Ryan McKeel

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Ryan McKeel '98 — Above the Blue and Windy Sea

For this energetic alumnus, communication is the critical tool in keeping the cure for AIDS top of mind

By Donna Parker


Ryan McKeel                                 From left to right: Reporter Hank Plante, Photographer Rick Villaroman, and Ryan McKeel. The photo was taken June 7, 2012.

Ryan McKeel has a big job. As director of marketing and communications for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Ryan oversees media relations, internal and external communications, social media outreach, marketing, advertising, and all public health campaigns and forums. On top of that, he writes speeches for the CEO.

"It is our mission to keep the AIDS conversation moving forward," Ryan says. He recently helped grow the organization's Facebook fans from only 500 to nearly 25,000.

"We are one of the largest, most respected AIDS service organizations in the world," Ryan says. "Social media is instrumental in relaying our very important messages to people. It's exciting and interactive and helps shape topics and provide a forum for appropriate responses."

Ryan says this media engagement is really about encouraging people to talk about maintaining their health, as people still die from AIDS every day. Once the virtual conversation is going, events such as the weeklong AIDS/LifeCycle—a bicycle ride stretching 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles—continue to shine the spotlight on a cure by bringing people together to interact in person.

That ride is all about community, according to Ryan, who says that same feeling of kinship is what drew him to Trinity's welcoming environment. "The small classes and stimulating atmosphere meant we could tap into the expertise of the professors," Ryan says. "That really promoted critical thinking skills, which are invaluable in my line of work."

"The professors and administration took such an active interest in the students," Ryan says. "Coleen Grissom always took time to sit down and talk with me, especially freshman year when I was adjusting to culture shock, having grown up in Portland, Oregon. She made me understand why Trinity is so special, and I am forever grateful to her for helping me gain that perspective."

"I loved the library," Ryan laughs; "I always went there to study while most students did their homework in dorm rooms. I found it to be a very peaceful and centering place to work."

Still, Ryan took time out for fun, spending much time on the St. Mary's strip enjoying the bands. And, he still very much misses the fabulous Mexican food at Taco Cabana.

Now Ryan spends down time in San Francisco with his partner, Austin Riley, an architect in that city. The couple looks forward to having children at some point in the future, but for now they enjoy their two beloved dogs, Lola and Stanley.

"We travel quite a bit and see our families in Oregon and Nebraska, often, but San Francisco is such a vibrant city alive with museums, great restaurants, and of course, the Bay." The pair lives near the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, but when they need to take a break, they head to Sonoma for a bike ride through wine country.

However, the AIDS issue is Ryan's first priority, and he uses all of the tools in his arsenal to bring it to the forefront. This former television news producer and senior writer at the CBS affiliate in San Francisco even produced a documentary featuring the first person to be functionally cured of AIDS, for which he won an Emmy in 2012.

"This city serves as the home base for the leading AIDS experts in the world," Ryan says. "Right now, our main mission is keeping the public informed and active in the fight to end the epidemic."

You may email Ryan at:
Story posted:  July 2013