Tanner to receive first Distinguished Alumni award Friday night during Night to Dream Big Gala

Ryan Jude Tanner

Ryan Jude Tanner | Photo courtesy of Quincy Public Schools Foundation

QUINCY – Ryan Jude Tanner will receive the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award during the Night to Dream Big Gala on Friday, Nov. 4 at the Ambiance.

The Night to Dream Big Gala is the largest fundraising event in the Quincy Public Schools Foundation’s annual campaign, which was launched Sept. 14 and runs through Jan. 13. The fundraising goal is $200,000. This year’s Dream Big campaign is chaired by QHS alumni Todd and Michelle Moore from the Class of 1982.

The event, which begins at 6 p.m., offers a cocktail hour, dinner, live and silent auction, cash raffle sponsored by Architechnics and musical entertainment by the local band Gypsy Tango Foxtrot.

Tanner is receiving the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award for his many accomplishments as an award-winning Broadway veteran and local business owner.

Tanner, a 1997 graduate of Quincy High School, and his husband, Jay Krottinger, own Tanninger Companies, a collection of holdings that includes ventures in hospitality, real estate, entertainment and health care. They live in Tulsa, Okla.

Tanninger Companies owns The Patio Restaurant & Elkton Hotel, and it co-owns the Fifth Infantry Armory, which recently was renovated as an events space.  The company also is renovating the former Illinois State Bank building at Sixth and Hampshire into a 36-room boutique hotel.

Tanner is candid about the obstacles he overcame during his childhood to avoid perpetuating a cycle of poverty and abuse.

“I grew up in trailer parks and the projects,” he said in a press release. “My mother was pregnant at 14 and had me at 15.  She was completely unprepared for the responsibilities of being a single parent. There are probably so many other ‘Ryans’ out there who didn’t necessarily hit the family or financial jackpot when they were born, but one of the differences for me was having educators and administrators along the way who went above and beyond, far outside of the scope of what they were hired to do.”

Tanner remembers many instances of teachers in his life working to teach and guide him while also making him feel accepted. One story involved his third-grade teacher, Sandra Root.

“Mrs. Root helped me buy geraniums and planted them with me at my house,” Tanner said. “I remember my mom being so happy and joyful when she saw the flowers. She was an alcoholic, and she didn’t know Mrs. Root had helped me. She didn’t know I had that person looking out for me.

“The list goes on and on. I have so many memories of support coming from the teachers and staff at the schools. School was, for me, a social services organization that held my hand and pushed me and pulled me through the process to make sure I was safe and had the best opportunities that anyone could have graduating out of QPS.”

Tanner also recalled Ann Tierney, a former administrator in the public schools.

“I had a hard time finding my way,” he said. “I was bullied for everything. I am bi-racial, and I was never black or white enough. I was terrible at sports. Shy. Afraid of my own family. I remember Ann Tierney always taking time for me and looking out for me.”

Kathi Dooley and Dan Sherman from the music department were other mentors whose influences went far beyond the walls of a classroom for Tanner.

“I was a choir student learning from Kathi Dooley, starting in the fifth grade,” he said. “She was a huge, important part of my life. My mom was physically abusive, and it was Kathi who convinced me finally that I had to get out that situation. She went to court with me and held my hand through the whole process.”

His involvement with the music department was a major factor in his social development.

“I was too shy to audition for musical or ‘New Faces.’ I also have a terrible voice,” Tanner said with a laugh. “But they always found a place for me, because they knew how important it was that I had a safe place after school. They made me feel like I mattered. I remember Dan Sherman teaching me how to tie a tie and Kathi making sure I was on time and teaching me how to talk to people and approach people — things many people learn from their families.

“Getting to feel as normal as other kids as possible made all the difference in my life. They looked out for me, and I know that they have looked out for so many others.”

After being the first person in his family to earn his high school diploma, Tanner first attended John Wood Community College. He then graduated from Illinois College, where he earned his degree in political science.

“Thinking about the QPS Foundation and being picked for this honor, I feel like there would be no Ryan Tanner without QPS and the people who make up this institution who ensured that someone like me who has all the odds stacked against them still has access to the best opportunities,” Tanner said. “I am aware I have surpassed any and all expectations, and I owe so much of that to not just the teachers but to also the people in Quincy who support the foundation and support the schools.”

Tickets for the Night to Dream Big Gala are $75/individual and $550/table of eight. A link to purchase the tickets is at qpsfoundation.org. Tickets may be bought by calling the foundation office at 217-228-7112.

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