At Willamette, Ryan Flynn '97 learned value of relationships

by University Communications,

Ryan Flynn ’97 learned at a young age that business success requires hard work and preparation.

At age 11, he devised his first business venture — a lawn mowing, water sealing and furniture staining service called “Mow ‘n’ Hoe.” By creating fliers and advertising his services, he earned the business of five neighbors.

Today, as the vice president and general counsel for Pacific Power, Flynn serves a much larger customer base — providing electricity generation, transmission and distribution to more than 730,000 people in Oregon, Washington and California.

Flynn’s impressive career accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2013, he was recognized among Portland’s “40 Under 40” by the Portland Business Journal — an annual salute to individuals younger than 40 who are making an impact and building influence in Portland’s business community.

“I’ve always aspired to be in a position where I make decisions to benefit people,” Flynn says. “With all of my jobs, I’ve learned to work hard and treasure the relationships I’ve built — not in an agenda-driven way, but through having a genuine interest in what people do.”

Developing Lasting Connections

Even as a high school senior, Flynn recognized the value of relationships — and he knew he would find lasting connections at Willamette University.

“Having grown up in Corvallis (Oregon), I remember looking up to the high school kids who went to Willamette,” he says. “I knew that at a school like Willamette I’d have the ability to establish relationships, not just with my fellow students, but with my professors.”

Once at Willamette, Flynn also developed a network of supportive teammates as a catcher and designated hitter for the Bearcat baseball team.

During his junior and senior year, Flynn was named honorable mention NAIA All-American and All-West Coast as a designated hitter, and was all-league as a sophomore, junior and senior.

When he graduated, he held Willamette’s all-time single season records in hits, doubles and runs. Today, Flynn still holds the Willamette record for doubles in a single season (17 in 1996), and he appears in the record book in four other categories: batting average (.390 for 77 at bats in 1996), runs (40 in 1997), runs batted in (46 in 1997) and home runs (9 in 1997).

Though excelling on the baseball field required a significant time commitment, Flynn was equally dedicated to academic success.

“Ryan showed an earnestness and interest in what he was learning that changed some of my early and unfair assumptions about athletes,” says politics professor Sammy Basu, who served as Flynn’s advisor and mentor. “The athletes themselves put pressure on one another both to be team players and to get their coursework done.”

Flynn says the organizational skills he developed on the baseball team have lasted well beyond his collegiate years.

“Playing at Willamette struck a balance between school and sport — it was competitive, but it didn’t overwhelm other parts of your life, either academically or socially,” he says. “It took learning time management, categorizing and focusing on what had to be done, planning ahead and preparation — which are all skills that I apply now in my career.”

Experiencing the Political Process

Not only did Flynn develop life skills in the classroom and on the baseball field — he also gained on-the-job experience as an intern at the Oregon State Capitol.

In Willamette’s legislative internship course, Flynn — a politics major — used his professors’ connections to obtain a competitive internship. As an intern for Rep. Bob Repine, R-Grants Pass, Flynn wasn’t just doing administrative work — he was meeting people and learning the behind-the-scenes workings of state politics.

“Willamette has had a long and rich relationship with the State Capitol, and generations of our students have benefited from that relationship in the form of substantial internships,” Basu says. “Students find themselves working in legislative offices, communicating with constituents, tracking bills, conducting background research and attending closed-door party meetings.”

Interning at the Oregon State Capitol reaffirmed Flynn’s interest in politics and inspired him to move to Washington, D.C. after graduation — along with his wife Bonnie (Bauer) Flynn ’97.

Once in D.C., he landed a legislative aide position with Rep. Robert F. “Bob” Smith ’53, R-Oregon, and he obtained a law degree from George Washington University.

“Politicians and legislators really decide and write the law, so a law degree opens a lot of doors to careers in public policy,” he says.

Leading the Team

After living and working in Washington, D.C. for nearly seven years, Flynn returned home to the Pacific Northwest, where he worked as an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine and then at Pacific Power.

In 2012, Flynn moved into his current role as vice president and general counsel at Pacific Power, part of PacifiCorp. There, he manages the company’s legal and compliance risk by providing guidance on state and federal regulatory, litigation and company policy matters.

He lives in Lake Oswego, Ore. with his wife and their two sons, Jack, 5, and Nick, 3.

Flynn attributes his success in this leadership role to the teamwork and time-management skills he developed as a Willamette student athlete.

“It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses, but also to understand the team around you,” he says. “I enjoy putting the people on my team into positions to succeed and have the freedom to make difficult decisions.”

• Story by Katie Huber ’13, politics major