Harold E. Riley, BBA ’52, a generous benefactor to numerous areas of Baylor University, outstanding alumnus of the Hankamer School of Business, former football All-American and 2010 Baylor Legacy Award recipient, died Sept. 21 at age 89.
Among Baylor’s top scholarship donors, the extraordinary philanthropy of Riley and his wife, Dottie, continues to open doors for students in the Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, as well as through the Baylor Libraries and Baylor Athletics.
As an All-American athlete, he played on the 1952 Orange Bowl team. Upon graduation, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams but declined the offer in order to pursue a successful career in the life insurance industry.
He was president of National Western Life Insurance Company in Austin from 1962 to 1968, when he founded Insurance Company of America. In 1987, he became chairman of the board and CEO of Citizens Inc., a New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) life insurance holding company based in Austin, positions he held until 2014.
Riley received the Hankamer School of Business Outstanding Alumnus award in 1977, and was inducted into the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978. He also served as chair of the Athletic Committee for Baylor, and all four of his children as well as four of his grandchildren attended Baylor. In 2010, Riley was honored with the Baylor Legacy Award.
As president of National Western Life Insurance Company, Riley helped direct funds of the Moody Foundation (named for Mr. and Mrs. William L. Moody Jr., grandparents of National Western’s owner, Robert L. Moody Sr.) to college campuses across Texas, including Baylor University. In the mid-1960s, Moody Foundation provided a significant lead gift—at the time the single largest gift in Baylor’s history—to build Baylor’s Moody Memorial Library. Today, Moody Library’s first floor is undergoing renovations and upgrades as the result of a $100,000 grant from the Moody Foundation.
Over his lifetime, Riley established the Harold E. Riley Scholarship Fund, the Ray and Ruby Riley Student Scholarship and Sustenance Fund in Truett Seminary and the Dottie S. Riley Endowed Library Fund. In 2010, Riley established a permanent endowment to provide leadership for the sports chaplaincy program within George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Under Dr. David Garland’s leadership, the Harold and Dottie Riley Professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Sports Chaplaincy Program was the cornerstone for developing the first seminary degree in sports chaplaincy in the U.S.
As significant supporters of the Baylor Libraries, the Riley’s provided for the Ray I. Riley Digitization Center, the Dottie S. Riley Conference Room and the Riley Reading and Digital Presentation Room, which have provided the space, equipment and tools to complete landmark digitization projects, such as Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.
In 2015, Baylor named an outdoor plaza at one of the main entrances to the new Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation—Riley Family Plaza—in appreciation of all Riley family members’ scholarship support for Baylor students.
Riley is survived by his wife Dottie S. Riley; his four children, Rick D. Riley, ’76, and wife Leeann; Randall H. Riley, ’77, and wife Monique; Jana L. Riley, ’80 & ’86; Ray A. Riley, ’83 and wife Jenny Ratcliff Riley, ’83; and stepson, Mark D. Merrell; seven grandchildren, including Alyca Riley, ’08 & ’16; Allyson Riley, ’10; Austyn Riley, ’12; Macy Sligar, husband Logan and great-grandchild Scottie Ann; Rhett Riley, ’15; Lee Riley, wife Caitlin and great-grandchild Elena Rose; and, Christopher Riley. Memorials may be made to the Harold E. Riley Foundation, which solely benefits Baylor University (including the George W. Truett Theological Seminary) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at P.O. Box 22517, Fort Worth, TX 76122.