Longtime USC Annenberg public relations lecturer and renowned entertainment publicist Jack Ryan passed away on August 25, 2016. He was 77.
For two decades beginning in 1983, Ryan taught public relations to several generations of Annenberg students. In 1993, students voted him the most effective adjunct professor at the school. He retired from USC in 2003.
Born June 26, 1939 in Summit, Mississippi, Ryan's career in public relations began in the 1960s in New York City, where he joined the well-known public relations firm Solters, O'Rourke and Sabinson. There he was assigned the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus account, beginning what would be a lifelong association with the circus—six years as a full-time publicist for the Ringling Bros. and subsequent decades working as a freelance consultant.
Ryan moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to work as a publicist for Magic Mountain. In 1983 he began teaching public relations at the USC Annenberg, where his course "Public Relations Media" was known for making a new crop of PR specialists out of green students each semester. He always reminded his students to "tell it like it is."
Ryan is remembered as the originator of the catchphrase "May All Your Days Be Circus Days." "That line is my contribution to circus lore," he told Millsap College's alumni publication, Mbench. "People even put it on tombstones."
That iconic line was also the name of a Facebook page that Ryan founded and managed.
"As a public relations pro with many years of experience with 'old' media—print, TV, radio etc.—I felt this was a chance for hands-on experimentation in the operation of the brave new world of social media," Ryan said in the "About" section of the page.
When news of his passing was posted on the page, many of his former students and colleagues left comments to express how he had influenced and mentored them, in the classroom and beyond.
Additional comments honoring Ryan's legacy, from former students and colleagues, can be seen below:
Jennifer Floto, public relations professor at USC Annenberg:
Jack Ryan, who was the consummate "PR man" for more than 40 years, played an equally important role as an educator. An entire generation of PR majors benefited from his wit and wisdom. He taught two signature classes every semester for 20 years: Introduction to PR, where his motto was, "tell it like it is," not sugarcoating the day-to-day duties of a PR professional; and, perhaps his most famous contribution, Public Relations Media, the famous 351a course. He churned out media specialists every semester and then trained his successor to carry on his legacy. When news of his passing was posted on Facebook, dozens of former students from all over the country expressed how he had influenced them and been a mentor far beyond the classroom.
Jesse Albert (B.A. Public Relations, '94); adjunct professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts:
Jack was one of those rare teachers who's influence and ultimately friendship extended beyond the classroom and continued for the next 20 plus years. He had a passion for the things in his life that were important (the circus, grammar, friends and family) that we should all aspire too. He will be dearly missed by myself and many others.
Su Warda Stevens (M.A. Journalism, Public Relations '94):
Jack Ryan was the most memorable entertainment public relations teacher with his fascinating years of Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey experience and a vast wardrobe of Reyn Spooner aloha shirts. Even in retirement, he remained a friend and a mentor. He continued to entertain and teach us through his passionate Facebook musings about grammar. Personally, he had been providing guidance to me through a mid-life career transition and sharing his insights about the changing world of journalism and communication. He'll be missed in innumerable ways.
In December 2014, he posted on Facebook wondering why people settled for RIP when a friend passed away and didn't take the extras few keystrokes to spell out Rest in Peace.
Rest in Peace, Jack Ryan.