Nancy Ryles was born in Portland, Oregon in 1937. She graduated from Jefferson High School and attended one year at Willamette University. In 1957 she married Vernon Ryles, they had two children, Scott and Ashley.
She began her political career on the Beaverton School Board in 1972 and was reelected in 1975. In 1978 she ran as a Republican for the Oregon Legislature, served two terms in the House of Representatives and then was twice elected to the Senate. In 1987 she resigned from the Senate to become the first woman appointed to Oregon’s Public Utility Commission.
Joan C. Johnson, a graduate of Portland State University and a freelance writer, managed Ryles' successful campaign for the Beaverton School Board in 1972 and her first campaign for the Oregon House in 1978. Johnson worked with Ryles as her aide through two legislative sessions, and continued to collaborate with her throughout Ryles' political career.
Some of Ryles' legislation included a 1981 bill mandating public kindergartens in Oregon. She worked throughout her Senatorial career as part of the Senate Task Force on ‘death with dignity’ legislation, but was unable to pass the bill during her tenure; the legislation later succeeded in early 1994 after her death. Ryles was appointed to the Education Commission of the States, an interstate, nonprofit, nonpartisan group, during her tenures in both House and Senate.
In July, 1990, Ryles learned she had a brain tumor and that her life expectancy was months. In tribute to her, her friends Leslie Emery, Joan Johnson, and Jean Morton began The Friends of Nancy Ryles and organized the Nancy Ryles Scholarship. The scholarship was designed for women whose education had been interrupted and who wished to return to college to earn a degree. As of fall 2010, 28 women have received scholarship assistance. The award amount has increased from $5,000 annually to $6,000 in 2005 to $7,500 in fall of 2010. The scholarship is renewable over four years or until the student earns her Bachelor’s degree.
On September 12, 1990, Nancy Ryles died of cancer. Joan Johnson works as a freelance writer.
The Joan Johnson Papers are comprised of four folders of material all related to Nancy Ryles’ time in the Oregon State Senate. This includes Ryles’ correspondence, work supporting aid-in-dying legislation, ephemera, and some of her speeches from the period.
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This collection is arranged alphabetically by folder title.
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