Donald "Doc" Ryan

Donald "Doc" Ryan

Doc Ryan

When he walks into any building at North Penn, he is greeted like a local celebrity and a dear friend. Even in his retirement years, nearly every staff member who passes by stops to say hello. Don Ryan, more commonly known as Doc, served almost five decades at North Penn, his alma mater. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Army and was working in sporting goods sales before coming to North Penn in 1969 as the athletic trainer and equipment manager. He advanced to assistant athletic director by 1971, and was made athletic director in 1981. After 46 years at North Penn, Doc Ryan retired in 2015 after many years of service to his school and community. It is a legacy that has shaped North Penn athletics as we know it, and changed the lives of countless students. 

Doc graduated from North Penn in 1958, before the consolidation of the North Penn School District in 1966. He has watched this community grow before his eyes and has truly been with North Penn from the start. In his senior yearbook, his summary was “Manager of all sports… always has the keys… likes figures” His activities included Baseball Manager, Baseball Club, Basketball Manager, and Football Manager. Even as a teenager, he was prepared for what would become his entire career, right here at North Penn. 

Doc earned his nickname in his early years at North Penn, while he was working as a trainer. “One day, during a baseball game, a player got hurt, and the coach went on the field and looked around. I don’t remember where I was, but he yelled out ‘Doc, get Doc!’ They came and got me, and ever since then, it stuck,” said Ryan. The nickname has become a fond one, representative of the respect he gets every time he walks in a room or into the stadium.

Doc became assistant athletic director just one year before the historic 1972 Title IX amendment, granting equal opportunity to both men’s and women’s sports. He assisted in the growth of women’s varsity sports, adding multiple varsity teams during his tenure. Through Title IX and the assistance of Ryan, the women’s teams at North Penn grew in size and respect among the community.

In his time at North Penn, Ryan has earned countless awards and accolades. Among these, he was recognized by Sports Illustrated magazine in both 2005 and 2007 for running the #1 High School Athletic Program in Pennsylvania, and was named to the Top 40 High School Athletic Programs in the U.S. He was made Chairman of the Montgomery County All-Star Football game in 1981 and 1982, and was President of the North Penn-Souderton Area Sports Hall of Fame from 1999-2000. In 2000, Ryan was named the North Penn Elks Club Man of the Year, and won the North Penn Education Association Nice People Award for Outstanding Contribution to North Penn Schools. He was nominated to the North Penn Alumni Athletic Association Board of Directors, and was inducted into the North Penn Hall of Fame in 2014. 

In the face of all these accomplishments, the ones Ryan holds most dear are those of the students. In his time at North Penn, the students won 33 Bux-Mont League Championships, 34 PIAA State Championships, and 219 Suburban One League Championships. 

When reflecting on his time as athletic director, there are countless memories of his time that made North Penn so special to him. Perhaps his favorite is when the softball and baseball teams missed high school graduation to go to a tournament in Shippensburg, PA. When the players returned, the athletes got a special graduation held in the high school lobby to make sure they did not miss out on such an important event. After 50 years, Ryan will still rattle off a long list of players, coaches, and games that stick out in his memories as particularly great. For Doc, the beauty of his role as Athletic Director is held not in the grandiose statistics he achieved, but in the success of every player that came through his program.

After his retirement in 2015, his commitment to North Penn never wavered. He is often seen, to this day, at countless sporting events, always cheering on his alma mater. When he retired, his long-time assistant, Linda Law, remarked “You don’t say good-bye. You say, ‘See you later, see you at the next swim meet. See you at the next basketball game.” While he is no longer working for North Penn, his legacy is clear in the success of North Penn’s athletic program and reflected in the man sitting in the stadium for every athletic event he can attend. 

When asked about Doc, his colleagues frequently use a few words: “institution”, “living legend”, “fixture”, “constant”, and “leader”. Perhaps more than anything else, this best summarizes the legacy that Doc Ryan has left behind at North Penn, that of a man who dedicated nearly five decades to his community and brought North Penn to the forefront of Pennsylvania athletics.