Ryan, Mary (1872/3–1961), professor of Romance languages, was born in Cork, daughter of Edward Ryan, chairman of a soap manufacturing company, of Ronayn's Court, Rochestown, Co. Cork, and his wife Matilda. Two brothers, Sir Thomas Ryan (1879–1934) and Sir Andrew Ryan (1876–1949), held high-ranking positions in the Indian civil service and the British consular service, respectively. A third brother, Finbar Ryan (qv), entered the Dominican order and was appointed as archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Mary was educated at the Ursuline convent, St Angela's, Cork; the Ursuline convent, Berlin; and the Dominican convent, Neuilly-sur-Seine; she was an exhibitioner and gold medallist in the intermediate examinations. She graduated from the RUI at QCC, was appointed junior fellow in modern literature in the RUI (1898–1901), and then became an intermediate examiner in French (1902–8). In 1909 she was appointed a lecturer in German by the then president of UCC, Sir Bertram Windle (qv). A pioneer in women's education, she was one of the first women to be appointed as a professor in the newly established NUI, when she became professor of Romance languages at UCC (1910), which position she held until her retirement in 1939. During her tenure as professor she regularly invited visiting French scholars to speak at the college. These talks eventually formalised (c.1933) into a French Society. Her publications were numerous and she published a notable reaction to a book on Voltaire by the poet Alfred Noyes in Studies (1937). She also had a particular interest in French catholic poets, especially Paul Claudel, about whom she wrote articles in Studies (1953, 1955), and a book, Introduction to Claudel (1950). Other publications include Our Lady's hours: an introduction to the little office of Our Lady (1941, 1946), and Out of the depths: notes on the office of the dead (1942), both of which reflect her deep religious beliefs; and articles of both a religious and academic nature in the Dublin Review, Irish Educational Review, Blackfriars, Month, and Irish Rosary. In 1935 she was awarded the Légion d'honneur by the French government, and in 1952 was awarded an honorary doctorate of literature by the NUI at UCC.
She died 16 June 1961 at her home, ‘Gortalough’, Douglas, Cork, aged 88, and was buried in St Joseph's cemetery, Cork. She never married; her strong catholic faith was expressed by her becoming a tertiary of St Dominic.