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Since Emmanuel’s beginnings in 1919, many alumni have been known to make significant contributions in a variety of fields.
Notable alumni include Mary Beth Cahill, political figure and former campaign manager for John Kerry’s democratic Presidential campaign, US Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, and recently, Marian Ryan, Middlesex County DA.
Ryan beat out opponent and Middlesex Clerk of Courts Michael A. Sullivan to retain her seat as DA this past week. Ryan is the only female DA in the state of Massachusetts and was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2013.
Under her leadership, the Middlesex DA’s Office prosecuted more than 35,000 cases a year in fifty-four cities and towns. Prior to becoming District Attorney, Ryan spent more than thirty years as one of Middlesex County’s top prosecutors, trying and convicting some of the state’s most violent felons, fighting for the rights of victims, and creating innovative crime prevention initiatives.
Born in Cambridge and raised in Somerville, Ryan was the oldest of four children, whose parents instilled in them the value of hard work and the importance of giving back to the community. While on a first grade field trip, Ryan fell in love with Emmanuel’s campus and decided this was where she would attend college.
“It was my good fortune to later learn about the quality of the education, the excellence of the professors, and the opportunities available to women,” stated Ryan.
Ryan graduated from Emmanuel with a double major in English and Political Science. She was active in the Political Science Club, the Model UN, and also served as a student representative on the President’s Task Force, an accreditation and planning committee. After attending Emmanuel she attended Boston College Law School.
Ryan considers her time at Emmanuel to be an important stepping stone in her career.
“As part of the summer internship program at Emmanuel, I worked at Greater Boston Legal Services,” she said. “There, I was involved in the important work of helping people through the civil litigation process. I saw how invaluable legal services can be, especially to those who face adversity, are disabled or are struggling financially. My advisors let me extend the internship into the school year and receive course credit. Thanks to this internship, I knew I wanted to attend law school.”
Ryan also returned to Emmanuel to teach.
“One of my greatest joys is teaching,” she said. “I was thrilled to come back to teach at Emmanuel. I taught Business Law, which personally, was a great course for me to teach. It kept my skills sharp and it was different than my day job as a prosecutor. I’ve also been fortunate to be adjunct professor at other schools, and currently I teach a law course at Lasell College.”
Ryan recalls that her most difficult case to date was the 1985 murder of a mother of three.
“We investigated this case for 21 years. It was difficult, and at times disheartening, but we never gave up on finding the killer,” said Ryan. “In 2005, we discovered new evidence leading to an arrest of a suspect. The women’s coworker was charged with her murder. Our work continued as we prosecuted the case, and on June 25, 2007, he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. I then defended that conviction in the Supreme Judicial Court.” Ryan was proud to be able to provide some comfort and solace to the victim’s children by holding their mother’s killer accountable for his actions.
“It is cases like these that are so important to me – cases that seek justice for victims no matter how difficult the search or how much time may pass,” said Ryan.
Ryan is also very involved in the community of domestic violence prevention. She cites Emmanuel’s all female population as having an influence on her activeness in programs for women.
“While attending Emmanuel, I learned about leadership, advocacy and empowerment,” said Ryan. “As the only female District Attorney in Massachusetts, I am committed to creating opportunities for women. Specifically, I want all of our young women to realize their potential and consider careers, particularly in the so-called non-traditional fields for women. “
Some of the programs Ryan has helped bring to Middlesex County are the Empowering Girls program and the Cut It Out program. Empowering Girls is a program for middle and high school students. This program includes judges, lawyers, probation officers, and police officers – all women – who meet with girls to talk about their success forging careers in public service.
The Cut It Out program is national program created by the Professional Beauty Association Foundation in Alabama. Ryan brought this program to Middlesex County in 2009, and so far it has been the only agency that has implemented this domestic violence prevention program in Massachusetts.
One of her more recent endeavors was hosting a college safety symposium at Boston College that addressed sexual violence, dating abuse and stalking on college campuses. The goal of this program was to provide college staff, students and police with the information, resources to address incidents of sexual assaults.
“When I was hired by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office nearly 35 years ago the number of women trying criminal cases was significantly smaller,” Ryan said when asked about challenges in her career due to gender. “One of the challenges all women face is the work – life balance. When my husband and I were raising our two children, we were both working parents. My husband’s job required a lot of traveling when my children were young and that meant I was always on the move to and from court, school, and after school activities. Now, as District Attorney, I am fortunate that my children are older (one is in college and the other is a recent college graduate), so I do not have the same personal demands as I did earlier in my career.”