David Garriot Ryans, educational psychologist and researcher, was born on July 29, 1909, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to John Byron and Carrie Maude (Griffith) Ryans. He graduated from Jeffersonville High School in 1927. Five years later he received his B.A. in psychology and philosophy from De Pauw University. Upon completion of an M.A. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota in 1933, he accepted a position as an instructor of psychology and director of testing at Eveleth Junior College in Minnesota. Concurrently, he began doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota and in 1937 received his Ph.D. in educational psychology and general psychology. From 1937 through 1939 Ryans was dean of faculty and professor of psychology at William Woods College. Except for service in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 as officer in charge of achievement testing, Ryans worked for the American Council on Education from 1939 to 1948, first as executive secretary and later as director of the National Teacher Examinations, an affiliation that led to his greatest contributions to education. In 1948 he became professor of educational psychology and research at the University of California in Los Angeles. With funding provided in part by the William T. Grant Foundation, Ryans coordinated a ground-breaking research study into the characteristics of teachers for the American Council on Education. When he joined the University of Texas as chairman and professor of educational psychology in 1958, he had received international acclaim as a result of his studies of teacher characteristics. In Austin he completed and published his book Characteristics of Teachers (1960). At the time, this book provided the most comprehensive research-based description of teachers available; it paved the way for later empirical research of teacher characteristics and behavior. Ryans's energetic style of leadership and commitment to research helped move the department of educational psychology at UT into greater involvement with issues of national concern. Ryans left the University of Texas in 1961 to lead development of computer-directed instruction for Systems Development Corporation. From 1964 to 1973 he worked at the University of Hawaii as director of its newly founded Educational Research Center. During this time he continued as a member of the national advisory committee for the University of Texas Research and Development Center for Teacher Education. Ryans remained at Hawaii until his retirement in 1974. He then returned to the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 as a visiting professor to present revisions of his teacher-characteristics study to graduate seminars. Ryans served as president of the American Educational Research Association and the Educational Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. He served on several editorial boards, including the Review of Educational Research, the Journal of Teacher Education, and the Journal of Educational Psychology. He was the principal author of more than 180 publications. He married Rosann Greco on August 5, 1935. They had two children. Ryans retired from educational research after 1975 and lived in Poway, California, until his death on August 16, 1986.
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Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1978–79
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Ryans, David Garriot,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 01, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
June 1, 1995