By his senior year, Ryan was obviously very popular, said Tom Hall, an economics professor who had him in a class on business cycles.
"There's always some senioritis in the last semester, but he was glad to be there. He had a good attitude about learning," Hall said. "His fellow students liked him a lot. That came across. ... When you are a teacher, you can tell who the other students like."
Hall added, "I just remember thinking this guy would do well in whatever he does."
Ryan was his alma mater's commencement speaker three years ago. He reflected then upon the importance of his time amid Miami's red-brick Georgian buildings after his father's death from a heart attack in 1986.
"I came to Oxford after a very difficult high school experience in which I lost my father," Ryan said. "It was here at Miami where I was able to find myself. I found a sense of direction, and a sense of identity."
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., and Todd Richmond in Janesville, Wis., contributed to this report.
Contact Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell