Ryan the President and John Ryan the friend will be missed."
- Terry Clapacs, Former IU Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer

"President John Ryan is a valued friend who led Indiana University in some difficult times. He was always available to provide wise counsel when I was president."
- Tom Ehrlich, 15th President of Indiana University

"I have had the pleasure of having a long and wonderful relationship with Indiana University. It has covered several decades now, starting with my days as an undergraduate athlete, then on to law school and after graduation, serving as an IU Trustee for 18 years and then continued service to the University on the IU Foundation Board. Every minute of that time has involved direct and personal contact with John W. Ryan. He has been a major influence in the upward trajectory of the University since the '60s."

"Every University has its own timeline and life story and Indiana University is no exception. At any given point in time, there may be one issue or another (such as student unrest due to unpopular wars, faltering state support due to poor economic conditions, etc.) that tests the character of an institution and the will of its leadership. It takes leaders such as President Ryan to manage through those issues and keep the institution strong and on the upward slope."

"I recall well John's leadership as President and the remarkable relations he had with, among others, members of the legislature who richly supported the institution. I actually had the pleasure of working for John Ryan and Herman Wells while in law school when I served as an assistant to one of their shared assistants, Paul Klinge. It was a great way to see how two masters led the institution and their personal styles. I am forever grateful personally to President Ryan for inviting me into the leadership of the University, first as a member of the Athletics Committee and then suggesting I might consider running as a Trustee. We can all thank John Ryan for the great institution we have today."
- Harry Gonso, Partner, Ice Miller LLP, IU Trustee, IU Alumnus

"When Jack Ryan was named chancellor of the SUNY system, he brought stability to what had been a relatively unstable organization, creating a foundation for me as his successor to propel the university forward in many respects. He also conjured up a new idea about how to expand opportunities for American and international students at a level much different from the traditional, semester-long overseas studies model. His idea provided the seed for SUNY's remarkable joint-degree program, which allowed students at SUNY and at universities around the world to receive degrees in real disciplines from both institutions after a specific course of study. In the space of three years, the SUNY system welcomed 2,000 additional international students thanks to this program, which began with partner institutions in Turkey and Russia. In fact, one of my greatest pleasures was travelling to Russia with Jack and Pat to visit our exchange colleagues there.

"Jack Ryan was a rarity among men: a dreamer who created the architecture to make those dreams a reality for thousands of students across the country and around the world."
- Robert King, Former Chancellor, State University of New York (SUNY), President, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

"John Ryan was a great man and an outstanding Indiana University president. He understood what Indiana was capable of and not capable of, and he worked very hard to make the best use possible of all that was there. The team of John Ryan, George Pinnell, Ed Williams, Bill Armstrong, Ken Gros Louis and, in athletics, Bill Orwig and Ralph Floyd gave the university some truly great years, and it was a team that, starting with Dr. Ryan, always had the best interests of the university at heart."
- Bob Knight, Former Indiana University Men's Basketball Coach

"John W. Ryan's generation of leadership in American higher education continuously reinforced and expanded Indiana University's significance among the nation's premier institutions. Quiet and effective, proud of IU's history and endlessly engaged in its life, Ryan insisted on this university's participation in the organizations and initiatives that defined America's elite position in international higher education. He knew that maintaining this preeminence for an institution based in a small town in between the two coasts in a state less wealthy than most of its competitors required constant effort. He recognized, as did his most distinguished predecessors, that sustaining Indiana University on the world stage required a faculty, student body and staff of the highest quality producing research results, creative productions and undergraduate and graduate degrees at top national standards. John Ryan, a consummate organizational leader, paid closest attention to the individuals whose expertise and commitment provided the substance for his belief that IU belonged at the center of America's university leadership."
- John Lombardi, President, Louisiana State University

"John Ryan and I got along very well indeed. He was a shrewd president, working with the (Indiana) General Assembly and the Commission on Higher Education with great success. He had strong sentiments, but was willing to be persuaded other ways. John had a terrific sense of humor, warmth and charm. He made IU a better place and, like Herman Wells, was a world traveler, to IU's benefit."
- Ken Gros Louis, Chancellor Emeritus, Indiana University Bloomington

"John Ryan is a man of great faith who is absolutely devoted to his family, especially his wife Pat, and the best friend a person could ever have. He is a remarkably gifted academic leader. He loved Indiana University and the state of Indiana. No matter where he served all over the world, he always returned to his Indiana home in Bloomington."

"John Ryan represents the epitome of the Hoosier gentleman. He cherished his time with students, his Kappa Sigma brothers, and spent nearly every minute of every day thinking how to make IU and the state of Indiana better. He was especially proud of the IU School of Public Environmental Affairs. The school was started during his IU presidency and has become one of the largest and best schools of its kind in the world."
- Jim Morris, IU Trustee ('96-'02), IU Foundation Board Member, President, Pacers Sports and Entertainment

"John Ryan did his doctoral research in Thailand and maintained a keen interest in international activities throughout his career at Indiana University. As president, he followed in the footsteps of Herman B Wells in extending the global reach of the university. IU developed new programs and activities in Poland, Hungary, Malaysia, Spain and other parts of the world. Under his leadership the reach of the university expanded to Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Many distinguished international scholars and political leaders visited IU during his term of office. It is noteworthy that Ryan formalized the university's Office for International Activities during his presidency."
- Patrick O'Meara, Vice President Emeritus for International Affairs, Indiana University; Chair, Center for International Education and Development Assistance at IU

"Many things could be said, but in the interest of brevity, let me note a few of the most important of his remarkable achievements: First, he was in every sense my mentor, who not only brought me to IU as Vice President-Bloomington (a title that had been and later became again Chancellor) but also entrusted major responsibility as both a campus chief executive and as a critical member of the IU System (sharing duties as chief academic officer with then VP Glenn Irwin). On the very day I was appointed, the IU Trustees created the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) - clearly one of John Ryan's most notable accomplishments."

"At a time when state university systems were becoming unduly cumbersome and even illogical, he blended into a wholly new concept the best of Bloomington and Indianapolis (creating several university-wide professional schools) and rationalized as well as simplifying the overall structure. Many other aspects of his achievement might well be noted - exceptional leadership in international programs, including several trips to China, continuing strong leadership in the major presidential organizations, powerful commitment to faculty recruitment and retention despite powerful pressures from elsewhere, and perhaps above all continuing to support and guide a close network of eight campuses in achieving harmony and concord for the citizens and students of Indiana and far beyond."
- Bob O'Neil, Vice President-Bloomington (1975-1980), Currently: Professor of Law Emeritus, University Professor Emeritus. Director, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at UVA

"President John Ryan was the first Vice President for Regional Campuses at Indiana University and was appointed President of IU from that position. He recognized early in his tenure that the facilities on regional campuses were totally inadequate for the programs that had already been approved for those campuses. He encouraged and supported the development of facilities master plans and mission statements for each campus so their long term development could be assured. He recognized that each regional campus required a unique set of programs and facilities to fully serve the needs of its region of the state. He insisted that facilities on regional campuses be built to IU standards. He pushed for the authorization of appropriate master's degree programs to serve community needs.

President John F. Kennedy said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step." President John Ryan was the one at IU to take the critical first steps for the appropriate development of IU regional campuses into the tremendous assets they are today for their communities and the state. Without his vision and his actions during those early days of their development the IU regional campuses would not be what they are today."
- F.C. Richardson, Chancellor Emeritus, IU Southeast
(Served as chancellor from 1996 to 2002)

"John Ryan was President of Indiana University when men's soccer was elevated from a club sport to varsity status. President Ryan was instrumental in this transition. He recognized the growing popularity of the sport in the United States as well as the international sphere of soccer. John was very supportive and interested in the soccer program and helped nurture and grow the "tradition of excellence" that has become associated with the IU soccer program.

I will always be grateful and appreciative of his outstanding leadership and caring friendship."
- Jerry Yeagley
(Served as IUB Men's Soccer Coach from 1973 to 2003)