John Augustine Ryan was born on 25 May 1869 in Vermillion, Minnesota. He began attending a public school before transferring to a parochial school, and decided to become a diocesan priest. He attended St. Thomas (later St. Paul) Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and was ordained in 1898. He served only one summer as a parish priest in Belle Creek, Minnesota, before Archbishop John Ireland arranged for him to attend the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He received a bachelor's degree in sacred theology in 1899, a licentiate in sacred theology in 1900 and a doctorate in sacred theology in 1906. He taught at St. Paul Seminary from 1902 to 1915. He then moved to the Catholic University of America as associate professor of political science in 1915, was promoted to professor of theology in 1917, and then was appointed Dean of the School of Sacred Sciences in 1919. He was elevated to monsignor by Pope Pius XI in 1933. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him to the Industrial Appeals Board of the National Recovery Administration in July 1934. Ryan also gave the benediction at Roosevelt's second and fourth inaugurations. Forced to retire from academic life at age seventy in 1939, Ryan remained active on the National Catholic Welfare Board. He died on 16 September 1945 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.