Professor Ryan arrived in Texas via Iowa from Lincoln, Nebraska (the football capital of the world, he says). In college, he played football and baseball at then-Division II Morningside College, where he occasionally attended classes between fishing trips, athletics, and dealing blackjack on a riverboat casino. "Oddly, I never cared much for school," says Ryan, who quickly adds "until I got to law school." A Nebraska Flag still flies proudly in his office, "though it is balanced out now by my Baylor Basketball memorabilia," he says.
When studying law, Professor Ryan quickly realized that academic work was in his future. "I loved the process of law and the way that logic structures, but doesn't always determine, the resolution of a matter." He earned unprecedented marks and more than twenty "High A's" while graduating first in his class, summa cum laude, from Baylor Law School. Although Ryan accepted a big-firm job in Dallas following his clerkship with the Honorable C. Arlen Beam on the Eighth Circuit, he was instead lured back into the classroom at just 26 years of age. Six years later he earned the University-wide award for Outstanding Tenure-Track Research Faculty and was recently promoted to Full Professor.
Since joining the faculty, Ryan has filled many nights and weekends consulting in his areas of expertise (Procedure, Appeals, and Jurisdiction). In the past few years, Ryan has been either lead counsel or consultant on dozens of trial and appeals in state and federal courts within and without Texas, including the Supreme Courts of the United States and Texas. "I always want to be doing law while I'm teaching it. Doing both makes me better at both. When I teach students about writing appellate briefs, I want to teach them from both theory and experience. And, teaching requires breaking things down into fundamental concepts, which of course then aids the doing of the thing taught."
Professor Ryan teaches and writes about procedure and federal jurisdiction. He is passionate about his chosen specialties, though it has one drawback: "All my colleagues teach stuff that their families and friends care about. At Thanksgiving, people ask me about criminal law, wills, and speeding tickets. They don't much care that Congress recently indexed the amount-in-controversy amount for diversity jurisdiction. Thankfully, I occasionally teach Constitutional Law as well, so I can sporadically contribute between turkey and dessert."
In his spare time, Professor Ryan enjoys training dogs, volunteering for CASA, weightlifting, studying behavioral economics, and traveling to far too many sporting events with his wife, Christie. He has few regrets in life, but says that one mistake will forever haunt him-introducing his senior colleagues to BlackBerry smart phones. "Now I'm unofficial tech. support for the 3rd floor, and there was no such category on my performance evaluation. I can only assume Dean Toben recognizes this contribution at compensation time."