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Allan Andrew Ryan, Jr. passed away suddenly on January 26, 2023, at his home in Norwell, Massachusetts. He was the beloved husband of Nancy Ryan for almost 45 years, and loving father of Elisabeth Ryan of Brighton, MA and Andrew and Erin Ryan of Weymouth, MA. He was 77 years old.
Allan was born on July 3, 1945, in Cambridge, MA to his parents Anne (Conway) and Allan A. Ryan, Sr. He was the oldest of eight brothers and sisters and is survived by his siblings and their spouses and partners, Peter and Colleen Ryan of Foxborough, Michael and Susan Ryan of Weston, John Ryan and Peggy Rose of Essex, Matthew and Patricia Ryan of Salem, Patricia and James Eline of Seekonk, Lisabeth and James Kundert of Concord, Caroline and Michael Morgan of Chester, VT, as well as many nieces and nephews.
His deeply held sense of being an involved citizen was first evident in the early 60s as he participated in local political campaigns, demonstrated against nuclear weapons, and in support of civil rights for all Americans. One of his favorite haunts was the original Club 47 in Harvard Square, epicenter of the emerging musical and political forces that re-shaped the culture. He was an enthusiastic if less than featured member of a jug band in his college years.
Throughout his distinguished career, Allan dedicated his life to public service, justice, and education. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1966 and moved to New Orleans to teach high school at the Isidore Newman School. Allan then attended the University of Minnesota Law School, where he became president of the UM Law Review. He served as a law clerk at the United States Supreme Court for Justice Byron White and then served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was an honor grad from the Naval Justice School and a captain in the Judge Advocate Division.
Allan worked in the U.S. Justice Department, first as an Assistant Solicitor General who argued eight cases in front of the Supreme Court, and then as Director of the Office of Special Investigations, an office tasked with identifying and prosecuting Nazi war criminals living in the United States.
Allan and Nancy (Foote) married in 1978 and became parents with the birth of their daughter in 1980 and again with their son in 1982. Shortly after, they moved back to Allan’s native Massachusetts, where he started his career as an attorney at Harvard University, first in the General Counsel’s Office and then as Director of Intellectual Property for Harvard Business School Publishing. He never retired.
Allan went to Rwanda in 1995 at the request of the Rwandan government to advise on how to prosecute those responsible for the genocide that killed over half a million people.
Allan wrote his first book, Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America, in 1984. He would go on to write two more books, Yamashita’s Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur’s Justice and Command Accountability (2012) and The 9/11 Terror Cases: Constitutional Challenges in the War Against Al Qaeda (2015). He also worked on two PBS documentaries, serving as both a historical advisor and co-producer on Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals (2011) and Dead Reckoning (2018). At the time of his death, he was writing a new book on voting rights.
As an adjunct professor at Boston College Law School and Harvard University Extension and Summer Schools, Allan taught courses that included War Crimes, Genocide and Justice; The Constitution, Beginning to End; The Constitution and the Media; Intellectual Property; and Voting Rights: Race and the Supreme Court.
Allan was the first non-Jewish member of the board for the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Region, where he chaired the Civil Rights Committee. He was recognized for his contributions to the ADL with a national Chairperson’s Award in 2006. He also served as chair of Veterans Legal Services, which provides free civil legal aid to economically disadvantaged veterans in Massachusetts.
Called a “remarkable force for good” by his colleagues at VLS and “the gold standard for integrity and wisdom and intelligence” by his successor at OSI, Allan earned a stellar, highly respected reputation over the years. He had an endearing sense of humor and a warmth to his character that naturally drew others towards him. Even with his brilliant intellect and a towering list of accomplishments, he was an eternally humble, self-deprecating man, never flaunting his resume or talking down to others. He was modest, empathetic, and kind to everyone he met. As one of his colleagues at HBSP said, “He was the least interested person in talking about how interesting he truly was.”
He cared about others deeply, especially his wife Nancy, the love of his life. They made each other laugh every day.
As a father, Allan was a reliable source of wisdom, guidance and love. He coached sports and reviewed school assignments. He was present for every round of chemotherapy when his son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 12. Always one for travel and adventure, he led his family on a month-long road trip across the U.S. His daughter, following in his path with a law degree and dedication to public service, taught alongside him at Harvard Extension School.
Allan loved Irish folk music, New Orleans jazz, fried clams, Guinness, the Red Sox, and the Celtics. He enjoyed hiking, fishing and touring New England roads, always driving an increasingly rare stick shift. He lived as an example of how to dedicate a life to justice, truth, and good.
He left an indelible mark on this world, and he will be forever missed by his family, friends, colleagues and students.
Donations in his memory can be made to Veterans Legal Services https://www.veteranslegalservices.org/donate-to-vls