In Memoriam: Tommy Ryan ’46

Thomas J. Ryan ’46 passed away peacefully in Hillsborough, CA, on Sept. 23 at 84. His family noted that in lieu of flowers or donations, an act of kindness to someone in need would be what Tommy would have wanted. No one who knew Tommy through his Haverford connections could have thought otherwise!

Tommy Ryan’s name lives on at Haverford in the tangible presence of Ryan Gymnasium (which since 2005 has not been used as a gym but for faculty offices and lately as a “living room” and hang-out space for the entire student body).¬† His spirit also endures at Haverford through the many contributions he made as a member of the Board of Managers from 1982 until 1994 and as an Emeritus Manager since then.

Ryan served as chair of the Development Committee and on other key Board committees. A member of the Corporation, Tommy provided leadership for many fund-raising activities including badly-needed renovations of the then “Old Gym” in 1982 which allowed Haverford to provide improved recreational facilities just as the College went fully coed.

Tommy Ryan was a Philadelphia native who attended St. Joseph’s Prep, becoming one of the few graduates of a local Catholic high school to attend Haverford before the 1970s.¬† At Haverford, Tom majored in English and played football, soccer and baseball.

After studying insurance at Penn’s Wharton School, Tommy worked as an insurance executive in Philadelphia for 18 years before moving to San Francisco where he became Executive Vice-President of Fred S. James & Co. and then Senior Vice-President of Marsh & McClennan, Inc. He formed in 1979 the ISU group of companies which became a leading aggregator of independent insurance agencies.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Ryan’s “creative thinking and imagination led to an innovative insurance program which was crucial to the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System” in the 1960s.

His business feats were accompanied by, in the words of the Chronicle and of his son T.J., “success in every aspect of life….(Ryan) embodied the true essence of family…a man of his word…a loyal and good friend to so many…a generous man who always had time for family, friends and business associates…..Let us remember his infectious smile, his charming personality and always dapper style, his extensive vocabulary and quick wit and his gentlemanly demeanor that brightened our lives.”

We’ll be able to see the lights of Ryan Gym from anywhere on the central campus tonight as every night, but one of Haverford’s brightest lights has gone out after a long and inspiring life and career. We extend sympathy to Tommy’s wife, Rita, his five children and six grandchildren.

(Haverford staff Violet Brown and Beth McGrath contributed to this article as did the San Francisco Chronicle. While Haverblog unfortunately cannot profile all the Haverfordians who have left us, we will try to provide representative obituaries of those who were most active and helpful to the College or whose lives represented  the ideals of Haverford and its graduates in especially noteworthy ways.)

–Greg Kannerstein ’63