Family Bond Stays Strong through Service and Song

Ryan Cooney ’18C, ’19MBA

For recent St. John’s University graduate Ryan Cooney ’18C, ’19MBA, the phrase “family business” conjures up many meanings.

Sitting in the offices of Joseph Gunnar & Co., LLC, at the sprawling RXR Plaza in Uniondale, NY, Ryan is often reminded of the far reach and influence of family. Outside his window is Kellenberg Memorial High School, a Roman Catholic, college-preparatory school that he attended. On his phone is the latest text from his Uncle Paul, who helps guide him in his nascent financial investment career, and echoing in his head is a recent musical collaboration with his father, the Irish American entertainer, Andy Cooney. That song, aptly titled “We’re All in This Together,” is not only a guidepost—it is a clarion call for his approach to navigating life after college and during a pandemic.

“Family is so important and influential,” Ryan shared.

Growing up in Massapequa Park, NY, he saw firsthand both the business and the family side of the industry. Ryan’s dad, Andy, is a well-established vocalist, songwriter, recording artist, and performer on the Irish American music scene. As a child, Ryan would often accompany him on tours and sing and perform Irish step dancing.

Music regularly takes the Cooney family from the historic stage of Carnegie Hall, to the majestic seas during musical cruises, and to dimly lit banquet halls—all in pursuit of entertaining others. Late nights, a busy travel schedule, and the need to produce quality content for and meaningful connections with the audience were early life lessons that Ryan was exposed to—as was the idea of giving back to others.

“My dad spent some brief but formative time in a high school seminary that was operated by the Vincentians,” Ryan explained. “To this day, giving back is an important part of our Irish Catholic family values.”  

Imbued deep in the Irish tradition and character is a natural generosity, born of lived struggle and inequity across the generations. Paid performances by the Cooney family are always balanced with fundraisers for charity.

For Ryan, those values led him to pursue his education at St. John’s University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in Physics, and later a master of business administration degree. As an undergraduate, Ryan was an active member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and considers his fraternity brothers another extension of his family and his commitment to service.

“I enjoyed studying physics, but eventually realized that I did not want to build bridges—and I would not want people to drive on a bridge that I was involved in building,” he joked.

Instead, Ryan built a bridge to another career when he pursued a graduate degree in economics while working as a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of Marketing and Communications. As a graduate assistant, Ryan was involved in planning, marketing, and promoting University alumni events and analyzing event data.

Upon concluding his graduate studies, and with some assistance from his uncle Paul Cooney, Director of Capital Markets, Ryan secured a position on the Equity Capital Markets team at Joseph Gunnar & Co., LLC, a full-service broker-dealer that provides investment products and vehicles to private and corporate clients. Along the way, Ryan completed the Series 7 exam, also known as the General Securities Representative Qualification Examination, a test for entry-level registered representatives to buy or sell security products.

“I was fortunate to have a full college experience, to be prepared for my career, and to complete my graduate studies before COVID-19—but none of us were prepared for the events of the last two years.”

During the long and lonely period of the pandemic when public musical performances were restricted, Ryan’s dad focused more on songwriting, recording, and harnessing the reach of technology to connect with his global fan base through his podcast “Andy Cooney’s New York Irish Hour.” One night, during the height of the pandemic, Ryan came home to find his dad at the piano crafting a song to express the shared sacrifice and the complex but hopeful realities of COVID-19.

Ryan sat down to share his perspective; within minutes, the song “We’re All in This Together” was completed. The father and son duo then recorded the song in Nashville, TN, and filmed the music video—that pays tribute to emergency workers—on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The song featured on the album Take Her In Your Arms is now a regular in the Andy Cooney performance set list—and is a philosophy that Ryan regularly refers back to in all that he does.

Ryan continues to sing, compose songs and perform when his schedule permits and he hopes to add to his music portfolio. This St. Patrick’s Day, he plans to spend time with his family. “Whenever we get together, there is music, singing, and good times,” he said. “It is very Irish.”

True to form, this year one part of his observance of St. Patrick’s Day will be participating in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving event during the Rockville Centre, NY, St. Patrick’s Parade festivities. “I first participated in St. Baldrick’s with my fraternity when I was a student at St. John’s, and later learned that it was cofounded more than 20 years ago by alumnus John R. Bender ’87TCB.”

With a song in his heart—and an emerging eye for business markets—Ryan prepares to brave the shave to help raise funds to find cures and better cancer treatments to save young lives. “It’s all part of being a global family, and like the duet I sing with my dad ‘We’re All in This Together!’”