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DePaul University elects James Ryan as board chair

Grainger exec funds $1 million scholarship

Board of Trustees
DePaul University’s board of trustees elected James T. Ryan, center, to serve as its next chair. He succeeds William E. Bennett, right, who served as chair since 2014. DePaul also elected Lori Holland, left, to serve as vice-chair of the board. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
CHICAGO — DePaul University has elected business executive James T. Ryan chair of its board of trustees. He succeeds William E. Bennett, who will continue to serve on the board. Ryan is chairman of industrial supply company Grainger and has served on DePaul’s board since 2007. As vice chair, Ryan led the recent search for the university’s next president.

“Jim has demonstrated a strong commitment to DePaul’s mission and values,” said Bennett. “He showed great leadership while guiding the university through a competitive, successful presidential search. I am pleased to welcome him into this role.”

Lori Holland, managing director at Neuberger Berman, was elected vice chair of DePaul’s board of trustees. Holland earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from DePaul and joined the board in 2011.

Jim Ryan
Business executive James T. Ryan has served on DePaul’s board since 2007. He holds an MBA from DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business, and as vice chair he led the recent search for the university’s next president.
Ryan retired as president and CEO of Lake Forest, Illinois-based W.W. Grainger, Inc. last year and remains as chairman of the board, a position he has held since 2009. He served as CEO from 2008 to 2016 and was named president in 2006. Serving in increasingly responsible roles since 1980, Ryan helped guide Grainger through economic challenges and major changes in the marketplace, from preparing information systems ahead of Y2K to adapting sales and marketing with the rise of online competition.

“Jim’s deep commitment to DePaul’s mission and his proven experience make him a perfect fit for this role. I enjoyed getting to know him during the presidential search and look forward to working with the leadership team as we enter DePaul’s next chapter,” said A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D., president-elect of DePaul. Ryan was chair of the presidential search committee that ultimately chose Esteban to become DePaul’s 12th president. Esteban steps into his new role July 1.

Recently Ryan and his wife, Michelle, donated $1 million to fund a scholarship at the university. The James T. and Michelle A. Ryan Family Scholarship will fund tuition and expenses for students from modest economic means and will give preference to applicants from Chicago Jesuit Academy, a middle school in the Austin neighborhood that offers young men a college prep education in the Catholic tradition.

“DePaul makes a real difference in Chicago and prepares students for the real world challenges of work and life,” said Ryan. “I am honored to work with the board of trustees and Dr. Esteban to serve the DePaul community.”

A graduate of DePaul, Ryan earned an MBA with a concentration in marketing from the Driehaus College of Business. In 1999, Ryan received the Distinguished MBA Alumni Award from DePaul. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

DePaul University’s board of trustees is responsible for shaping the strategies that best promote the fulfillment of the university’s mission and values. With more than 23,000 students and some 300 academic programs, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest. It is nationally recognized for incorporating service learning throughout its curriculum and preparing its graduates for a global economy.

DePaul was founded in Chicago in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), a Roman Catholic religious community dedicated to following the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century priest for whom the university is named. DePaul’s tradition of providing a quality education to students from a broad range of backgrounds, with particular attention to first-generation students, has resulted in one of the nation’s most diverse student bodies. More information is available at


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