Edmond Colbert Ryan, better known as “Colby” Ryan, walked much of his part of the 20th century with Saginaw’s frontline community leaders, as an accepted hard-working brother of the fold, as astute as he was dedicated to what he thought best for the town of his choice.
A banker by profession, he was considered among Michigan’s finest. He rose through the ranks at Second National Bank to become president and finally chairman of the board. He was chairman at the time of his death in 1970 of a heart attack at the comparatively early age of 60. His step-by-step training in all executive phases of banking had given him a wide acquaintance with men and women in every profession and working class.
He was a commanding figure of a man—tall, trim, wide-shouldered and with an unfeigned geniality.
A member of the Michigan Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, he was one of 10 Michigan bankers who did the research and background to inaugurate the University of Michigan scholarship fund for banking.
He was a graduate of the Central States School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.
He was born October 26, 1910, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was graduated from high school there and later from the University of Michigan. A fine tennis player, he captained the tennis team during his senior year at Michigan. He became one of the state’s finest tennis players in amateur competition and won a number of trophies and championships, some while he was in Saginaw.
Ryan began his banking career in 1932 at Grand Rapids National Bank. He joined Second National Bank in 1933. He worked in the trust department, credit department, and became assistant trust officer, assistant cashier, vice-president and executive vice-president. He was named president in 1965 and chairman of the board in 1968.
His banking career was interrupted in 1941 when he went into the United States Army as a draftee. He was a graduate of the Command and General Staff School and served in the G4 Section of the U. S. Sixth Army Headquarters in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of major.
He came out of the war with many whimsical stories about his truck-driving days with the 21st Field Artillery of the Fifth Infantry Division, where he was assigned for basic training.
He was a director of Second National Bank, Morley Brothers, Michigan Sugar Company, the Green Bay Newspaper Company and St. Mary’s Hospital.
He served as a United Fund divisional chairman here and as a leader of the YWCA New Building Fund Campaign and in the YMCA Building Fund Campaign. He was an enthusiastic member and leader in YMCA affairs for years. He was a director of the Valley Trails Council of Boy Scouts.
Ryan championed many a Saginaw betterment project and was one of 10 members of Saginaw Business Center, Inc. partnership concerned with the redevelopment of Saginaw’s central business district.
He was a past president of the Saginaw Rotary Club. He was a member of Saginaw Elks Lodge No. 47, the Saginaw Country Club, the Saginaw Club and St. Stephen Catholic Church.
His early death doubtless terminated other contributions Ryan would have made to the benefit of Saginaw.
At his memorial service, a clergyman-friend said: “If you were to epitomize E. Colbert Ryan’s life it would be difficult to say too much about him. He was the very best the community had to offer.”
In February 1933 he married Susan Shorts, daughter of R. Perry Shorts, president of Second National Bank. They had one son, Robert Perry Ryan.
The fact he was married to “the boss’ daughter” detracted in no way from his relationship and stature with fellow employees. They recognized him for the conscientious, friendly and hard-working associate that he was. As he rose the ladder of success, his promotions were regarded almost throughout the bank as deserved recognition of his ability.