Academy head Ryan reportedly leaving

SUNY Maritime College says superintendent has accepted top post

October 19, 2001|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. John R. Ryan will retire from the Navy in June and leave the academy to become president of the State University of New York Maritime College, college officials said yesterday.

The news of Ryan's departure came as a surprise to academy faculty members and many of his closest advisers, who did not expect him to find and accept a job elsewhere with more than eight months remaining in his term.

Ryan has not commented on SUNY's announcement. School officials there said he might be waiting for SUNY's board of trustees to officially approve his hiring at its meeting Tuesday.

Ryan's four-year term as head of the Naval Academy expires in June, and many expected him to retire then. The academy's board of visitors recommended in the 1990s that the post of academy superintendent be viewed as a career capstone, rather than a stepping stone to another position.

Still, many faculty members and members of the academy's controlling board of visitors had been hoping that Ryan would find a way to stay. Ryan endeared himself to faculty members by including them in decision-making over the past three years. The faculty senate voted in August to ask him to consider remaining on board if the Navy would approve the move.

"I was a little surprised to hear the news so soon," said faculty senate President David Peeler, a history professor. "I thought it would be a little while before we heard something. We had expressed a sentiment that we wanted him to stay, but maybe it was more of a hopeful wish than anything else."

SUNY system Chancellor Robert L. King said yesterday that school officials chose Ryan for the $155,000-a-year position because he will bring strong leadership and a proven fund-raising record to the Throgs Neck, N.Y., campus. Ryan is widely credited with the successful launch of the academy's $175 million fund-raising campaign.

King said Ryan had contacted an executive search firm in the spring and told them to keep an eye out for any jobs that "looked interesting." When the current president of the maritime college announced his retirement, King and Ryan began discussions.

King said he visited Ryan in Annapolis in July. Ryan also visited the college, one of 64 in the system, several times since July.

"Ryan was our first choice," King said. "We were struck also by the fact that the faculty there voted to try to persuade him to stay."

In some ways, Ryan is likely to feel at home at the maritime college, where the focus is on training students for careers on the water. All maritime college graduates leave with a commercial shipping license.

But the school differs substantially from the Naval Academy.

About 700 students attend the college, compared with 4,000 at the academy.

It is also significantly less formal and adheres to a far less rigorous discipline structure than the academy, where students abide by tough curfews and decades-old rules and restrictions.

Although the maritime college's "regiment," or student body, wears uniforms and marches, the students enjoy more freedom than Naval Academy midshipmen.

The school is also shifting its focus over the next few years to include students who will study outside the military structure at the school, pursuing such subjects as maritime architecture and marine biology.

It will be a change for Ryan, 56, who has been in the Navy since entering the academy at 18.

In spring, the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of defense will recommend to President Bush a two-star admiral to take over the three-star billet of academy superintendent. Bush will then nominate that admiral, subject to Congress' approval.

For the faculty at the Naval Academy, which saw across-the-board pay increases this year and the addition of several endowed faculty chairs during Ryan's tenure, the superintendent's departure is quite a loss.

"He is so good at what he does," Peeler said. "It's not surprising other institutions would be seeking him out."

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