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A Message from the President: Rev. George F. Riley, OSA

September 16, 2022

Dear Members of the Villanova Community,

It is with great sadness that I share that the Rev. George F. Riley, OSA, a well-known and beloved member of the Villanova community for the last 65 years, passed away peacefully this morning.

During his more than six decades at Villanova, Fr. Riley touched the hearts and minds of many of those around him, impacting the Villanova community as a whole by serving in a variety of University roles—including professor, counselor, advisor and fundraiser. After being ordained, he taught theology and ethics at Villanova, was the University’s liaison for the Peace Corps, and made a difference in the lives of countless students as their counselor and advisor in the dorms. He also served as the vocation director for the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova and was the secretary and archivist to the Provincial of the Order from 1969 to 1971.

In 1972, Fr. Riley was named Vice President for University Relations, overseeing the Offices of Development, Public Relations, Alumni Affairs and Career Services. In this role, Fr. Riley was instrumental in the University's first two capital campaigns, Covenant I & II, raising more than $83 million for Villanova, which helped to build two campus landmarks—the Connelly Center and the Pavilion. Essentially, he established a more formalized fundraising function at Villanova, which is why the space housing University Advancement, now bears his name.

A native of Lawrence, Massachusetts, Fr. Riley attended Merrimack College for two years before coming to Villanova and graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. He then went to Augustinian College in Washington, DC, for theological studies and received a Master of Arts from Villanova University and the Catholic University of America, where he also earned a PhD in Education. He was ordained in 1962 and has been at the University ever since, serving seven different University presidents. Last fall, the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova’s fund to support the care of elderly and infirm friars was named in Fr. Riley’s honor, a fitting tribute for his numerous contributions to the Augustinian and Villanova community.

Fr. Riley served other communities as well, spending his weekends ministering to seven different parishes in South Jersey during the past 50 years, most recently at St. Brendan the Navigator in Avalon. He has also received numerous awards over the years, including the Commodore John Barry Award from the American Catholic Historical Society, the first President's Cup from the Villanova Alumni Association for outstanding service, and Man of the Year awards from the Hebrew Academy of Atlantic County, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Southern New Jersey, Italian American Press and State of New Jersey Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. 

I know I speak for the entire Villanova community in saying that Villanova is a better place for Fr. Riley being a part of it. His knowledge has brought wisdom, his humor has brought joy and his dedication has brought inspiration to so many of those around him. His legacy and lasting impact on Villanova are evident in the stories and recollections of the generations of Villanovans, who speak so fondly of Fr. Riley and recall the significant role he played in their lives.

I will share funeral arrangements when available. In the meantime, please keep Fr. Riley and his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.