In early October, the Ursuline community had the opportunity to hear Hank Phillippi Ryan speak as part of her book tour for her new mystery novel, The Murder List. I’ll admit I did not know much about Ryan before hearing her speak, but I was immediately interested once I read her biography in the advertisement for her talk. Hank Phillippi Ryan has been a highly successful on-air investigative journalist for many years and later began a second career as a mystery novelist. As someone who is interested in journalism and communications, I was very curious about how she got her start since, as she said herself, the field was very male-dominated in the 1970s when she was trying to break in. Her talk provided a lot of insight into her career and also was a very down to earth and entertaining take on life itself.
Overall, I walked away with a deeper sense of confidence and inspiration to follow all my aspirations. Hank Phillippi Ryan is a go-getter who has never let anyone stop her from achieving her dreams. In the hour I listened to her speak, it only took a few minutes to gather that she is probably one of the hardest working people out there, yet she seems to genuinely enjoy what she does. What I personally related to were her stories of her childhood and teen years. While the audience consisted mainly of adults, Ryan still knew how to hold a younger audience as well. She told stories of how she was a quiet kid who was often the odd one out in the small Indiana town where she grew up. More often than not, she could be found reading in her barn, not hanging out with the local kids. Ryan did not fit in with the other kids, and her classmates even voted her “most unique” for their middle school’s superlatives. Ryan stated that she knew this was not something most middle schoolers would take as a compliment, but this did not get her down for too long. She did not let this stop her from following her dreams, a testament of hope to all the teenage kids who may not know where they are going with their lives. Honestly, if Hank Phillip Ryan ever wanted a third career beyond being a broadcast journalist and author, she could be a natural inspirational speaker.
The most inspiring part of Ryan’s story is how she got into broadcast journalism. This was not how she originally planned for her career to go, but she had a change of heart and decided she wanted to break into the field even though she had literally no experience. Of course, the “no experience” thing was not very appealing to potential employers, but Ryan decided to take a chance at a local radio station anyway. The station manager wanted to turn her down even though she was eager to work there, but she knew how to get what she wanted. She pointed out the fact that no women worked there, something which would not look good to outsiders and the station was nearly up for its license renewal by the FCC, which convinced the man to hire her. I’m sure that man was very happy he made the choice he did because Hank Phillippi Ryan is clearly talented at what she does. That humble start led to a long career in broadcast journalism, now as an on-air investigative journalist at Channel 7, which is where most Massachusetts residents will recognize her from.
Ryan’s pattern of making bold decisions did not end there though. She never lost that courage even as she grew up, and in her fifties, she made another daring choice: she decided she wanted to become a mystery writer. She informed the audience that her husband thought she was crazy, but she figured that writing a book could not be that hard, as she had read so many mystery novels. That optimistic outlook and easy-going style, I believe, is where a lot of her success stems from. When she described tasks that would clearly be difficult to accomplish, she never described them as such and instead seemed to begin each new project completely believing she could see it all the way through. Ryan has the utmost confidence in her abilities and that was what she relied on to find her way. Hank Phillippi Ryan is someone anyone of any age can look up to for guidance and inspiration. I can only hope to be as courageous as Hank Phillippi Ryan was at fifty and still is.