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Sister Janice Ryan, ex-college president, activist, dies

April 4, 2022 GMT

A Vermont nun who served as a college president, worked in Washington to ban land mines and served as a deputy commissioner of the state Department of Corrections has died.

Sister Janice Ryan died at a residential care facility in Winooski on March 30. She was 85.

Ryan’s death was confirmed Monday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

Vermont U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said he and his wife Marcelle visited Ryan shortly before her death.

“Sister Janice was a force of nature. She was a human dynamo,” Leahy said in a statement. “She made it her job to make policymakers uncomfortable as her way to achieving real change to help those who struggle. And indeed she made a real difference.”

Ryan was born in Fairfield, Vermont, on Sept. 14, 1936. She graduated from high school at the Mount Saint Mary Academy in Burlington and then received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Burlington. In 1957, she professed her vows as a nun with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

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She began her career as an elementary and junior high school teacher. She went on to receive a master’s degree in special education, did other graduate studies and received honorary degrees.

“She was a champion for access to quality education for all, particularly those with special needs, an advocate for the incarcerated, a peacemaker who fought for the banning of land mines around the world and so much more,” Bishop Christopher Coyne, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, said in tribute on the diocese’s website. “Her legacy will live on through the many lives she touched.”

From 1979 to 1996, Ryan served as president of Burlington’s Trinity College, which closed in 2000 after financial difficulties. After leaving Trinity, Ryan became Project Director of the Catholic Campaign to Ban Landmines in Washington.

She worked for a time for former Vermont Sen. James Jeffords. In 2003, Ryan became deputy commissioner of the state Department of Corrections.

Ryan is survived by two sisters, a brother and numerous nieces and nephews and “her sisters in religion,” the Sisters of Mercy, her obituary says.