Southeastern alum leaves $10M to university, largest single donation in history

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Image courtesy Southeastern Louisiana University

HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana University recently received the largest single donation in its 92-year history, a bequest totaling $10 million, the university announced Tuesaday.

Seth W. Ryan, a 1953 Southeastern business graduate, died March 1 and left a significant portion of his estate to Southeastern’s Foundation in the name of his wife, Thelma McNamara Nicaud Ryan.

Ryan’s attorney approached Southeastern more than 15 years ago about the potential bequest. Ryan’s identity remained anonymous until his recent death.

Ryan’s bequest will become part of the Southeastern Louisiana University Foundation Scholarship Endowment. In honor of his wife, who was unable to attend college, Ryan outlined that income from his donation be used for scholarships for female students in specific academic disciplines.

“Seth Ryan’s deep generosity will benefit female students in perpetuity. In honoring his wife, Thelma, he has established a legacy that will provide generations of women with the opportunity to benefit from strong careers and better futures,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain.

Vice President for Advancement Wendy Lauderdale said the donation significantly bolsters one of Southeastern’s strategic initiatives – to increase the number of women enrolled in STEM programs.

“Southeastern’s student population is over 60 percent female, but women only account for approximately 15 percent of STEM majors,” she said. “These scholarships will encourage and aid women to enter these high demand, well paying disciplines.”

Lauderdale said the scholarships will also be used in the areas of nursing, business and education for female students.

“Nationwide fewer women are entering STEM programs and careers,” said Crain. “With so much demand for graduates, Southeastern looks forward to leading the way in providing more financial assistance to women considering these careers.”

In fulfillment of Ryan’s wishes to honor his wife with this gift, Lauderdale said, Southeastern will name the current Biology Building in her honor, subject to approval of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. Officially, it will be renamed the Thelma McNamara Nicaud Ryan Science Building. The building façade will have the name “Thelma Ryan Science Building” upon its dedication, which is anticipated this summer.

All programs housed within the building will offer scholarships under the Ryan gift.

“We are so honored that Mr. Ryan saw the potential in Southeastern as a steward of his estate.  He saw that this university could make a difference in so many lives by using the estate that he spent a lifetime building. I know his wife would be both proud and satisfied,” said Lauderdale.  “Having Mrs. Ryan’s name on our building will forever remind us of the kindness and vision of Mr. Ryan and his legacy of helping others.”