Former IU president John W. Ryan dies at 81

Former Indiana University President John W. Ryan, who oversaw the creation of two regional IU campuses during his 16-year tenure and had a hand in the university's development spanning 50 years, died early Saturday at age 81, school officials said.

Current IU President Michael McRobbie said in a statement that Ryan died with his family at his side. He called Ryan "a visionary leader" who helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for IU after he retired in 1987.

University spokesman Mark Land said Ryan died at IU Health Bloomington Hospital and had been ill for some time, although he did not know the nature of his illness. Ryan's survivors include his wife, Patricia, two sons and a daughter.

During his tenure, Ryan oversaw the establishment of regional IU campuses in Richmond and New Albany and the founding of several new schools and cultural centers on the Bloomington campus.

McRobbie said Ryan also was instrumental in formalizing IU's Office for International Affairs and that under his leadership the university "forged important relationships in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe."

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in a statement that Ryan's "love and leadership of IU never ended."

"Indiana has lost a great citizen, and Indiana University has lost a large part of its proud history," Daniels said.

McRobbie said he enjoyed a friendship with Ryan and periodically tapped him for "his wise counsel." McRobbie said that a few days after he was named IU's current president in 2007, Ryan and his wife sent McRobbie and his wife, Laurie, a vase of red roses.

"They explained that Herman Wells had sent them similar flowers over 30 years earlier when John had been named president," he said.

McRobbie said Ryan played an important role in IU's growth and development for more than 50 years and became president in 1971 "at a difficult time" for the school but "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," he said.

The Herald-Times reports that funeral arrangements were pending with Allen Funeral Home in Bloomington.

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