The defining moment of Ryanâs life came early. He had grown up in Janesville, Wis., a city of 63,000 in the stateâs southern tier.
One day, at 16 years old, he tried to wake his father, only to realize that he had died from a heart attack. His grandmother, who had Alzheimerâs disease, moved in.
Such difficulties only reinforced Ryanâs belief in self-reliance. He had inherited some of his thinking from Patrick W. Ryan, his crusty great-grandfather, who in 1884 founded a Wisconsin construction company that initially relied on a pack of mules, eventually helped build Chicagoâs OâHare airport, and continues to be run by the family.
Ryanâs greatest influence, he said years later, was Rand, author of the novels, âThe Fountainheadâ and âAtlas Shrugged.â While he is a committed anti-abortion Catholic and rejects Randâs atheism, support for abortion rights, and her views on anarchy, he embraces her ...