Featured Corporator: Bill Ryan
Bill Ryan had been working for the Acton-Boxborough school system only a short time when he observed something. “I realized that, not only did people want good schools,” he says, “but they were willing to volunteer. Whatever the issue was, the community got involved.”
He saw it again and again, beginning in 1975, when he served as director of community education, when he next oversaw finances and operations for the school district, before stepping into the superintendent job, a position Mr. Ryan held for ten years. He retired in 2010.
“It was a rewarding career,” he says. “The great thing about education is that, every day you go to work and make a difference.”
That has been his goal since joining Emerson Hospital as a corporator in 2010. Mr. Ryan became chair of the Nominating Committee a year later and assumed the mantra that, if you want something done, ask a busy person. “We’ve tended to nominate people who are already active in their communities,” he notes. “In getting involved with Emerson, we’re asking them to do one more thing.”
Now that Mr. Ryan serves as co-chair, with Jeanne Kangas, of Emerson’s Corporator Executive Committee, he says he is impressed with the group’s leadership. “Good institutions have good leaders, and that’s true of Emerson. The people who lead the various corporator committees make a commitment, do their work and follow up. I’m so impressed with their dedication.”
Kansas native landed in Boston’s south end
Mr. Ryan is one of those “busy people” who make good corporators. Over the years, he has volunteered for the Acton-Boxborough United Way, Acton Memorial Library, Acton Community Supper, Acton-Boxborough Arts Council and Acton Youth Commission. He currently serves on the board at the Discovery Museum and Cooperative Elder Services. He and his wife, Christine, lived in Acton for 34 years before moving to Maynard seven years ago.
He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where his father taught at a private boys’ school. “I had the opportunity to attend Notre Dame, where I majored in political science,” he says. “I graduated in 1970, a time when there was idealism in the air. I came to Boston with three other recent graduates, and we all taught at Cathedral High School in the South End.”
Mr. Ryan knew he was interested in the administrative side of education, so he pursued graduate studies at Boston University, which led to his position as director of community education in the Acton-Boxborough public schools. “It was a new position that reflected a broader role for schools,” he explains. “We extended the day program and created before- and after-school programs. The population was growing, and many families were moving to Acton and Boxborough because of the schools. It was an exciting time in my career.”
Along the way, he came to know Emerson. “I’ve been going to Emerson for 40 years—as a parent, as a grandparent and as a school administrator, accompanying students who were sick or injured,” he says.
“We brought my grandson to the Emergency Department not long ago. He was scared, until they gave him a bag of goodies,” says Mr. Ryan, referring to the coping kits—the age-appropriate collection of toys that the hospital’s Pediatric Intervention Team presents to children as a way to distract them. “The staff couldn’t have been more friendly.”
Nine times out of ten, a very good Emerson experience
Indeed, Mr. Ryan is proud of the varied ways that Emerson makes a difference in the towns it serves. “A good example is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” he says, in reference to the biannual survey that tracks the behavior of middle school and high school students. “We need to have the facts, make the information public and have an impact on trends.”
He conducts his own survey whenever he has the opportunity. “At Maynard Fest each year, I sit at the Emerson table, giving out freebies,” he says. “I ask people to tell me about their experience with the hospital. Nine times out of ten, they describe a very good experience.
“Hospitals are facing a lot of challenges going forward. In Emerson, we have a community hospital that people feel they are a part of, and that it’s theirs.”