Aug. 15, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 19

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    George Ranney Sr., Life Trustee, dies at age 90

    George A. Ranney Sr., a Life Trustee of the University for more than half a century, died Sunday, June 30, at Lake Forest Hospital. An attorney and steel executive from one of Chicago’s most prominent families, Ranney was an outspoken and successful advocate of environmental conservation and civic reform who participated enthusiastically in the life of the University. He was 90 years old.

    Ranney grew up in Chicago, where his father, also named George, was the chairman of People’s Gas and a member of the board of the University. He attended Chicago Latin School and received both his B.A. and J.D. from Yale University.

    In 1938, he married Nora “Nancy” Ryerson, and in 1940 he joined the law firm of Sidley & Austin. In 1951, he became a University Trustee, and in 1981 he was appointed a Life Trustee. In 1954, Ranney joined the board of the Inland Steel Co., which had merged with the Ryerson Steel Co., founded by his wife’s family in the middle of the 19th century. He became Vice President and General Counsel of Inland Steel in 1962, and was promoted to Vice Chairman, a position he occupied until his retirement in 1977.

    Ranney devoted himself to public service, chairing both the citizens’ committee that supervised changes in the Cook County juvenile court system in the 1960s and the lobbying efforts for merit-based selection of Illinois judges in the 1970s and ’80s. He served as director of the Chicago Public Television Foundation, sat on the board of WTTW, which his father-in-law Edward Ryerson founded, and was a longtime supporter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

    Ranney’s ties to the University spanned the intellectual, the social and the personal. A Trustee for more than 50 years, he was first Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1970. Ranney was deeply involved in supporting and improving the University in other capacities, serving on the Citizens’ Board, the Law Planning Committee and the Visiting Committees for both the Law School and the College.

    He regularly attended the Nora and Edward Ryerson lectures, founded in 1972 to honor his wife’s parents. And Ranney developed friendships with many faculty members, including such eminent ones as the astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the scholar of religion Martin Marty and University President Edward Levi, whose son married Ranney’s daughter, Nancy.

    Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, said, “George Ranney was a true friend of the University. The old Latin saying ‘Nothing human is alien to me’ applied to him perfectly, and the cheer he exuded uplifted everyone he knew.”

    Ranney is survived by four children: Edward, David, Nancy Ranney Levi, and George Jr., who currently is a University Trustee, as well as 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and his treasured friend Betsy Getz.

    Memorial contributions may be made to: the University of Chicago, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., Room 501, Chicago, Ill. 60637; the International Crane Foundation, Box 447, E11376 Shady Lane Road, Baraboo, Wisc. 53913; or the Friends of Ryerson Woods, Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area, 21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Deerfield, Ill. 60015.