John Ruan, the Iowa businessman who turned a one-truck venture into a transportation, real estate and banking empire before donating millions of dollars to fight multiple sclerosis and world hunger, died Feb. 13 at the age of 96.
Ruan founded his trucking business with one used dump truck in 1932 — three years before the regulation of trucking under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In those early days of trucking, he quickly built Ruan Transport into a leading freight and petroleum hauler, expanding throughout the Depression and World War II. By the late 1950s, Ruan was the largest petroleum hauler in the nation.
Today, Ruan Transportation Management Systems is a $750 million diversified trucking business, operating 4,300 trucks, hauling bulk food and construction materials nationwide as Ruan Transport and as a dedicated contract carrier.
Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, is chairman and CEO of the enterprise.
Ruan’s interests ran well beyond trucking — he built a diversified group of businesses that included financial services, commercial banking, international trading and real estate, including major development in downtown Des Moines.
In 1990, Ruan teamed with a fellow Iowan, Nobel Prize winning scientist Norman E. Borlaug, endowing a foundation that funds the annual World Food Prize and advances efforts to increase the world’s food supply and fight hunger.
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