January 07, 2020

In Memoriam: Bob Ryan

Remembering Bob Ryan

“A very high class guy in the best traditions of the firm”

Bob Ryan, a renowned zoning expert and litigator with Drinker Biddle for 36 years, passed away in May, 2019. Joining the firm in 1956 and retiring as a managing partner in 1992, Bob had an outsized influence that extended beyond his practice and continues today.

Former colleagues remember Bob’s quiet sense of humor and meticulous approach. “Bob was a lawyers-lawyer, the person you called when you wanted a thorough, dispassionate, comprehensive answer,” recalls Larry Fox. As a litigator, he was highly prepared in a courtroom, an exemplar to younger associates. “Bob was never in doubt as to what he needed to know and he didn’t beat around the bush in finding out,” writes Harry Bryans.

In matters of zoning, Bob “reigned supreme for decades.” He authored Pennsylvania Zoning Law and Practice, a foundational source to this day, and taught zoning to law students. He was “one of the deans of the zoning bar (several cuts above most) in the entire Commonwealth,” says Harry.

As a leader, Bob’s foresight contributed to Drinker Biddle’s stability. He was instrumental in phasing out an unfunded retirement scheme in favor of Keogh arrangements, a critical step in the firm’s future.

Bob had a rich and diverse life beyond law. Born and raised in New Jersey, he graduated Princeton in 1950, interrupted his law studies at Harvard to enlist in the Army, and served in the Korean War as a first lieutenant with the 213th Artillery. From 1983 to 1996 he was chairman of Barton Mines Corporation, which had operations in the Adirondacks and Western Australia. For many years he advised the Board of Directors of Meritor Savings Bank.

Bob, his wife, Priscilla, an accomplished violinist, and their three sons were longtime residents of Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. Bob was a pillar of the community. He and his wife helped revitalize a classical music tradition and were instrumental in building an arts center. Bob was a member of the country club and the Borough Council, served on the board of the Lake Association, organized financial records for the Eagles Mere Community Church, and served the Eagles Mere Foundation.

Read his obituary here.

(Thanks to contributors Harry Bryans, Larry Fox, David Maxey, Doug Raymond, Vern Stanton and others.)

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