John Ruan III Obituary

John  Ruan III
John Ruan III

May 10, 1943 - September 11, 2021
Born in Des Moines, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa
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Following a prolonged illness, John Ruan III passed away on September 11.

Mr. Ruan was born on May 10, 1943 in Des Moines to John and Rose (Duffy) Ruan. His mother died at child birth, and he was raised by John Ruan Sr. and his second wife, Elizabeth, to whom he was devoted. He attended schools in Des Moines and Culver Academy in Indiana, and graduated from Northwestern University and the program for management development at Harvard University. After graduating from Northwestern, he served as a Navy Seabee during the Vietnam War. Mr. Ruan joined the family businesses in 1953 washing trucks and ultimately guided them to record growth and success. Those businesses included:

• Ruan Transportation Management Systems, which employs over 5,500 team members operating a nationwide fleet of nearly 14,000 trucks and trailers;

• Bankers Trust, the largest privately owned community bank in the state, with over $5 billion in assets, operating from its home office in Des Moines, with branches in Cedar Rapids, Phoenix, Arizona, Omaha, Nebraska and Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and,

• Ruan Incorporated, which manages the Ruan office building complex in downtown Des Moines.

In addition to those business leadership positions, Mr. Ruan served as Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and also served as Chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation for two decades. Under his leadership and guidance, the annual $250,000 award for combating hunger in the world, funded by the John Ruan Foundation Trust, came to be recognized globally as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”

Of special note was John Ruan III’s vision for transforming the century old Des Moines Public Library Building into the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. To an overflowing crowd at the Greater Des Moines Civic Center in October, 2001, he announced a $5 million Ruan Family gift to launch the capital campaign for the project. When it opened in 2011, the Hall of Laureates became a spectacular centerpiece of the Principal Riverwalk; its garden serving as an “urban oasis” of flowers and greenery in the city center.

Over several decades, Mr. Ruan and his wife, Janis, spearheaded Des Moines beautification efforts in numerous other ways, including conceiving of and financing the plan to plant gardens in the medians along Fleur Drive between the airport and downtown, thereby creating a spectacular entryway into downtown. They subsequently added large planters along downtown sidewalks, creating a linkage to the riverfront development.

In addition, under John and Janis's leadership their family supported the Waterworks Park Redevelopment Project, the major renovation and expansion of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the Lauridsen Skate Park and the Robert Ray Asian Garden, all part of the Riverwalk development. As a special tribute to their parents, their children John Ruan IV and Rachel Ruan McLean, surprised their Mother and Father, by having the classic English garden at the Hall of Laureates named the Janis and John Ruan III Public Garden.

Mr. Ruan was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame in 2012 and was named one of Central Iowa‘s “25 Most Influential Business Leaders“ by the Des Moines Business Record every year the list has been in existence. In 2019, he was chosen as a Sage Over 70.

John Ruan III’s Community involvement also included his serving on the boards of Hubbell Realty, the Iowa Business Council, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Downtown Community Alliance, the national Chief Executive Organization and Castle Pines Golf Club. He was a Trustee of the Culver Educational Foundation and was Past Chairman of the Des Moines Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Greater Des Moines YMCA.

As chairman of the John Ruan Foundation Trust, Mr. Ruan had overseen an array of philanthropic support to arts, culture and civic projects. The Ruan family was presented with the Bravo Award by the BRAVO Greater Des Moines organization in 2011. In 2012 he and his wife Janis were honored with the Des Moines Register’s annual Iowa Star Award.

In his spare time, John was extremely active and maintained many hobbies, which varied depending on the season. He was a member of the Sundown Club, where he loved to duck hunt with his closest friends. He was an avid golfer and relished entertaining friends and colleagues at the Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado. And throughout his life, most weekends in the fall revolved around football. Whether he was in Ames, Iowa City, Arrowhead Stadium, Soldier Field, or his beloved alma mater in Evanston, Illinois, the outcome of the game was far less important than having fun with all his friends and family at the tailgate party.

John also had a passion for history, with a bookshelf full of histories and biographies, and he took great pleasure in traveling with Janis throughout the world to see as many historic and fascinating destinations as possible. He was always up for a new adventure. However, his most cherished times were relaxing at home and having dinner with his close-knit family, grilling on his Weber in the back yard.

Mr. Ruan is survived by his wife of 50 years, Janis; their two children, John Ruan IV (Alison), and Rachel McLean (Ben); and grandchildren, Abigail, John, Catherine, Jack and Emma.

He was preceded in death by his sister, Jayne (Ruan) Fletcher; and his brother, Thomas.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations in honor of John Ruan III be directed to The World Food Prize Foundation.

A celebration of life will be held at Wakonda Club on Friday, September 17 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.





Celebration of Life
Wakonda Club
3915 Fleur Drive
Des Moines, IA USA 50321
Friday, September 17, 2021
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM


World Food Prize Foundation
1700 Ruan Center
Des Moines, IA 50309