Marty Ryan of Wells, a longtime southern Maine athletic director and influential advocate for interscholastic athletics statewide, died on Friday. He was 73.

The Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which Ryan served as executive director for 32 years, confirmed his death, as did his son, Tim.

Marty Ryan at his induction into the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame in 2011 Photo courtesy of Tim Ryan

Beyond his work in statewide interscholastic sports, Ryan was athletic director for high school sports in Wells and Kennebunk for a combined 29 years, and was named Athletic Director of the Year in 2005 by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“My dad devoted his life’s work to the educational and athletic development of high school students and he took great pleasure in developing relationships with his athletic administrator colleagues in the state of Maine and across the country,” Tim Ryan, director of athletics at Bowdoin College, said in a statement Sunday. “Those relationships meant the world to him and the outpouring of support our family has received over the last couple of days is greatly appreciated and a compliment to the man and administrator he was.”

Gerry Durgin, the current executive director of the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, mourned Ryan as a tireless, relentlessly professional advocate for interscholastic athletics, as well as a personal friend.

“He’s an icon in athletic administration in our state. He’s a gentleman and a professional,” Durgin said in an interview Sunday, adding that Ryan promoted not only sports organizations but the individuals who made them tick.

Durgin worked with Ryan for years in athletic leagues, driving all over the state for events and taking personal time to go fishing on off-days. He called the late director a “very caring person.”

Ryan “worked hard to make you feel like you were important, and took the needs and feelings of others to heart,” Durgin said, adding that he was “always willing to be a friend, but always willing to do whatever it took to do the right thing.”

Tim Ryan also remembered fly-fishing with his father on Maine rivers, an experience that shaped his own love of sports and his career as an athletic director.

“We spent a lot of time in the rivers of Maine together, talking mostly about fly-fishing, but certainly about high school and college athletics as well,” Tim Ryan said. “He instilled a belief in the valuable role athletics can play within a community in me and I couldn’t have asked for a better father, mentor and friend.”

The MIAAA issued a statement Saturday night on Ryan’s death: “The Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association grieves today with the news of the passing of our former Executive Director Martin Ryan. Marty’s impact upon Maine high school athletics has been substantial throughout his illustrious career.”

Other Maine institutions celebrated Ryan’s life on social media over the weekend.

“Marty Ryan was everywhere in Maine athletics for years and years and it is sad to think that he is gone,” Bill Green, a retired Maine broadcast reporter, said on Twitter Saturday. “A great guy.”

The Maine Sports Hall of Fame hailed Ryan’s work on numerous boards and committees at the state and national levels, and remembered him as “a great contributor to Maine athletics.”

Raised in Baldwinville, Massachusetts, Ryan showed an early interest in sports at Narragansett High School. He later taught at his alma mater, and began coaching football, basketball and baseball.

Ryan arrived in Wells in 1980, serving as athletic director there for two decades until moving on to Kennebunk High School. He retired in 2009, but kept up his statewide duties with the MIAAA, and also served on the NIAAA’s nationwide wrestling committee.

At the time of his retirement, Ryan said he hoped to build a mentorship program for young athletic directors.

“An AD knows what another AD is going through,” he said at the time. “We’re hoping to have an older AD assigned to a younger AD. I hope to do some consulting to help a younger AD get through the first semester, or first year. Those are the kinds of things I’d like to do.”

In 2011, the NIAAA inducted Ryan into its hall of fame, a crowning achievement for his efforts to promote interscholastic sports.

“I am incredibly proud, like most sons, of my father’s professional accomplishments,” Tim Ryan said on Sunday. “He reached the pinnacle in his profession with his induction into the NIAAA Hall of Fame in 2011 and to celebrate that achievement with his family in Indianapolis was something he always cherished.”

He also remained a fixture on the Maine wrestling scene, serving as a regional and state meet director for many years. In 2018, as Ryan retired from the MIAAA, the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame inducted him as a member of its class of that year.

“It’s really an honor,” Ryan said at the time. “It’s a real honor to be recognized for the work we’ve done for a long time in Maine. I realize that (making a) hall of fame comes with longevity, but I respect that a great deal. It’s been a love of mine to be managing wrestling tournaments.”

At the time of his death, Ryan was living with his wife of 51 years, Judy, in the home they had shared in Wells for 42 years.

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