Walter Harrington Ryle III was
born near Yates in Howard County, MO on June 1, 1896, and was raised in the
Yates neighborhood, but across the county line in Randolph County. The
eldest son of Walter H “Harry” and Kate (Stark) Ryle, he was educated in
local rural schools then enrolled at the First District Normal School where
he earned the 90-hour diploma and a state teaching certificate (1916).
Ryle’s first professional
position was high school principal, then superintendent of schools, in
Clifton Hill, MO. He left there to serve a year of active duty in the US
Army during World War I and after receiving his discharge, once again
enrolled at the Normal to earn a BS in Education. He was a member of the
first class to graduate after the Normal became Northeast Missouri State
Teachers College in 1919.
Ryle resumed his career in
secondary school administration at Palmyra and Holden, MO, until he had
completed his Master of Arts at George Peabody College for Teachers,
Nashville (1927). He then joined the Social Science faculty at Northeast to
teach history and geography. He was named Professor of Social Sciences in
1930 and a bit later took on added duties as Director of the Bureau of
Placements. He continued these two positions until 1937, taking a
sabbatical to return to Peabody for his PhD (1930).
When President Eugene Fair died
unexpectedly in 1937, the Board of Regents appointed Ryle his successor. He
took office August 31 and for the next 30 years led the College through
tremendous growth in enrollment and academic programs as well as additions
to and beautification of the campus acreage and buildings. He retired and
was awarded the title of President Emeritus on February 1, 1967.
Ryle was active in the American
Historical Association, the National Education Association, the American
Association of School Administrators and numerous other professional
organizations on the state and national levels. He contributed frequently
to the Missouri Historical Review and other journals and was author
of several books, including Missouri: Union or Secession (1931),
The Geography of Missouri (1936), The Story of Missouri (1938),
The Centennial History of the First Baptist Church of Kirksville
(1968) and The Centennial History of Northeast Missouri State Teachers
He also took active roles in
various organizations outside the academic community, including Missouri
National Guard, the Masonic Order and Rotary International, but one of his
first loves was the Boy Scouts of America. He became a Scout Master in 1917
and remained a leader at local and state levels for the rest of his life.
The Great Rivers Council awarded him a bronze medal for “50 years of devoted
leadership” in 1967.
His academic honors included
memberships in Kappa Delta Pi and Phi Delta Kappa, and an LLD from
Kirksville College of Osteopathy and Surgery. His permanent memorials on
campus include Walter H Ryle Hall, a residence hall completed and named for him
in 1962, and his portrait in the Presidents Gallery.
Walter Ryle and Maurine Adell Lea
married June 7, 1927 in Clifton Hill, MO. They had one son, Walter
Harrington IV, a long-time member of the Northeast faculty. President Ryle
suffered a heart attack and died October 30, 1978 in a Kirksville hospital.
He was buried next to his wife at Maple Hills Cemetery.