Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit mcknightswomenofdistinction.com.

Mary-Alice Ryan headshot
Mary Alice Ryan

Mary Alice Ryan has never been one to hide the light of her long-term care management talents under a bushel basket. She is a pioneer who has made inroads for women in long-term care in many ways — and shared.

A past board chairwoman for LeadingAge (then called the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging), Ryan first became a member of its House of Delegates 38 years ago. In the ensuing years, she has held dozens of positions for the organization (as well as for others). Posts have included board chairwoman; chairwoman of its development corporation, which has placed more than $6 billion in financing U.S. facilities; board treasurer; and member of many commissions.

She also is a past president of LeadingAge Missouri and was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Washington University in St. Louis.

That all circles closer to where Ryan has made her biggest impact: the St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System, or STARSS, in St. Louis. She joined the organization in 1983 as vice president of operations after four years as administrator at The Old Folks Home in St. Louis. The latter was a post she occupied after graduating with a master’s degree in healthcare administration and planning. Now she is president and CEO.

In 1990, Ryan became the first woman to lead STARSS when she was named its president and CEO. The organization grew from a small company with just a handful of employees and service recipients to more than 1,100 workers serving more than 9,000 seniors annually. Ryan’s oversight has included St. Andrew’s properties and its programs, which have included a management and consulting company, and skilled nursing, assisted living, memory care and independent living settings. There’s also HUD affordable senior housing, home health, a geriatric case management program and more.

Over the past 40 years, Ryan has been a mentor to many. She has led while boosting senior services not only in Missouri but also nationally and internationally. Years ago, she became the first recipient of the Award for Excellence in Ageing Services from the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsors are Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Enquire.