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Ryan Family Establishes New Scholarship

Recognizing the economic challenges facing families today, WPI Trustee Philip Ryan '65 and his wife, Judith, have established the Philip Ryan Family Endowed Scholarship.

"I come from a family background where the value of education is held in high esteem," says Ryan, whose wife dedicated her professional career to education as an elementary school teacher. "I've also seen and experienced how the right kind of education can have a profound transformative effect on someone's life."

At a time when a small number of top universities are offering free tuition for families earning less than a certain annual income, WPI must provide robust student financial support in order to maintain its competitive position. As part of its ongoing fund-raising initiatives, the university will seek to raise $42 million in student support, including need-based financial aid, merit scholarships, and doctoral fellowships.

Ryan, who has been actively involved with WPI, has a keen understanding of the university's imperative to provide more student financial support. He was a four-year scholarship recipient when he came to WPI in the early 1960s. By his junior year, Ryan realized that being a "pure engineer" wasn't for him. However, that didn’t diminish his time at the Institute. He describes WPI as "a wonderful learning and maturing experience."

"The activities I was involved in were a strong gravitational pull for me to stay and complete my degree at WPI," Ryan recalls. He was active in student government and his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta, and played four years of hockey. He credits those and other activities with cultivating leadership skills that have served him well throughout his professional life.

After graduation, Ryan integrated his engineering and management skills in a career that began at Humble Oil and Refining Company. He went on to become a founder and officer of The Bigelow Company; he later served as president of Optima Health and president and CEO of Elliott Health System. He is currently CEO of Merchants Automotive Group, a privately owned, vehicle leasing and fleet management company based in New Hampshire.

Ryan also credits his success to the friendship and mentoring he received from Dean Emeritus Bill Grogan '46. Grogan engaged him and his classmates in wide-ranging discussions about the philosophy of science and engineering education, all leading up to the development of the WPI Plan—now the cornerstone of a WPI education.

"Bill Grogan is a remarkable man in terms of mentoring people like me," Ryan says. "He provided great insight and guidance." Grogan first suggested that Ryan should consider earning an MBA, a suggestion encouraged by friend and now WPI Trustee Emeritus Jack Gabarro '61. Ryan did go on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School.

"That really propelled me into my business career in ways that wouldn't have happened, had I not gotten my MBA."

It is that kind of transformative experience that Ryan hopes an endowed scholarship can provide to bright young men and women who have all the intelligence and drive for WPI but not the financial means. Ryan grew up in Holyoke, Mass., a former mill town that is struggling economically. He hopes this scholarship can help a WPI student from Holyoke or his current home state of New Hampshire who will benefit from the university the way he did.

July 8, 2009

Contact: Judith Jaeger, Director of Advancement Publications, +1-508-831-5962,

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