Western Illinois University alumnus and Deere & Company retiree A.J. “Jan” Ryden recently donated $25,000 to WIU to launch a new endowed scholarship fund.
Mr. Ryden, a widower, father and grandfather, said he wants to impact the lives of students who are in need of financial assistance to complete their degrees.
“I have been thinking about donating to Western Illinois University for years now, and I finally decided to act on it,” Mr. Ryden said in a news release from WIU. “I really wanted to give back to the university that gave me so much. My hope is that my contribution helps future WIU students graduate.”
Mr. Ryden grew up outside Galesburg, Illinois, and attended the University of Illinois for three years. He then moved to Cedar Rapids in 1961 and met his wife of 53 years. After spending three years in California, and having their first son, Mr. Ryden and his wife moved to the Quad Cities in 1966, and he accepted a job offer from John Deere. He worked at John Deere in various positions for 35 years, retiring in 2001. While working full-time at Deere, he completed his bachelor’s degree at WIU in 1976.
Today, Mr. Ryden enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren, and often reflects on his upbringing with his paternal grandparents, according to the news release.
His time at WIU shaped many outcomes in his life, he said. In addition to his time at WIU, his son Eric, now a real estate agent with the Ryden Team at Quad Cities Iowa Realty, received his Master of Science degree in education from WIU in 1999.
“Attaining my degree from WIU impacted my life in ways I cannot express,” said Mr. Ryden. “My advice to current and future students is to be present and study hard … oh, and don’t fall in love too soon.”