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Funeral Mass For Former IU President Ryan On His Birthday

John W. Ryan

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

Ryan had been an IU President Emeritus since 1987, when he retired after 16 years as President.

John W. Ryan, who served as President of Indiana University for 16 years, died early Saturday in Bloomington. He was 81.

Ryan, who had obtained two graduate degrees from IU in the late 1950s, returned to campus as a vice president in 1968, assuming the presidency in 1971. Upon his retirement in 1987, he was appointed President Emeritus and continued to teach in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and to serve on boards and committees at IU.

IU President Michael McRobbie issued this statement on Saturday:

“The entire IU community, and many across the state and the nation, mourn the passing of President Emeritus John Ryan, who died today with his family by his side. Our hearts go out to his wife, and their children and grandchildren.

“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.

“During his 16 years as president, he oversaw the establishment of regional campuses in Richmond and New Albany, and the creation of a number of new schools and cultural centers on the Bloomington campus. He was instrumental in formalizing IU’s Office for International Affairs and under his leadership the university forged important relationships in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

“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.

“I had the great privilege of presenting him with the University Medal in 2009. My wife Laurie and I also will always remember the vase of red roses that John and Pat sent us a few days after I was named president. They explained that Herman Wells had sent them similar flowers over 30 years earlier when John had been named president.

“Indiana University has lost a visionary leader and great friend with the passing of Dr. John Ryan. He will be deeply missed.”

Governor Mitch Daniels released a statement on Saturday as well:

“Indiana has lost a great citizen, and Indiana University has lost a large part of its proud history. John Ryan’s love and leadership of IU never ended. He was engaged and consulted on key decisions right to the end of his days. The vital asset that the university is to our state today is in large measure the product of his decades of service.”

Services, Visitations And Donations

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on John Ryan’s birthday, Friday, August 12, 2011, at 11 a.m. at what was his own church for many years,  St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Visitations will be held at Allen Funeral Home, 4155 South Old Highway 37, on Thursday, August 11, 2011, from 3-7 p.m.

Contributions may be made in memory of Dr. Ryan to:

  • The John W. Ryan Fellowship Fund with the School of SPEA at Indiana University
  • Polish Studies at Indiana University
  • Hungarian Chair at Indiana University

All donations should be sent c/o any of the following addresses:

  • The Indiana University Foundation, PO Box 500 Bloomington, Indiana 47408
  • The Sister Henrita Fund at Loyola High School, 145 Good Counsel Drive, Mankato, Minnesota 56001
  • The IU Health Bloomington Hospital Home Health and Hospice Program, 619 West First Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47403

Online condolences may be sent to the family at

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  • Anonymous

    John Ryan was a strong advocate and supporter of The Kinsey Institute during my directorship from 1983 to when he retired in 1987, following in the footsteps of his mentor, the legendary President Herman B Wells,  It was the greatest period of growth and accomplishment for the Institute since Dr. Alfred Kinsey;s death.  Under his era of support for all creativity and scholarship at IU, he supported the tripling of the Institute’s physical space, the renovation of the research areas, the building of a contemporary library with closed stacks and temperature and humidity controls,gallery and archival space for the unique collections, student and visiting scholar work areas, laboratory space, and archival areas to the level where this unique world resource could be shared with the international academic community. He supported my doubling the staffing and backed aggressive fund-raising efforts. He and his wonderful wife Pat brought all their most eminent guests to visit the Kinsey Institute for tours and lectures.  President Ryan was a man of great foresight and scholarly courage who continued the building of Indiana University as a world-class scholarly and academic institution.  He had interest and provided support for all aspects of the University that exhibited quality.  He will be greatly missed by those who were fortunate enough to work with him and those many thousands who benefit from the investments both intellectual and financial he made in Indiana’s higher educational system.  May he be remembered with honor, dignity and love.

  • Pingback: John Ryan: In His Own Words | About - Indiana Public Media

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