- - Wednesday, August 15, 2012

OXFORD, OHIO — Rep. Paul Ryan received a warm reception from his alma mater Wednesday, returning to Miami University in Ohio for the first time since joining the Republican ticket last week as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate.

Mr. Ryan is a 1992 graduate of the school in this classic college town in the southwestern part of the state. He would be the school’s first graduate in the White House in 120 years, when Republican Benjamin Harrison (Miami 1852) and running mate Whitelaw Reid (Miami 1856) went down to defeat in Harrison’s re-election bid against Democrat Grover Cleveland. The 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman has often credited his college years for developing his conservative philosophy and his commitment to public service.

“I think this is huge for Miami University,” said Baylor Myers, chairman of the school’s College Republicans chapter as he waited for Mr. Ryan’s campaign rally to begin.

Paul Ryan has now become one of our most notable alumni. As a College Republican, I have followed his career for years and his leadership is truly exceptional,” he said.

Even Laura Kretz, president of Miami’s College Democrats, acknowledged it was “very exciting that [Mr. Ryan is] a Miami alum.”

“It gives our school attention and gives Miami a great name. I wish he could have visited when school was in session because I know plenty of College Democrats who would have gone. All Miamians should be proud, no matter who you believe.”

Mr. Ryan, introduced by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman, bounded on to the stage Wednesday in full campaign mode, saying it was “good to be back on campus” and joking about his preferred order at the local Skyline Chili chain.

He wasted little time in going after the Democrats, accusing President Obama of being “out of ideas” and of trying to run a campaign of “anger and division.”

The reception wasn’t entirely friendly — with a dozen or so protesters among those in attendance. The demonstrators faulted the Romney-Ryan ticket for what they said were policies outsourcing U.S. jobs and cutting social programs, chanting at one point, “Hands off Medicare.”

Mr. Ryan spent his Miami days as a volunteer for College Republicans and was an active member of his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.

Mr. Ryan decided to major in political science and economics and compiled a strong academic record in his classes. Conservative thinkers like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich Hayek became the pillars of his economic philosophy.

Miami University economics professor Dr. Thomas Hall remembers the young Mr. Ryan as being “intelligent, hardworking and unusually articulate for someone his age.”

The economist had Mr. Ryan his senior year in an upper-level economics course studying business cycles.

Mr. Hall said, “Paul was a very good student, one of the best in the class. He had a positive attitude toward learning and was always happy to be in my class.”

“The core beliefs were already there,” Miami professor Rich Hart told the Associated Press on Tuesday of his former pupil. “I think he was just honing them with his studies, strengthening his belief in empowering individuals.”

The last time Mr. Ryan visited Miami University was in 2009 when he delivered the schools commencement address. According to the Associated Press, he spoke of his time at the school finding his bearings after the unexpected death of his father from a heart attack in 1986, two years before he matriculated.

“I came to Oxford after a very difficult high school experience in which I lost my father,” Mr. Ryan said. “It was here at Miami where I was able to find myself. I found a sense of direction and a sense of identity.”

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