Dr. Marsha Ryan (JD, 1987)

Southern Illinois University



Dr. Marsha Ryan (JD, 1987)

Dr. Marsha Ryan is a Saluki to her core.  Marsha knew from a young age that she wanted to be a surgeon, and she was drawn to Carbondale after earning her M.D. from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1972 and did her medical residency in Columbia, MO.  While serving the Carbondale community as a full-time surgeon, she quickly became a difference-maker through her active leadership and participation in myriad committees, boards, and task forces, particularly as director of her family’s philanthropic 501 (c)(3) Garwin Family Foundation.  Amazingly, she built her career and legacy in the Carbondale community while simultaneously earning her JD in 1987. Today, Marsha uses her JD primarily in teaching health law courses and enjoys mentoring students, particularly the MD/JD students for whom the Garwin Family Foundation provided scholarships.  Although she recently retired from her medical practice and her role as medical director of the SIH Cancer Center, she remains actively involved with many Carbondale organizations to pay it forward.

For Marsha, SIU Law is a family tradition.  Her husband John, an attorney in Carbondale, was in the tight-knit Class of 1976, the first class at the School of Law, who welcomed her into their group and continue to share wonderful memories and stories that Marsha now knows by heart.  Marsha fondly reflects, “There were a million stories told a million times over.  Blue barracks.  Back row.  Roommates.  Evenings at Das Fass.”  For people who know her, Masha’s ability to bond with John’s classmates and promote lasting friendships comes as no surprise.  She values personal relationships and prioritizes the tremendous impact one person can make in the world.

While Don Garner’s course was her first introduction to health law, Dr. Ryan credits Richard Delgado, a visiting Bioethics professor from California, with changing the course of her life by showing her what a difference a professor and a class can make in a student’s life.  In fact, thirty-five years later, Marsha still remembers the fact pattern of the final exam!  In 2006, Marsha and John established the John and Marsha Ryan Bioethicist in Residence to fund an annual residence and lecture by a law and/or medicine ethics scholar at the School of Law and School of Medicine at SIU.  Today, Marsha feels honored to have studied with some of the best, including Professor Lesar, and gives generously to SIU School of Law to make sure that future students have the best tools and opportunities to not only better themselves but also make a positive impact in the world.

The Ryans are proud SIU Law alumni who believe in giving back to the school and the community that has given them so much.   Over the years, Marsha has served on the SIH Foundation as well as the SIU Foundation, and both of her children are SIU alumni.  Just as she did for many years as a surgeon, she continues, with her family, to be instrumental in student opportunities and successes through her active involvement and life-changing generosity.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can become more involved, please reach out to Cindy Walker or click here