Ann Ryan ‘85, Ph.D., is an English professor and a Mark Twain scholar. She’s a Le Moyne alumna, the College’s director of writing, and the faculty moderator for the student-run English Club.
She is also, in her own words, “weird.”
Before attending Le Moyne and enrolling in the Integral Honors program, Ryan went to a high school where academically-inclined, driven students often felt isolated and marginalized by their peers. That feeling vanished when she found the Honors program. “I felt like I had discovered all these fabulous nerds who were completely and totally weird in the ways that I was weird,” said Ryan.
From 3 a.m. conversations with friends about academic topics to exciting visits to see manuscripts, she credits the Honors program as jump-starting her life as a scholar. “It was radical interdisciplinarity,” she said. “It gave me a sense of how interrelated and complicated ideas are. So I love that, and [the Honors program] still has part of that. What we didn’t have was this really interesting global perspective that the Honors program has now… It’s opened itself up to the world, and I think that’s fantastic.”
Remembering that there is a world outside the Heights is particularly important for Ryan, who commuted to Le Moyne for her first two years of college. Through her experience as a commuter, she was reminded of the world that exists outside campus, a world where “people are working really hard just to make it through today.”
Among these hard-working people are students, many of whom struggle to afford an education. As a professor, Ryan witnesses student need nearly every day. “We’re the people who the students will turn to first when they don’t have money to attend an event, when they can’t afford to stay in a hotel for a week during an internship experience,” explained Ryan. “We’re the people the students will turn to when they would really love to be able to engage in some additional research. We’re the people the students turn to when they’re crying because they can’t stay at Le Moyne. And yet they’re absolutely worth our effort to keep them here.”
The Always Forward campaign aims to do just that: provide financial support to students. “As a culture, if we can believe that it’s important to keep the price of milk low, we ought as a culture to believe that higher education should be supported,” Ryan said. “Until the culture wakes up, we’re dependent upon the vision of our donors who remember what it felt like to be that student in need. They also understand that you don’t make a great biochemical engineer on the cheap, that we’re probably not going to create the next generation of heart surgeons by giving them a shabby education.
“This campaign makes it possible for me to turn to those students in need and give them some kind of support. Instead of just being a sympathetic ear, this makes it possible for me to alleviate some of their stress, and also to open up worlds to them… Le Moyne’s donors are wonderful because they really know who we are and they know what we’re going to do with anything they can give us.”
According to Ryan, many institutions of higher education minimize their students’ potentials by assuming they only have one goal: to get a job and make money. However, Le Moyne focuses on educating the whole person to foster not just greatness, but goodness too. “Le Moyne imagines that each student has unique gifts and skills and that each student has undiscovered promise,” Ryan said. “Students leave here able to make money, but they also leave here able to make a difference.”
Ryan is an honorary co-chair for the College’s $100 million Always Forward campaign, which was publicly announced in June of 2018.
Natasha Beauchesne ’20 is an English major from Dalton, Mass.