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RYAN, Robert C. A Melville scholar who taught English for forty years, thirty of them at Boston University, while practicing tennis daily on the Hoyt Field courts in Cambridge, died peacefully at Mt. Auburn Hospital on April 15, 2015. He was eighty years old. Born in Sturgis, Michigan, Ryan received his undergraduate degree in English from Western Michigan University, his M.A. from the University of Connecticut, and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Before joining Boston University, he taught at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio. After relocating to the east coast, he continued to practice and teach the rural values he had grown up with: hard work, self-reliance, optimism, thrift, respect for the environment, and curiosity about the wonders of the world. He was a voracious reader and writer who instilled in his family, friends, and students a love of ideas and a passion for sports and music. Conversations with him could be exhilarating or exhausting but they were never dull. He had a generous sense of humor and a booming laugh. Few of the books he collected were spared his detailed comments in the margins. An author of fiction and nonfiction, he edited Published Poems: The Writings of Herman Melville, Volume 11, in 2009 with Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougall Reising, and G. Thomas Tanselle. He believed physical activity fuels the life of the mind and often rode his three-speed bicycle along the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston to classes with books bouncing up and down in the front basket. He was a fixture on the tennis courts, taking on any and all comers; sweeping away puddles to play in the spring and shoveling off snow to play in the winter. Neighborhood kids would borrow his spare rackets to hit and become his tennis pupils. He attended two Wimbledon tournaments and several US Opens. Ryan is survived by his partner of twenty-six years Abigael MacGibeny, his four children: Kevin Ryan, Conall Ryan, Heather Ryan, and Deirdre Ryan; brothers Norman Ryan and Thomas Ryan, and several grandchildren. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Robert Ryan's name to Wikipedia. A memorial service in celebration of his life will take place in the coming weeks.

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Published in The Boston Globe on Apr. 19, 2015
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