If Sam Marble helped lay the groundwork for SVSU, Jack M. Ryder helped build much of the foundation for the university as it stands today.
Ryder, previously the chief executive officer for the combined Indianapolis operations of Indiana University and Purdue University, came to an institution whose campus consisted largely of Wickes Hall, some housing facilities, and the southernmost campus structures that now house operations such as SVSU’s University Police and post office. When Ryder left after 15 years, that list of facilities grew to include Pioneer Hall, Brown Hall, Zahnow Library, the original Science Building, the Arbury Fine Arts Center, the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Gallery and the athletics facility named after him, Ryder Center.
Ryder is credited with helping establish the university’s identity as a 4-year institution. Some in the public perceived the school as a junior college — a problem Ryder attempted to combat within months of his arrival by simple wordage. At the time, SVSU was known as Saginaw Valley College. Ryder successfully campaigned to change the school’s name to Saginaw Valley College and, years later, to its current moniker. Ryder, now retired and living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, also is credited with improving the university’s international programs.