NSU alumnus, former Astros scout Craig Ryan creates scholarship for Demon baseball

NSU- A knee injury 40 years ago denied Craig Ryan the chance he is going to provide future Northwestern State baseball players.

The Lake Charles native and NSU graduate recently made a $1,000 contribution to initiate the Ryan Family Scholarship to be awarded annually to a Demon baseball student-athlete. He is building it to the $10,000 level with $400 monthly bank drafts during the next two years.

Ryan, whose adult life includes 12 years as a scout with the Houston Astros, is a disaster program specialist for the American Red Cross, based in his hometown.

Establishing the scholarship is one display of his passion for his alma mater. Ryan is in his first year on the board of directors for the Demons Unlimited Foundation, the non-profit entity that provides vital support for NSU Athletics. He has been an active alumnus of NSU’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity chapter for many years.

After joining the DUF board, he quickly realized along with service, he wanted to leave a long-lasting impact benefitting student-athletes and inquired about setting up a scholarship.

“I felt I needed to give back to the place that did so much for me while I was a student. I really felt close to the people and the university here, and felt it was time to step up to create something for other students to take advantage of,” said Ryan. “I encourage others to do the same thing.

“My (Demon baseball tryout) performance showed what I could do, but it wasn’t in the cards. I want somebody else to have an opportunity to get past where I was,” said Ryan.

Dr. Haley Taitano, the associate athletics director at NSU who is the executive director of the DUF, was thrilled when Ryan mentioned his desire to create a scholarship.

“Ever since Craig joined our DUF board, he’s been itching to get this scholarship started. He has been volunteering and supporting Northwestern State in various capacities over the years, but his commitment to fund a new endowed scholarship just takes it to the next level,” said Taitano. “Beyond my appreciation for his support, I’ve developed a great friendship with Craig over the last year, which is the icing on the cake.”

Ryan’s generosity is another step forward for the Perpetually Purple scholarship endowment program.

“The more we can continue to build up our scholarship endowment, the better of we’ll be in terms of maintaining 100 percent of the allowed scholarship funding for all 14 of our sports,” said Taitano.

A standout basketball and baseball athlete at W.O. Boston in Lake Charles, Ryan had a baseball scholarship offer at Southern in Baton Rouge, but his sister was attending Northwestern and his mother wasn’t in favor of him joining the Jaguars. Ryan arrived at NSU in 1979 as a mass communications major.

It wasn’t long before he’d made friends with ties to NSU Athletics, and not being part of a team was gnawing at him.

“I had an opportunity to be a scholarship athlete here and baseball was my preferred sport,” he said.

“Just for (baseball assistant coach) Ed (Spurlock) to take an interest, after Daryl Toussaint and Donnie Mosley (both baseball players) encouraged me to try out, was meaningful.”

But just as dreams were becoming reality, disaster struck. Two days into practice, Ryan suffered a knee injury severe enough to end his competitive career.

During his undergraduate days in the early 1980s, he worked at the student-run campus radio station, KNWD FM, and joined his fraternity.

But the injury didn’t blunt his love for baseball, and his days on campus stoked his fire for Northwestern. That, and a hat, led to his days as an Astros scout, after a chance meeting at a boat show in Houston.

“I had on a Northwestern hat. I began to notice a guy staring at me, and he started following me,” recalled Ryan. “Finally I stopped him and he asked me if I was from Northwestern, and said his wife graduated from there and was from (nearby) Zwolle. His name was Pat Dwyer, and he was an Astros scout.”

Dwyer eventually said he was looking for some scouts in Louisiana and the Golden Triangle area around Beaumont, and Ryan jumped on the opportunity.

“You never know where God is going to take you,” said Ryan, who has also spent 10 years as a fireman and also has worked for the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security in Calcasieu Parish.

“It pays to be well rounded,” he said, chuckling. “If you’re open minded enough to take on a challenge, nothing beats a failure like a try. I never thought I’d be working for the Red Cross, but I’m loving it.”

Ryan’s gifts support the “Perpetually Purple” program encouraging supporters to enhance an endowment fund which provides essential resources for the continuing success of NSU Athletics.

The Perpetually Purple program is managed by the Demons Unlimited Foundation, with a goal to grow the endowment, through outright donations or deferred gifts, over the next five years from $1.9 million to over $5 million, said NSU director of athletics Greg Burke.

Earnings from the 57 permanent funds which comprise the current $1.9 million endowment total are utilized to balance the Athletic Department’s annual scholarship budget. According to Burke, “Current endowment funding ensures that all 14 NSU sports can continue offering the maximum number of scholarships permitted by NCAA guidelines. Being able to do so is paramount to sustaining a high level of competitiveness but more importantly, continues to provide opportunities for young people to receive a scholarship which can lead to earning a college degree. Based on the fact that the five-year NCAA Graduation Success Rate of NSU Athletics is nearly 80 percent over the past five years, endowment funds are a worthwhile investment.”

A fundamental goal of the initial push is to reach the $5 million milestone, allowing the endowment to completely underwrite book scholarships for all NSU student-athletes, an expense currently paid by annual gifts to the DUF, he said. Annual gift revenues will then be redirected to more significantly enhance facilities, bolster recruiting budgets, retain or hire outstanding coaches, and offset ever-increasing scholarship costs.

A minimum commitment of $10,000 is required to create an endowment fund. It can be established with an outright gift such as cash, a stock transfer or property sale, a life insurance policy, or can be included as a provision in a will or bequest. Arrangements can be made to fund an endowment over an extended period of time.

The endowment principle remains intact for perpetuity with a maximum of five percent interest income used for the intent designated by the donor who establishes the fund.

All scholarship endowment donors are invited to NSU Athletics’ annual Scholarship Banquet to have dinner with the recipients of their scholarships.

Burke and Taitano are available to provide additional information and discuss the Perpetually Purple program. They can be reached by calling NSU Athletics at 318-357-5251, or by email: Burke (burkeg@nsula.edu) or Taitano (blounth@nsula.edu).

More information is also available at NSUDemons.com/endowments online.

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