Ryan’s views influenced by time at Miami University

Fraternity brother, professor recall Ryan's college days
Ryan’s views influenced by time at Miami University

Paul Ryan’s first venture into politics was when he was the student representative on the Janesville School Board while attending Craig High School.

But as his old friends and mentors explain, a national office might have been on his mind even then.

From his Milwaukee art studio, Chip Gianakos is far from the Oxford, Ohio, school where he studied finance.

The Miami University degree did him well for the decades he worked in the corporate world. But Gianakos decided last year that he wanted to create industrial art using circuit boards.

He said it wasn’t the career path he pictured.

“If you asked me what I would be doing 20 years ago, I wouldn’t say making fine industrial art,” Gianakos said.

Paul Ryan’s formative years

But Gianakos said Ryan, his old fraternity brother, knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“He said, and I can remember it like it was yesterday, he will be president. Not, ‘I want to be president.’ But, ‘I will be president,'” Gianakos recalled.

The two met at Miami University in 1988 and pledged Delta Tau Delta together.

“We were the very popular, well-known, athletic house,” said Gianakos.

Four years together and a party at Ryan’s Aspen family home stand out in Gianakos’ mind. Otherwise, Gianakos said Paul spent most his time studying for a political science degree.

“Paul was reserved in a lot of ways, and when it came to social settings, while I wouldn’t call him a nerd, he kept to himself, almost as if he knew his actions then might control his future,” Gianakos said.

Despite being in a fraternity, an outdoorsman and fitness fanatic, Gianakos said Ryan was anything but popular. Rather, his commitment to the classroom at Miami University and a particular relationship with a professor helped shape his political philosophy and put him on his civic path.

“We are good friends,” said Richard Hart, who is a decades-long Miami University economics professor.

Hart said he met Ryan his junior year.

“My close connection came with Paul during office hours,” Hart said.

Not to talk grades or theories, but rather Hart said he and Ryan would talk about political philosophy and economic policy. In particular, they discussed the work of Nobel Prize winners F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, whose free-market thinking is in line with Ryan’s proposed budget plan, “The Path to Prosperity.”

“We clearly need to reform the tax code. We need to slow the growth in government spending. We need to reform these entitlement programs to prevent us from having this debt crisis and again, his program, ‘The Path to Prosperity,’ is designed to solve those problems,” Hart said.

Hart called Ryan a man of ideas and wisdom and said he got a lot of his beliefs through family and growing up. Yet, Hart admitted that he played a part in Ryan’s political thinking.

“Maybe where I helped was when we had discussions about economic policy,” Hart said.

Ryan’s policy ideas would earn him positions as an aide, a staff economist and then a seat in the House of Representatives six years after graduation.

Now, his name is on the national ticket making old fodder among friends a reality for Ryan.

“Really the most important thing is when he said he was going to be president, we didn’t believe it, and now he’s going to get the last laugh,” Gianakos said.