In Memoriam: Paul R. Ryan


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has received word of the death July 13, 2006 of former Oceanus editor Paul R. Ryan at Falmouth Hospital of complications from diabetes. He was 74.

Paul Ryder Ryan was born January 5, 1932 in Mineola, NY. He attended Rye High School in Rye, NY, graduating in 1949, and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1950 to 1954 as a flight engineer during the Korean War. He took English courses at Boston University in 1955 and 1956 before moving to Mexico City, where he pursued studies in philosophy at Mexico City College from 1956 to 1959.

While in Mexico City he began working for El Universal as editor of the English language section, and in 1961 founded the Caribbean and Latin American News Service, which supplied stories to major newspapers worldwide. When adequate financial backing forced the news agency to close in September 1962, Paul Ryan moved to Puerto Rico, where the agency had a staff of 15, and began working in various positions at The San Juan Star. After working briefly as an editor for The Boston Globe, he took a position at Reuters in London in September 1963, working mainly as a news editor on the North American desk. In September 1965 he began working in Paris as a reporter and editor on the news desks for the international editions of both The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, and found time to take courses at The Sorbonne.

While in Paris Paul Ryan began writing fiction, and during his life he completed five novels.  He also helped write and was an actor in “The War Game”, which won the Academy Award in 1967 for best foreign film. He moved to New York for a year as copy editor on the foreign and national desks of The New York Times, but returned to Europe in December 1968 as assistant to the news director of Radio Free Europe, moving with his family to Munich. Two years later he moved back to New York to pursue his interest in writing and the arts, accepting the position of managing editor of The Drama Review at the New York University (NYU) School of the Arts in April 1971.  He was later promoted to executive editor of the magazine, responsible for all aspects of the magazine’s production. He also lectured at the NYU journalism school and took courses at the university.

In the summer of 1976 Paul Ryan and his family moved to Cape Cod, and he joined the Institution staff in September of that year as associate editor of Oceanus magazine, working with editor Bill MacLeish. In 1980 he was promoted to managing editor, and in 1982 he was named editor.  While the international and ocean science community focus of the magazine kept him busy, Paul found time during his years in Woods Hole to act in local drama productions, write poetry, and take night courses at Harvard University, completing a bachelor’s degree in social sciences through extension studies in 1981. He also pursued his love of boating and fishing, chess and art.

Paul took a nine-month leave of absence from Oceanus magazine in 1988 and 1989 to participate in a Fulbright Fellowship in Japan, pursuing his interest in U.S.-Japan marine  studies while journalist Frederic Golden served as interim editor of the magazine. Paul returned to WHOI in June 1989. In 1990 the magazine won an Ozzie award, presented annually by Folio for publication design excellence.

In September 1990 Paul left the Institution to become editor of editorial services at the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia. He later moved back to Asia, working first in China as a foreign correspondent for the Pacific Rim News Agency at the Shanghai Star and China Daily. He was awarded a Knight International Press Fellowship in 1995 and traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Nepal as a newspaper consultant to help train young reporters. He also conducted journalism training workshops in Bangladesh for the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communications in 1999.

Paul Ryan was a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Overseas Press Club, and was listed in Who’s Who in America in 1992-1993 and Who’s Who in the World in 2001.
Survivors include two daughters, Liane “Polly” Ryan-Lane of Plainfield, MA, and Bethann Ryan of Falmouth, MA; two sons, Paul “Tad” R. Ryan III of Falmouth, MA and Michael Ryan of Woods Hole, MA; four grandchildren; and his former wife, Ruthann Hellfach.

A memorial service will be held during the fall in Cummington, MA, where Paul spent many of his final years.


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(508) 289-3340


(Photo courtesy of the Ryan Family)