Donor's generosity even touched those who touched the stars
Eileen Ryan loved helping people.
Posted: Wed, May 1, 2013
Eileen Ryan loved helping people.
She loved Omaha, her city. Much of her generosity can be seen many places around her town including UNMC, where Wayne was a longtime professor.
She loved God.
Eileen passed away in March.
From a conversation with her last year:
Wayne has an autographed photo of John Glenn, taken after he went into space the last time. The photo is of him and the other astronauts. It's in the boardroom at Streck Inc., our business that makes lab equipment. The astronauts had come and asked Wayne to make a device that would do tests on Glenn's immune system in space. (Normally when you draw blood in space, it just ﬂies all over.) So when Glenn went up, they used the device on him and it worked.
"What do we owe you?" they asked.
"Nothing," Wayne said. "I can't charge you for that. It was so much fun."
Our philanthropy is scattered. It's strange. There's not really a pattern to what we do. We like to give to anybody who needs help, whether it's simply buying groceries for some lady who can't pay for them or helping those astronauts. It's just fun to do. Years ago, we started out doing small things. Now that we have more, we do more. I always tell Wayne, "Half of the fun of having money is giving it away." And I give away a lot of his money! You have to ﬁnd the right people to give your money to – people you trust. Wayne worked at UNMC for so long. He has many friends there, like Dr. Kevin Garvin, who's head of orthopedics, and Dr. Mike Sorrell and Dr. Jim Armitage. Wayne knows what great research they're doing, so when he hears of opportunities to help his friends there, he does. About 12 years ago, we both got cancer. And we've had such good doctors there taking care of us.
Father Tom Bauwens is a very good friend of ours, too. He's now head of St. Wenceslaus. He mentioned to us that the priests there had no place to sleep and that he was looking for a house. So when he did ﬁnd one, I handed him the check for it. He was pretty surprised. I said, "I don't want anybody to know about this." In the Sunday bulletin, there was a big piece about how an "anonymous couple" had purchased the house. The next day after daily Mass, I was saying my rosary with my group and a guy comes up to me and says, "Are you Mrs. Anonymous?" They all know we're real good friends of the Father's.
I give to religious organizations. I support my alma mater, Mercy High. Wayne and I did the athletic center at Creighton University, where he went to school. I put the chapel on St. Robert's Church. I just recently got through making the dining room bigger at New Cassel, a home for elderly people. I have a friend I go to see there, a nun. She had told me the dining room was terrible, and when I went there I saw all these elderly people standing in line with their canes and walkers, trying to get their lunch. It was the saddest thing you've ever seen. Now there's plenty of space. It's beautiful. There's a ﬁreplace. The people can sit down and waiters and waitresses take care of them now. That's probably pleased me more than anything I've done.
One thing I think of very often, particularly when I go to funerals, is that line from Scripture: "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."