Pizza Village Owner John Ryan Prepares for December Graduation

Pizza Village Owner John Ryan Prepares for December Graduation

MOUNT OLIVE- A college degree can signify something completely different to each graduate from the University of Mount Olive. For some, it’s a leap into the big world waiting for them outside of the classroom, and for others it’s an opportunity for a promotion. But for some, like John Ryan, a college education marks a complete transformation and a personal statement of perseverance.

Ryan’s life journey led him from being a high school dropout to become a successful business owner and college student.

“My father was in an accident, and my family needed the money to stay afloat. So, I dropped out of Richland High School at age 16,” Ryan recalled. “Then I went to Coastal Community College, and at the time there were no requirements for the GED other than passing a standardized test. So, I took the test and went to work.” Later, Ryan transferred to Wayne Community College, but never fulfilled the requirements for an associate’s degree.

Meanwhile, Ryan was juggling numerous jobs in order to support his family. He worked at Harris Teeter in Jacksonville, Pizza Village in Beulaville, and as a construction laborer.

His hard work paid off, and in 2003 Ryan was promoted to general manager of Pizza Village over locations in Mount Olive, Warsaw, Beulaville, Freemont, Nashville, and Burgaw. Things started looking up for Ryan and soon he was offered an opportunity that he couldn’t refuse.

“Pizza Village owners Ronald and Mary Nobles offered me the chance to purchase the Mount Olive restaurant, and I took it,” said Ryan. “The chance to own my own business was a no brainer. The whole experience has been fraught with unpredictable challenges and successes.”

Even though he was operating his own successful business, Ryan desired to return to school and prove to himself that he could earn a degree. After watching his wife juggle family life, work, and classes at UMO, Ryan was inspired to give it a try.

“My wife Deanna finished her ECE degree from the University of Mount Olive in 2011, and we had a baby on the way at the time. I was working between 60 and 70 hours a week, but I wanted to try and move forward with my college education. I needed a flexible schedule, so the nontraditional program was a perfect fit.”

Ryan enrolled at UMO is the summer of 2012 and attended classes at the evening college and online. Ryan decided to major in both criminal justice and psychology and later switched to the traditional program in order to receive more face-to-face interaction with professors and students.

Despite running a restaurant while pursuing a degree, Ryan has capitalized on some of the many opportunities available at UMO. He is involved with Supplemental Instruction, Future Leaders and Graduate Student Association, PSI CHI, Psychology Club, and the Sociology Law and Justice Association. Ryan has also presented research at the Southern Sociological Society in Greensboro, at the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association in Raleigh, and at the Social Sciences Research Symposium.

“The bottom line is that the University of Mount Olive is defined by their faculty. It is precisely their enthusiasm, their little eccentricities, and their experiences that meld to form a well rounded body of subject matter experts and an eclectic delivery system for practical application of the material,” said Ryan. “UMO strengthened my ability to communicate effectively, to work with diverse groups of people toward common goals, and to be passionate about learning.”

Outside of work and school, Ryan is active in the community through various organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Teen Court, and Parks and Recreation. On weeknights, Ryan teaches mixed martial arts at a local martial arts school in Mount Olive under the guidance of Grand Master, Dr. Lyndon Johnson. Ryan took up studying martial arts so that he could spend time with his children engaged in a challenging activity that they all enjoy.

After graduation on December 19, Ryan has his sights set on attending law school and eventually earning his doctorate. His overall ambition is to provide counseling, mediation, and advocacy for the underprivileged, while still owning and operating Pizza Village.

Ryan resides in Mount Olive with his wife Deanna and three children, Ethen, Kaylee, and Charlotte.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit