THE NOVEMBER 2014 BULLS EYE FEATURE: Joe Ryan
Eighty year old Joseph John Ryan, nicknamed “the Rock,” has achieved almost legendary status among his friends and colleagues in the South Jersey business community.
Now a member of the Board at Surety Title, the iconic Ryan started his career in business in 1960, later started his own business, Congress Title, in Cherry Hill, and became a bank director at First People’s Bank in the mid-‘80s.
All that was preceded by a stint in the military in 1952 as a Sergeant in the Korean War, followed by two and a half years as occupation trooper in Germany.
The father of 8 children (John, Joe, Tim, JP, Michael, Carol, Susan, and Jennifer), 11 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild, Ryan met his wife, Edie, “at a social club in Philly.”
When asked to share what his spouse is “always” telling him, he replies ”Go to work.”
With that in mind, it’s not a big surprise that when Ryan is asked to complete the sentence “I am ______,” he once again is quick to put his legendary self-effacing wit on display by responding “Alive.”
Nor is it a surprise when he replies to a request to fill in another blank, this one “My children think that I ________,” by saying “will live forever.”
Ryan’s father, John, a Villanova graduate in Engineering, was a printer and his mother, Anne, was a housewife.
He was one of six children and says his childhood ambition was to be a salesman. In fact, he once sold Bibles door-to-door.
Voted ”Most Likely to Succeed” in high school, Ryan went to LaSalle for Marketing and then transferred to Muhlenburg.
Although he has been with Surety Title as a member of its board since 2011, he describes what he does simply as “sales consultant” and says that the best part of his job are the “new challenges and opportunities.” As for the worst part, the ever-upbeat Ryan says “Nothing!”
Surety, by the way, is a full service title insurance agency licensed to provide title and settlement services throughout the country. The company underwrites its title insurance policies through industry giants First American and Fidelity National Title Insurance Companies. These Fortune 500 companies collectively insure well over 50 percent of the policies issued throughout the 50 states.
He adds that the best advice he has ever ever received was from Mike Fusco, who told him ”Keep moving or they will throw dirt on you.” And he loves to recall that the worst advice he ever received was to “Retire.”
Ryan says that there’s really “nothing” that he knows now that he wishes he’d known when he started in business more than a half century ago—which is consistent with his business philosophy of “Hard work and perseverance will get you through life” and his personal motto, which is “Stay in touch with God.”
The accomplishment of which he is most proud is “my family” and he is certain that his best decision ever was “marrying Edie.”
He measures success by “what others say about you,” and when asked for a “greatest fear,” Ryan says “I don’t fear anything. Concentrating on fear brings negativity.”
As for do-overs, he says “No do-overs – Life’s all about the lessons you learn.” And his biggest “aha” moment? “Every day I wake up,” he responds.
With his sometimes blunt, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, but always synoptic approach to answering questions, he says that his toughest decision is “making decisions.” But when asked about any “secret talent” that he might have he gets serious and replies, “No secrets. I am who I am.”
The organization Ryan respects the most is Apple (“I love my iPhone”).
If he could travel back in time, he would “go back to Italy” and if his flight were delayed and he was stuck on the tarmac for a long time, the person he would most want to be sitting next to would be “the Pope.”
When Ryan meets people, the first thing he notices about them, he says, is “their appearance>”
Asked to identify the event that created the most significant emotional reaction on his part in the past year, Ryan says it was his 80th birthday party.
When asked what he says to people from outside the region when he brags about South Jersey, Ryan replies “We have everything we need within a 1 hour drive.”
Finally, Ryan’s epitaph (as he would like it to be written): “Never Give Up!!”