In memoriam: Former Wagner Dean

Marita Vlachou

William Ronan, a former professor and Dean at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and first chairman of the MTA, died on Oct. 15. He was 101.

In addition to his work at Wagner and with the MTA, Ronan worked as the personal secretary of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1958. He also served as a chairman in Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1974.

Sherry Glied, the current dean of Wagner, said Ronan demonstrated the vital role that NYU plays in providing skills for leaders in city and state government.

“William Ronan was an ‘engaged scholar’ — an example of the individual described by Theodore Roosevelt as ‘the man in the arena,’” Glied said. “A leader willing to engage in making policies and decisions that shape our lives.”

Glied added that Ronan earned the respect of major political figures through his work at NYU.

“Ronan’s career as a faculty member and Dean at NYU was the basis for his appointment to high level positions by Mayor Wagner and Governor Rockefeller,” Glied said.

His achievements as chairman of the MTA include helping to accommodate transportation between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by setting up the Tri-State Regional Transportation Commission and the laying of the groundwork for the creation of the Metro-North Railroad by acquiring the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines. Ronan crafted the deal to purchase the Long Island Rail Road on behalf of Gov. Rockefeller.

In an MTA press release published on Oct. 17, MTA chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said Ronan was an important figure in the public transportation industry.

“His vision of how an integrated transportation system can improve the region, and his skill in turning that vision into reality, have made life better for millions of our customers every day,” Prendergast said. “We at the MTA send our deepest condolences to his family, and remember his service fondly.”

In addition, Glied said Ronan made major contributions to Wagner not only by enhancing the school’s reputation, but also attracting students and faculty.

“His work continues to this day in the Wagner School, through our graduates who work in urban planning and through the research conducted at the Wagner School’s

Rudin Center for Transportation,” Glied said.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 22, print edition.  Email Maritia Vlachou at [email protected]

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