George Ranney Sr., a former attorney, steel executive, and member of the University's Board of Trustees, died in Lake Forest Hospital Sunday at the age of 90.
Outside of his achievements in law and business as a partner in the Chicago office of Sidley & Austin and as a vice chairman of Inland Steel Corporation, Ranney was known for his environmental and social activism in and around Chicago.
Ranney was born in Chicago in 1912 and attended Yale University for his B.A. and J.D., but returned to Chicago to join the law firm Sidley & Austin. In 1938, he married the daughter of Edward and Nora Ryerson, long-time university benefactors and founders of the Edward L. and Nora Ryerson lecture series. The marriage marked the union of two great Chicago industry families; Ranney was the son of the chairman of People's Gas, and his wife was the daughter of Inland Steel chairmanand former chair of the University's Board of TrusteesEdward L. Ryerson. The marriage led not only to Ranney's involvement with Inland Steel, but also his involvement with the University, joining the Ryerson family's long-term involvement with the school.
His involvement with social and environmental groups began with the United Way in the 1950s. Later he would chair a city organization that inspired changes in the Cook County juvenile court system, and chair the Commercial Club of Chicago.
Ranney spent many of his later years working to preserve Illinois lands and wildlife. In 1989, Ranney and his late sister, Dorothy Ranney Donnelly, managed to turn over 45,000 acres of dairy land north of Libertyville into a nature preserve, the Liberty Prairie Reserve. He was a central figure behind the Baraboo, Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to the protection of cranes through research, breeding, and public action.
Ranney's son, George Ranney, Jr., J.D. '66, a partner in the Chicago office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw and like his father a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, inherited his father's interest in Chicago. He is the chairman and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020, a project originating within the Commercial Club which serves to examine civic issues and the future of the city. George Ranney Sr. attended the Ryerson lectures annually with his son, who is now on the Unversity's Board of Trustees, as well as being a mentor in the Harris School and a member of its visiting committee.