10 Questions with a Veteran: Sean Ryan
Area Veterans Share Their Story of Service, Relocation to Northeast Indiana
Veterans and military members can find a supportive and thriving community in Northeast Indiana. From resources for veterans and their families to an outstanding place to raise a family, veterans in the region are sharing their perspective about what it’s like to live, work and raise a family in Northeast Indiana.
In our ongoing series “10 Questions with a Veteran”, we will connect with service members from all backgrounds and ages. From reservists to those separated from the military, we will meet local veterans living and working in Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties and learn about their military background and perspective on life and work after service.
First, we will meet Sean Ryan, former Navy Lieutenant and the current Director of the Office of Engagement at Purdue’s Fort Wayne campus.
10 Questions with a Veteran with Sean Ryan
1). Please share your service history, including overseas deployments, as well as your unit and rank.
I was a Lieutenant (O-3) in the Nuclear Power Program when I separated from the U.S. Navy in the early 1990s. At the time, I was serving as an instructor and division officer at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. My role was to train future enlisted power plant operators in reactor principles, heat transfer and machinery theory, while leading a department of other instructors.
2. What skills did you acquire in the service that you hoped to convert into marketable job skills?
My current job is with Purdue University where I am the Director of the Office of Engagement at Purdue’s Fort Wayne campus. In this role, I support economic, workforce and community development initiatives in the 15-county Northeast Indiana region on behalf of Purdue University and Indiana University. However, my first move to Indiana was for a job with Michelin Tire Corporation as an engineer at the BF Goodrich Fort Wayne plant. The marketable skills that I brought with me from the Navy included the ability to lead others, see tasks to completion, be self-reliant, solve problems and adapt to uncertainty. These skills are in addition to the technical knowledge from my Navy training, but probably the most important skill of all – the ability to learn quickly, established a solid foundation for a wide variety of roles throughout my career to include engineering, business development, human resources and manufacturing management.
3. What needs were top-of-mind when it came to deciding on a place to settle down?
My wife was originally from western Pennsylvania and I was from northeast Ohio, so when we decided to separate from the Navy, we knew that we wanted to live somewhere in the Midwest, it was home to us. Beyond that general geography, we were open to locations with the best job opportunities, ultimately landing us in Fort Wayne after a short time in South Carolina. I can honestly say that this has been a great place to raise my two girls, with plenty of family-friendly activities, a reasonable cost of living, good schools, plenty of civic groups and churches to choose from, and most importantly, ample job opportunities for my wife. As a community, Fort Wayne quickly became home to us, even to the point when we were relocated for another position with Michelin, we took an opportunity to move back to Fort Wayne a few years later for another position here. We have stayed for more than 15 years with no plans to move again any time soon.
4. Did the local community in Northeast Indiana, military or otherwise, assist you in your job search in any way?
Other than the initial welcome packet of information, we didn’t get anything in particular to help with the search and transition other than what my company provided. My employer, and my co-workers, were very helpful in connecting us with doctors, dentists, realtors, child care providers and other important services. Most everything else, we found on our own.
5. Were any initial worries or concerns overcome once you moved to Northeast Indiana? Were you concerned about the slower pace of life, for example, but you came to find that you enjoyed it?
My wife and I showed up with a toddler and two full cars on a rainy Sunday evening, never having been here before and not knowing anyone. So, it’s fair to say that we had the standard concerns as to whether or not my job would work out, if we could make friends, if we would find a place to live, what the town would be like. The Navy helped us get used to moving, but this time we didn’t have a ready-made family on a base where we were going. Our transition took time, but we have grown to love the community and all that Northeast Indiana offers.
6. How active are you now in the local military community?
I am still active in the local military community, mainly through the Northeast Indiana Base Community Council and the Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association.
7. How has your family responded to living in Northeast Indiana? Did they receive any outside assistance from community or military groups that made the transition easier?
My family developed a network of friends here and found the community welcoming. Even though our kids are grown now, when we first moved here my wife joined a “mothers of preschoolers” group at a local church and made friends with other moms who were in a similar life situation. Many of them are still friends to this day, so many years later. We also became involved with our girls’ school and our church, which greatly expanded our network of friends around the city.
8. What is your favorite place in Northeast Indiana?
Other than the YMCA, since one of my main hobbies is fitness, my favorite place is downtown Fort Wayne. The River Greenway trails, theaters, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and especially Parkview Field, provide a wide variety of options for entertainment and recreation all year long.
9. What is something about living in Northeast Indiana that surprised you?
We were pleasantly surprised at just how much there is to do within just a few hours’ drive from Fort Wayne. Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus are just a few hours away for those times when we want to experience the “big city.” Lake Michigan and Lake Erie are close enough for summer day or weekend trips to places like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; Kalahari near the Wisconsin Dells; Put-In-Bay, Ohio; or South Haven or Saugatuck, Mich. Local attractions like the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Science Central are handy, too. In the evenings we can watch concerts at the Foellinger or Embassy Theaters, or catch a baseball game at Parkview Field, all within a 15-minute drive from our house. Finally, we were pleasantly surprised with the number of options that we had for higher education in the region.
10. Finally, what do you foresee in Northeast Indiana’s economic future?
I think that the community is making the right moves to grow and thrive into the future. Watching the community grow with numerous employment opportunities, quality of life amenities, and investment in the region has really been exciting. I think that the future is bright and am blessed to be able to experience it firsthand.
This is an ongoing series where we meet with local veterans living and working in Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties to learn about their military background and perspective on life and work after service. Are you a veteran or reservist living or working in Northeast Indiana and want to share your story? Contact us today!