Like most home building executives, Frederick, Md., builder Dan Ryan rarely rolls up his sleeves and moves dirt around on jobsites. When he made an exception last fall, it wasn't to help out the crew on a project in one of the six states where Dan Ryan Builders constructs single-family houses and townhomes. Instead, it was to build bleachers for the soccer field at a Dominican Republic orphanage.
"It was the first time I handled a drill and a hammer in a long time," says Ryan of the days he and a group of his friends spent working alongside students from the orphanage and teaching them building skills. "And from what I understand, [the bleachers] are still standing. And the kids have actually built a couple of other bleachers since we've been there, which was exactly what we wanted to accomplish."
Ryan—the winner of BUILDER's 2015 Hearthstone Humanitarian Award—also wanted to keep the trip and a $50,000 donation he made to the orphanage private, a habit that both frustrates and awes his company's corporate brand manager, Sarah Harne.
"You would think I would know about these events to use in a [public relations] capacity," she wrote when nominating the modest 57-year-old for the award. "But Mr. Ryan quietly supports and completes these amazing and impactful works with no fanfare."
Ryan was selected by a panel of top industry leaders with experience in humanitarian outreach: Frank Anton, vice chairman of Hanley Wood (BUILDER's parent company); Mark Porath, CEO of Hearthstone; Bert Selva, CEO of Shea Homes; and Larry Webb, CEO of The New Home Co.
While Ryan might not make a fuss over half a million dollars in donations since 2010, hundreds of staff hours spent on charity work, or his participation on local nonprofit boards and committees, the recipients of those kindnesses do. The Frederick Rescue Mission named its annual fundraising 10-mile road race after Ryan to thank him for being its lead sponsor. And the organization's executive director, Arnold Farlow, lauds the nonprofit's chief benefactor as "generous with his treasure."
That generosity has deep family roots. The son of builder Jim Ryan, who founded Ryland Homes, the younger Ryan was a college freshman when his parents started the Ryan Family Charitable Foundation in 1977. His father, Ryan recalls, "wanted to give back to the communities he was building in," and involved each of his five children in the charity.