The defining moment of Ryan‚Äôs life came early. He had grown up in Janesville, Wis., a city of 63,000 in the state‚Äôs 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 Alzheimer‚Äôs disease, moved in.
Such difficulties only reinforced Ryan‚Äôs 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 Chicago‚Äôs O‚ÄôHare airport, and continues to be run by the family.
Ryan‚Äôs greatest influence, he said years later, was Rand, author of the novels, ‚ÄúThe Fountainhead‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúAtlas Shrugged.‚ÄĚ While he is a committed anti-abortion Catholic and rejects Rand‚Äôs atheism, support for abortion rights, and her views on anarchy, he embraces her ...