For close to four centuries, the Mid-Shore has debated the pros and cons of “Come Heres” by the “From Heres.” Harking back to when white settlers were starting to arrive in Maryland in the 1600s, there has been a longstanding caution by those born in the five-county region to outsiders moving into their communities.
While this historic impulse is now mostly the subject of good humor, the dynamic can still have an edgy side when it comes to politics, culture and the inevitable impact on home values and property tax assessments.
But to its credit, the Mid-Shore is also well aware of the extraordinary positives that come with the “new” people. And one of those clearly in the case of philanthropy. With such extraordinary examples as the W. Alton Jones family and more recently, the late Jim Clark, generations of “Come-Heres” have been instrumental in the creation and ongoing support of museums, schools, hospitals, and countless other civic needs.
That’s important information to remember as the Eastern Shore experiences an unprecedented surge of Come-Heres, well, coming here. Even before the COVID pandemic fundamentally changed both life and work for many, the Mid-Shore, with its proximity to three major American cities, was seeing a wave of former urbanites calling Dorchester, Kent, or Talbot Counties their primary home of residence.
One of those new “Come Heres” is Bill Ryan. A native of Pittsburgh, Bill makes no secret that he has come from a very privileged background. The grandson of a mining engineer who made a fortune inventing the first hardhat with a light built into it, Bill has enjoyed the kind of upper-class life that included private schools, professional success, and such recreational pursuits as sailing.
And sailing was a major co-factor in Bill and his wife moving to Talbot County eight years ago. Both long-time professors at Penn State, the semi-retired couple were not only eager to enjoy life on the Chesapeake Bay but also to give back to the community.
In his Spy interview, Bill talks about his roots, his family’s influence in wanting to give back, and his unique role as Chair of Building African-American Minds (BAAM) in Easton.
Following in the footsteps of Clark, Bill Hunter, and Dickie Firth, Bill was keen to support the work of founders Derick and Dina Daly with capital investments to expand programming, the building of an athletic center, and now heading up a capital campaign for BAAM’s new academic center.
The Spy spoke with Bill at the Spy Studio a few weeks ago in Easton.