Donald Hillsdon Ryan

Obituary
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RYAN Donald Hillsdon, ``Mister Minit''. September 23, 1925-May 9, 2005. The co-founder and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Minit International died at his home in London, England on Monday, May 9. He and his partner virtually invented the rapid-service industry and the idea for the company while at Harvard Business School. They were anxious to do something very challenging commercially and would sit and talk about the ``sleepers'', the small craft industries, which were established businesses providing something everyone needed but without any real organization or capital behind them, and which no one seemed to be trying to industrialize or commercialize. After working five years for Procter and Gamble in the US and Europe, Mr. Ryan co-founded the Minit Corporation in 1957 with the opening of a small ``while-you-wait'' heel repair bar in Brussels' Bon Marche department store. He bought out his partner and built a global network of shops and services in 30 countries. The business provided quick service for everything from the original heel and shoe repair, to key duplication, photo development, watch repair, knife and skate sharpening, engraving, name tapes, rubber stamps, and retailing of travel goods, personalized gifts, cutlery, wigs and jewelry. The company also manufactured key blanks, shoe materials, machinery, fixtures and signs for its shops worldwide. Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Mr. Ryan started his first business at age 12, raising birds and rabbits for sale to small markets and delivering newspapers. He attended the Virginia Military Institute before serving in the Infantry in WWII and in Berlin during the occupation, where he was responsible for the allocation of German transportation assets throughout the US zone. He graduated from The College of William and Mary (AB) where he later funded the Ryan Professorship of Business Policy, and received his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1952. He received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the American College Of Switzerland and from the College of William and Mary. He was given the prestigious honour of Commander of the Order of Leopold II by the King of Belgium. Mr. Ryan was chairman of the Swiss Romande Harvard Alumni Association for many years, was international senior vicepresident of the Young President's Organization and international chairman of the Chief Executive's Organization. He has been quoted as comparing leadership to the yeti-''You never see him, but his footprints are everywhere in the snow.'' Mr. Ryan was a resident of The Bahamas and of London, England. He is survived by his wife, Gail, and by his four daughters-Kristina, Shelly, Kim and Alexandra, and seven grandchildren. Graveside services will be held at the Highgate Cemetery in London on Monday, May 16.
Published in The New York Times on May 15, 2005
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