Des Moines & Transportation Industry Lose Entrepreneurial Pioneer

Feb 14, 2010

February 14, 2010, Des Moines, IA - John Ruan, founder of Ruan Transportation Management Systems (Ruan), passed away on February 13, 2010. Mr. Ruan was born on February 11, 1914 and died at the age of 96.

The employees of Ruan Transportation Management Systems extend their thoughts and sympathies to the Ruan family during this time. His wife, Elizabeth Ruan, and his sons John Ruan III and Thomas Ruan, all of Des Moines, Iowa, survive Mr. Ruan.

"Our family is grieving. We have lost our mentor and dear companion," said John Ruan's son, John Ruan III, Chairman and CEO of Ruan Transportation Management Systems. "My father's influence in the industry and with his employees and customers built the strong foundation for the company that exists today."

John Ruan was a man of considerable impact and influence on a local, national, and international level. His passing is not only a great loss to his family, but also to all of the Ruan companies, the World Food Prize, the city of Des Moines, the state of Iowa, and the transportation industry.

John Ruan was an innovator and a risk-taker. His trademark bow tie and infectious smile were a daily part of life at Ruan. He valued corporate citizenship and was an active leader of many community projects. He had a passion for worthy interests that launched many successful charitable projects and fundraising events that had an impact both locally and globally.

Nationally, Mr. Ruan was well-known for his transportation company. He began in 1932 with only one truck. This small business grew into Ruan Transportation Management Systems, which is now one of the nation's largest transportation management companies.

"John Ruan was a recognized leader in business, education, and community," said Thomas Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "He was the visionary who formed the World Food Prize. But most importantly, he was a man of courage and conviction, a leader who made others stronger and better because they knew him."

John Ruan recognized that hunger and poverty are the most compelling challenges of the modern world. In 1990 he established a foundation that assumed sponsorship of the World Food Prize. The Prize is the foremost international award recognizing individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.

"John knew what the Prize could become. He knew it would be the centerpiece to help solve world hunger and bring glory to Iowa," said Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of The World Food Prize Foundation.

Mr. Ruan has been widely recognized for many of his contributions to industry and humanity. In 1997, the American Trucking Associations' Ruan Transportation Center building was dedicated in Washington, D.C., honoring Mr. Ruan's more than 50 years of service to the transportation industry.

As Chairman and CEO of the Ruan family of companies, Mr. Ruan represented a diversified group of businesses with activities including transportation, commercial banking, financial services, international trading, and real estate development. Ruan Companies owns Bankers Trust Company, the largest independent bank in Iowa.

"In John Ruan's day they called them self-made men-individuals with guts, determination and an ability to anticipate marketplace trends. Today a man like Mr. Ruan would be called an entrepreneur, a visionary. His spirit did not come from seminars or books, but rather life experiences and a belief in himself and the people around him," shared Suku Radia, who met Mr. Ruan in 1975 when Radia was a 23-year-old auditor working for the accounting firm of Peat Marwick Mitchell. Mr. Ruan was a client. Today, some 35 years later, Radia still serves the Ruans, but now as CEO and President of Bankers Trust, which has been owned by the Ruan family since 1964.

An Iowa native, Mr. Ruan was a major contributor in business and the development of the Des Moines metropolitan area. He built the 36-story Ruan Center, the Marriott Hotel and the 14-story Two Ruan Center. He was instrumental in the development of the downtown Des Moines skywalk system, the Des Moines Convention Center and the construction of several city parking structures. Ruan also contributed more than $2 million for the establishment of the Ruan Neurological Center (now the Ruan Rehabilitation Center) and the Ruan Neurology Clinic at Mercy Medical Center.

"John Ruan was a man of vision and impact. He built best-of-class companies; he was the driving force that rebuilt the downtown and forever changed the face of our city; and he improved his world through the development of the World Food Prize," said Steven E. Zumbach, partner with Belin McCormick Attorneys at Law and also a long-time Des Moines community supporter and leader. In addition, he is attorney and friend to Mr. Ruan and the Ruan family.

Mr. Ruan shared his success with his wife, the former Elizabeth Jayne Adams, their children John Ruan III (Janis), Thomas Ruan, Jayne Ruan Fletcher (deceased), six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Condolences may be sent to Ruan Transport Corp., 666 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309. The family asks that donations in memory of Mr. Ruan be sent to the World Food Prize Foundation, 1700 Ruan Center, 666 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309.

Today, as Ruan celebrates its 77th year in business, we reflect on the impact and legacy of our founder, John Ruan. He was an inspirational leader to employees and customers, creating a culture committed to customer satisfaction and community involvement.

For more information on John Ruan's life, please visit The Ruan Companies' tribute site at