Thomas J. Ryan—66th President, State Bar of Michigan, 2000-2001

by Neil E. Wallace and Christine A. Derdarian, Betty Lou Lowenthal

My Friend Tom Ryan

By Neil E. Wallace

"Do you know my friend, Tom Ryan?" This came from the woman sitting next to me the first week in law school when she learned I was from Oakland County. I’d never even heard of him and I told her so. Still, about every other month she would pose the question again, always referring to this fellow as "my friend, Tom Ryan."

Eventually, I did meet him and came to know him as a good attorney and a good person. I found that he would often greet a friend by simply saying: "Hello, my friend." And he has this natural habit of introducing a friend by saying, "This is my friend...."

A few years later, when I needed an office to land in temporarily, he welcomed me into his building. Before I knew it, 17 years had passed and I was still there. In that time, we had shared some cases, our counsel, and built a friendship. I came to know Tom’s skill as a litigator, his insight and patience as a counselor, and his uncanny ability to connect with all kinds of people up close.

Although he is a sole practitioner, Tom finds the time for a full and active family life, to pursue interests as diverse as the symphony and distance running and, of course, participation in bar association activities. From his deep sense of duty and commitment, Tom has lent his time and talent to both the county and state bar associations. He is Aristotle’s idea of a good citizen because he is able and willing to pull his own weight...and then some.

Do you know my friend, Tom Ryan? This year will give members of the Bar throughout the state the opportunity to meet him. If you have the opportunity, take the time to introduce yourself and get to know him. You’ll have another friend for life. As he faces the challenges of a year as State Bar president, I say good luck tomy friend, Tom Ryan. n

By Christine A. Derdarian

Back in the spring of 1971, when Thomas J. Ryan hired me as one of about 20 law students to work as an investigator for the Release on Recognizance Program at Detroit Recorder’s Court, I never would have imagined that, one day, he would be sworn in as president of the State Bar of Michigan. But, there were clues of the success that lay in store for him.

In those days, Tom was the program’s student coordinator and University of Detroit Law School wonder. I certainly looked up to him as someone older and wiser. With his well-honed sense of humor and seemingly effortless competence, he made working at the court, for all of us, a memorable experience. In the process, he garnered the respect, affection, and admiration of attorneys and jurists alike, a trend that has continued throughout his entire career.

I was in the courtroom to give moral support the first day Tom ever tried his wings as a full-fledged attorney. It is a memory that has given me fodder for years and has been officially recorded by me in the Ryan annals. Allow me to say, without going into detail, that Tom has come a long way.

From our law school days, to those early years of practice, to the present, I have watched Tom grow into the kind of lawyer in whom everyone in our profession can take pride. He represents the best and the brightest, to borrow a phrase from David Halberstam. Tom is a little bit Atticus Finch, a little bit Clarence Darrow, and a little bit Learned Hand all rolled into one. His sense of fairness, respect for his fellow man, and wisdom have served him, his clients, and his profession very well.

Despite the riotous sense of humor that has become a hallmark of his personality, he is serious about his vision for the profession and the role that the legal community must play in perpetuating a democratic and just society. He cares deeply about and is committed to elevating the profession to the highest standards possible. On the personal side of the ledger, he is active in his community, has amassed a legion of loyal and adoring friends, and is a wonderful husband and father.

I am proud, indeed, that the Bar will be led by someone of Tom’s caliber and ethics. Most of all, I am both proud and privileged to have called Tom Ryan my dearest friend for three decades. n

By Betty Lou Lowenthal

I first met Tom when I was clerking for Judge Gene Schnelz at Oakland County Circuit Court. Tom was so polite and appreciative of any assistance from court personnel that I couldn’t help but love him. I still do.

Tom Ryan has been my friend for over 20 years. I have seen his gentle strength and kind nature foster good fellowship in every arena. Whether Tom is in a courtroom or a boardroom, he makes every effort to listen, to learn, and to offer his expertise in a good-natured manner.

Tom has always been a leader. He has mentored me and many others who have become active in local, state, and national bar association activities. It is no wonder the Oakland County Bar made him its president in 1993 and that he is president of the State Bar of Michigan in 2000. On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, and members of the Oakland County Bar Association, congratulations, Tom! We wish you all the best! n

Neil E. Wallace is a solo practitioner at 39 S. Main Street in Clarkston.

Betty Lou Lowenthal is president of the Oakland County Bar Association.

Christine A. Derdarian is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Detroit College of Law. She has been with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for 26 years and is the assistant attorney general in charge of the labor division. She also serves as one of seven members of the Attorney General’s Opinion Review Board.

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