Patrick G Ryan Receives Award

Patrick G. Ryan (second from left) receives the 2023 Andrew J. McKenna Leadership Award at United Way's Stronger Neighborhoods Awards Luncheon on June 21, 2023.

Shirley and Patrick Ryan at the 2023 Stronger Neighborhoods Awards

Shirley Welsh Ryan and Patrick G. Ryan at United Way's 2023 Stronger Neighborhoods Awards Luncheon

Master entrepreneur. Keen businessman. Generous philanthropist. Patrick G. Ryan is unstoppable in his success. In his 20s, he founded what would become Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance, and reinsurance brokerage. He served as Chairman and CEO of Aon for 41 years. Today, he is Chairmen and CEO of Ryan Specialty, an international specialty insurance firm and specialty insurance industry leader, which he founded in 2010.

In the midst of his success, Ryan has been committed to giving back – and helping make the Chicago region a place where everyone can thrive.

Ryan’s story begins in the suburbs of Milwaukee. His roots are humble. He was the son of an Irish American father who owned a Ford dealership, where Ryan worked in high school. Later, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (or the School of Business at the time), and the Chicago area has been his home ever since.

As decades-long Chicagoans, Pat and his wife, Shirley Welsh Ryan, take pride in supporting the community where they live and work. They have invested millions in arts, education, and youth services, including scholarships for Northwestern students from low-income households, early child development through, and advancement in medicine and rehabilitation through the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

“For over 60 years, Pat and Shirley have been a force in philanthropy,” said John W. Rogers Jr., Founder, Chairman, Co-CEO & Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments. On June 21, 2023, Rogers introduced Pat Ryan at United Way of Metro Chicago’s 2023 Stronger Neighborhoods Awards Luncheon. Ryan was honored with the 2023 Andrew J. McKenna Leadership Award, as someone whose selfless actions have encouraged others to step forward as civic leaders and philanthropists, improving the quality of life for countless individuals and families in the Chicago region.

Ryan accepted the award at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in the Crystal Ballroom, filled with fellow philanthropists and United Way partners. As he stood at the podium, Ryan reflected on the impact and legacy of Andy McKenna as one of Chicago’s most influential businessmen. Ryan was a close personal friend of McKenna’s for nearly 60 years before McKenna passed away in February 2023.

“United Way was really important to Andy McKenna because it epitomized what he really felt about giving and sharing with people that needed help,” Ryan said. As Ryan built his businesses over the years, McKenna’s presence was a constant, serving as a “trusted advisor and mentor.” Ryan often asked himself, ‘What would Andy do?’

Ryan was also inspired by McKenna’s ability to build connections. His network was vast. McKenna often encouraged fellow business leaders to have courage and strive for excellence – while giving back to the community. Ryan called this the multiplier effect, a ripple effect of developing more impactful leaders and driving positive change.

“[Andy] loved helping people. He loved sharing his talents and his treasure,” Ryan said. “But what was really unique about Andy was he was a multiplier of bringing people into important roles in the community and giving them advice on how to get involved. You can really make an impact through the multiplier effect. More people are helped, and then they help more people. It just ripples through.”

Like McKenna, Ryan has a knack for bringing people together – united – to make a difference. After all, Aon was named after the Gaelic word for “oneness.”

“We have to find common ground, collaborate, and listen,” Ryan said. “I think if we can do that, we can solve a lot of issues. Listen to what Andy [McKenna] said – get involved. Share, give back, and help out. Those are lessons that all of us should take every day and apply to every activity we’re involved in.”

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