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Remembering VLS Board Chair Allan A. Ryan

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It is with profound sadness that we share that Allan Ryan, VLS's board chair, died suddenly on January 26, 2023. All of us at VLS are heartbroken to lose such an inspiring friend, mentor, and leader. 


Allan, an attorney and Marine Corps Veteran, joined the VLS Board in 2014 and served as its Chair since 2016. He cared deeply about VLS and worked closely with the board and staff to honor the service of economically disadvantaged veterans in Massachusetts by advancing VLS's mission. 


As board chair, Allan oversaw the largest and most rapid growth of the organization in its history. Under his leadership, VLS flourished, growing from a small staff of three to its current ten. The organization's budget more than quadrupled, and the number of community partnerships and veterans served each year also expanded exponentially.


The entire VLS team is indebted to Allan's wife, Nancy, his daughter, Elisabeth, and his son, Andrew, for sharing Allan with us all of these years. He was a remarkable force for good, both at VLS and beyond, and words cannot fully express how much he will be missed. 


Allan, we wish you fair winds and following seas. Rest easy. We have the watch.


Allan's family has suggested that friends and family seeking to honor his memory may wish to make a donation to VLS. If you wish to make a donation in Allan's memory, you may do so here.

We thank the following for their generous gifts in Allan's memory.


Bill and Diane Asher

Jessica Avery

Mark S. Brodin

John & Mary Boudreau

Andrea Cabral

Meredith (Ryan) & Joseph Carroll

John and Holly Cratsley

Jane Davis

Casey J. Dobel

Digger and Susan Donahue

Jim Dooling

Thomas Eagen

Tricia Ryan Eline

Becky Ennis

Judith Enright

The Family of Allan A. Ryan

Jacqueline Fearer

Rose Lindsay Finkenstaedt

Jodi Fisher

Ellen Frank

Julie Frohlich

John Galvin

Lori B. Gans

Julie Giordano

Lynn Girton and Pat Freedman

Veronika and Joseph Goodwin

Janet Gorman

Sam and Amy Hainer

Harvard Business Publishing

Harvard Business School

Harvard University

Nicholas Hasenfus

Mary Higgins

Mary Hogan Sullivan

Joan Jacobs

Rick, Barbara and Ryan Kappelmann

Janyce and Peter Kittler

Diane Knight

Shawn Korf

Jordan and Jean Krasnow

Beth and James Kundert

The Kupferschmid Family

Kathy and Roy Lasher

Peggy and John Latino

Laurie LeBlanc and Lauren Palmer

Nicole Jackson Leslie

Robin and Rich Maltz

Jeffrey and Janet Mausner

Linda Maytan

Libby McKenna

Eric J. McNulty

Pamela Meister

Caroline Morgan

Sean Mullaney

Paul Muther

Coleman Nee

Barry Neely

Peg and Steve O'Connor

Tracy Hresko Pearl

Marianna C. Pierce

Anna and Clarence Richardson

Jenn Rosebach

Sarah Roxburgh and Eli Munkholm

Elisabeth Ryan

Elisabeth Ryan

Peter and Colleen Ryan

Tricia Ryan

Richard A. Salter

Franklin J. Schwarzer

Joseph and Melanie Schwarzer

Betty Shave and Michael Wolf

Amanda St. Andrews

Philip Sunshine

Andrew Tarsy

Allan Taylor and Kathryn Plazak

Joanne and Scott Thorud

Christopher Walton

Harvey Weiner and Peabody & Arnold LLP

Jim Whitters and Susan Moore

Susan Whoriskey

Andrea L. Wolanin

Corrine Yu

Anonymous Supporters

Messages from Allan's friends and family.

"In loving memory of a wonderful brother and a proud Marine on the 248th Birthday of the USMC. Always loved and missed."

"In memory of Board Chair, Allan A. Ryan, a great American citizen as well as a citizen of the world, and mostly a great neighbor and friend of four decades. I am sure you miss Allan's passion, intelligence and humor as we do. We will always hold him and all Ryans close to our hearts. Thank you for the wonderful work you do."

"Allan was a kind, gracious, and positive man. Every time I spoke with him, he was so positive about the work VLS staffers do. He also was so modest. He never acted like he was anyone's superior. That's why it was all the more surprising to learn about the many extraordinary things he did in his career. For example, I don't think any of the staff knew he was the top Nazi finder and prosecutor in the US. I am in awe of that. I miss him."

"It was an honor to serve and support Veterans Legal Services under Allan Ryan's dedicated leadership."

"In gratitude for Allan's dedicated leadership of VLS."

"Allan was the epitome of an officer and a gentleman. His kindness, fairness, quiet fortitude, and strength of character were evident always. His legacy is how he lived his life."

"In memory of Allan Ryan, a self-effacing and humble friend who, with determination and high ideals, changed the world. Given with love and lasting memories."

"I graduated high school with Allan but I did not know him, at that stage of his life. When I learned of his commitment to chase down Nazis, living peacefully in their forgotten pasts, I wanted to be his best friend or, at least, let him know how much I admired his work dedicated to bringing the horrors of the past to light."

"It was an honor to serve alongside Allan on the VLS Board of Directors."

"Allan was a very kind and loving person. He welcomed all of the O'Neils into his family with open arms and heart!"

"His accomplishments were beyond impressive but what I loved about him and why I will miss him so much is that he was an incredible human being: persistent, compassionate, wise and a sense of humor that had no bounds. May there be more Allans."

"Allan was a beloved teacher, world-class scholar, and pillar of BC Law School's Holocaust Human Rights Project. His untimely death has left a hole in our hearts, but the memory of his wonderful smile will always be with us."

"We cherish all our memories together in Foxboro."

"We are grateful to have had Allan as a beloved member of the family. His wisdom, kindness and warmth were but a few of his many strengths. In the words of an old Irish Prayer 'May the smile of God light you to glory.' RIP cousin."

"Allan holds a special place in our hearts for his bond with Owen and his ongoing support of the Boston College Law School Holocaust and Human Rights Research Project. He was a Marine, an intellectual force, and a mensch with a smile and laugh that lit up a room."

"I remember Allan fondly from Scituate summers as a teen, and even then he had a special aura about him. That he went on to distinguish himself in bringing war criminals to justice and then teaching the law and serving veterans was entirely true to character. He was a deeply moral man."

"I had the honor of serving and working with Allan on the VLS Board. His quiet and modest leadership was characteristic and reflected a lifetime of devotion to the needs of others and overall betterment for the world around him without any need whatsoever for attention or applause. He truly attained greatness with grace and dignity. He will be missed."

"I served for many years on the board of the Anti Defamation League with Allan. Notwithstanding his intellectual and leadership contributions in the course of his voluntarism, one would never otherwise know of his lifetime of extraordinary achievements were it not the rest of us who spoke of them instead of him. Allan was the most undeservedly humble person -- the least inclined to ever start a sentence in the first person. He was warm, kind, a true mensch, and I will miss him deeply."

"Allan was such a wonderful, humble colleague who treated everyone with respect and consistently sought to do the right thing. An example for all of us to live by."

"Remembering your family and the light that Allan brought to this world."

"Allan was never less than gracious and helpful, no matter how seemingly trivial the matter. He was a true gentleman and a champion for justice."

"I think about Allan and his family so often...He was a man of the ages."

"He was a legend in so many ways and a great friend."

"We are deeply saddened to hear of Allan's death. He was a truly good person, great humanitarian, and outstanding lawyer and Director of OSI. God bless your family. May Allan's memory be for a blessing."

"Allan was so special.  Just a bear of a man who enveloped you in every way – especially in his kindness, generosity of spirit, and, when he spoke or listened, someone who made you feel like the only person in the world that mattered."

"The world, Boston and VLS have lost a truly wonderful person...Allan was truly a remarkable man, all the more so because of his amazing humility."

"Among all his amazing accomplishments, what stands out for me about my interactions with him was his love of family: Love of his wife, his children, his siblings, his parents, and all his nieces and nephews. To me it seemed like he just reveled in being in that big, beautiful family."

"We worked with Allan for over 20 years and he was such a wonderful colleague. He was always giving of his time and advice and had such a funny sense of humor. We will really miss him!"

"I remember going to Allan's introduction as the VLS chair. It was so poignant and meaningful and so, so Allan. Being a Marine was tremendously impactful on his life; and on the lives of those around him, whether they had the good fortune to know him, or not.  It was a position that he held so proudly."

"I know he will be missed, but his legacy and memory will live on. Love to the Ryans."

"Thank you, Allan, for making me feel welcome and a part of something amazing from the first time we met and every time we interacted in the last three years. You are already deeply missed, but your legacy lives on and the memories will keep inspiring us!"

"Regrettably, lots of sorrow to go around. And yet VLS carrying on is the best tribute to the memory of the truly wonderful person Allan was."

"I feel not only for Allan’s family but also for [Sarah] and Anna as you were also a part of his family...we should take comfort in the fact that he lived a good life with tremendous service to others and we should all be grateful for the leadership and guidance he gave to VLS."


"He was such a brilliant, sensible, caring wonderful human being. I also know how much he meant to VLS...a great loss."

"He was a great man who went out of his way to make everyone feel special. He lived an amazing life and served in so many capacities throughout his life, always focused on giving back."

"We are all forever grateful for his USMC service – his smile lit up a room." 

"We hope that his family and friends can take some comfort in recalling the extraordinary impact his work had on veterans, their families and our entire community."

"Allan was an amazing colleague to work with at Harvard/HBP. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to know him."

"He was such an inspiration for the role of compassionate dedication and commitment to creating successful outcomes for those who desperately need care and attention." 

"He was a wonderful man and, among many other things, a powerful force for the good that...the team at VLS [has] been doing."

"Allan was a pretty extraordinary human. I feel humbled to have shared even a short amount of time with him..."

"Allan was such a wonderful person. He brightened the lives of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him, and he was such a fierce leader for our veterans in need."

"I am truly stunned and deeply saddened that Allan has died. He was a truly remarkable human being who I had only the greatest respect for."

"Allan was wise, kind, and thoughtful, his presence will be missed.  I am really in disbelief! My heart, prayers and thoughts are with...his family and the entire VLS organization."

"Allan’s legacy is clear in the impressive success of VLS over the years, and no doubt in countless other ways."

"Allan was such a good man and a great American."

"Allan’s passing brings about many memories of how much he impacted all of us (collectively and individually) and the greater community he served...we’re praying for his family and reflecting on what a great friend and leader he was when we were with him."

"His passion for the cause and dedication to the organization was fervent and infectious! I know his legacy will endure."

"I am forever grateful for the warm welcome and encouragement Allan showed since I joined the board."

"His legacy will be felt for years to come through his work with VLS..."

"Allan was a great guy and VLS will never have a better friend. Terribly sad." 

 "In memory and honor of Allan A. Ryan, Jr. who saw wrong and tried to right it."

We will continue to update this page, so please check back.

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