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Robert J. Ryan, at 89; was official, US ambassador

Whether he was lecturing in a Daytona Beach, Fla., classroom or meeting with the world's top political figures, Robert J. Ryan Sr.'s passion for international relations was always at the forefront of his mind -- and his pen.

"Our leaders should not continue to shortchange US international interests trying to shrink the federal deficit . . . A smaller government shouldn't mean the retreat of American leadership in a complex, perilous world," Mr. Ryan wrote in a 1997 article for the journal American Diplomacy.

Mr. Ryan, the former US ambassador to Niger and assistant secretary general of the United Nations, died of cancer Sept. 17 at his home in Daytona Beach. He was 89.

A native of Hatfield, Mr. Ryan attended the University of Massachusetts, the National War College, and was a law graduate of Catholic University.

Mr. Ryan started working as a sports reporter for two Massachusetts newspapers and was an administrative assistant of a fruit and produce company in Hartford.

His career as a Foreign Service officer began in 1937 when he worked as a clerk in the passport office of the State Department. Working his way up the ranks, Mr. Ryan was promoted to such positions as assistant chief of the divisions of departmental and Foreign Service personnel, chief of personnel operations, and executive director of the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs.

He was appointed to the US Foreign Service as a senior Foreign Service officer in 1955. In that position he served as counselor for administration at the US Embassy in Paris, executive officer of the US Mission to NATO, and deputy assistant secretary of state for administration.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him ambassador to Niger.

Joining the United Nations secretariat in New York City in 1969, Mr. Ryan first worked as director of administrative management services, then as assistant secretary general for general services, a position with administrative responsibilities, including logistics for UN peacekeeping operations. He retired in 1977.

After his retirement, Mr. Ryan worked as a consultant on international affairs to local schools, colleges, and universities, giving lectures to community organizations.

Mr. Ryan wrote columns for the Daytona Beach News Journal, covering topics such as Congress's attitude toward the United Nations.

Following in his father's footsteps, Mr. Ryan's son, Robert J. Ryan Jr. of Daytona Beach is also pursuing a career in Foreign Service and was named embassador to Mali the same year his father became envoy in Niger.

In addition to his son, Mr. Ryan leaves his wife, Mary F. (O'Leary); another son, Thomas of Redding, Calif.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said tomorrow at 11 a.m. in St. Joseph's Church in Hatfield. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery in Northampton.

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