Baylor University Mourns Passing of Benefactor, All-American and Baylor Legacy Award Recipient Harold E. Riley

Harold E. Riley
Harold E. Riley (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
Sept. 29, 2017

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WACO, Texas (Sept. 29, 2017) – Baylor University is mourning the passing of Harold E. Riley, B.B.A. ’52, a generous benefactor of numerous areas of the University, outstanding alumnus of the Hankamer School of Business, former football All-American and 2010 Baylor Legacy Award recipient. Riley died Sept. 21 at the age of 89.

Among Baylor University’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.

“Harold Riley’s approach to philanthropy was heavily influenced by the singular generosity of a West Texas rancher who provided a scholarship and other support for his father to leave the oil field and attend Baylor to become a preacher,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone. “As he became a successful businessman, Harold answered the call to support scholarships for other students in the same way as that rancher had supported his father. He was a faithful, humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ and left an eternal impact on his alma mater and, most importantly, on our students. Our prayers are with Dottie, his children and extended family as we remember and celebrate the remarkable life of Harold Riley.”

Born in Grandfield, Oklahoma, Riley was the second of three children born to Ruby S. Riley and Ray I. Riley. He graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas, and earned his B.B.A. degree from Baylor in 1952. 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 to pursue a successful career in the life insurance industry.

He began working in the industry in 1953 before assuming the presidency of National Western Life Insurance Company in Austin in 1962 and serving through 1968, when he founded Insurance Company of America. In 1987, he became chairman of the board and CEO of Citizens Inc. 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 attended Baylor.

In 2010, Riley was honored with the Baylor Legacy Award, which is presented to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary service and philanthropy to Baylor or to causes that fit the University’s Christian mission.

From the playing field, business world and Baylor Libraries, to supporting sports chaplains who will share what they learn at Truett Seminary with athletes around the country, Harold Riley left a legacy truly unique to Baylor.

As president of National Western Life Insurance Company, Riley helped direct funds of the Moody Foundation, named for National Western’s owner, Robert Moody, to college campuses in Texas, including Baylor. In mid-1960s, the Moody Foundation provided a significant lead gift – at the time the single largest gift in Baylor’s history – to build Moody Memorial Library. The library opened in 1968 to the benefit of tens of thousands of Baylor students over more than four decades. As the historic structure prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Moody Library’s first floor is undergoing renovations and upgrades as the result of a $100,000 grant from the Moody Foundation.

Riley so enjoyed giving Moody Foundation funds to Baylor that he and Dottie began giving generously to areas all across the University. They established the Harold E. Riley Scholarship Fund, the Mr. and Mrs. Ray I. 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. 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 United States.

As significant supporters of the Baylor Libraries, they 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 the Rileys’ scholarship support for the students of the Hankamer School of Business.

Riley is survived by his loving wife, Dottie S. Riley; his four children, Rick D. Riley, and wife, Leeann; Randall H. Riley, and wife, Monique; Jana L. Riley; Ray A. Riley, and wife, Jenny; and stepson, Mark D. Merrell. Riley also was a loving grandfather and great-grandfather to Alyca Riley; Allyson Riley; Austyn Riley; Macy Sligar, and husband, Logan, and their daughter, Scottie Ann; Rhett Riley; Lee Riley, and wife, Caitlin, and their daughter, Elena Rose; and Christopher Riley.

A memorial service for Riley was held Sept. 25 at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Hyde Park Baptist Church or Hyde Park Baptist Foundation, 3901 Speedway, Austin, TX 78751, or the Harold E. Riley Foundation, P.O. Box 22517, Fort Worth, TX 76122, which solely benefits Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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