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In Memoriam: The Rev. George F. Riley, OSA

The Rev. George F. Riley, OSA, PhD, ’58 CLAS (second row). Image courtesy of the Villanova University Digital Library (Belle Air 1963).

Image courtesy of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova.

The Rev. George F. Riley, OSA, PhD, ’58 CLAS, ’61 MA, passed away on Friday, Sept. 16, at the age of 87. A beloved member of the Villanova community for 65 years, Fr. Riley was assigned to Saint Thomas Monastery and Villanova University in 1962. “He taught religious studies and ethics at Villanova; served as the Province’s Vocation Director (where he also served as Secretary and Archivist); was the University’s liaison for the Peace Corps; served as the Special Assistant to the President of Villanova University; and also worked as Vice President for University Relations.” In addition to serving on numerous boards and authoring many publications and sermons, Fr. Riley began the Villanova Magazine in 1984.

Assisting with the University’s first two capital campaigns, Covenant I & II, Fr. Riley helped raise more than $83 million for Villanova. Riley Hall, which houses University Advancement, is named in his honor. The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, expressed the community’s admiration for Fr. Riley in his message to Villanova faculty, staff, students, and alumni on Sept. 16:

“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.”

View Fr. Riley’s full obituary here. A viewing will be held Monday, Sept. 26, at St. Thomas of Villanova Church from 3–7 p.m., followed by the funeral mass at 7 p.m. A livestream link of the viewing and funeral mass will be available on this webpage.

Support the Fr. George F. Riley, OSA Fund for Augustinian HealthCare here.

Fr. Riley’s personal papers were transferred to the University Archives last year. His personal papers are from his time working at Villanova and include his writings, sermons, homilies, speeches, research material, Villanova event materials, and personal photographs. The collection was processed by Jessie Pagan, Theology and Religious Studies doctorial student, and will be publicly available for research soon.


1 People Like This Post


  1. Comment by Carmine Fiore — October 1, 2022 @ 8:49 PM

    Beloved friend with amazing
    Fortitude for loving and understanding people.
    He will be very missed.

  2. Comment by Diane Howe-Stercho — October 20, 2022 @ 9:48 PM

    I worked with Father Riley for 10 years while employed in the Public Relations Department at Villanova University. He was an incredible fundraiser, devoted to the cause of Villanova. I always enjoyed his sense of humor and our pleasant interaction in the years that we worked together in Austin Hall and then in Geraghty Hall (now called Alumni Hall). He was a wonderful person and priest.

  3. Comment by Tony Longo — December 13, 2022 @ 3:26 PM

    George Riley, Central Catholic HS Student

    His younger brother Arthur (who was 2 years older than me) was a tough kid.

    When he came after me, I stood up to him even though he was bigger by far. George learned of this, and told me to get family permission to go to tbeir home one day after school, from the St. Lawrence O’Toole K-12 Parochial School.

    In the basement of their home was a good sized (roped off) boxing ring. He showed me some self-defense and counter punch techniques, while his brother Arthur watched.

    After 15-20 minutes George got 2 sets of gloves, lacing up Arthur & me. When he gave the word to start, Arthur thought he would overwhelm me with punches while pushing me around. George immediately junped into the ring and started to push Arthur all around the ring, while never throwing a punch.

    He then set the tone for conventional boxing for the next 10 minutes. I took some and delivered some, but was clearly outmatched by size & age of his brother. 

    George Riley taught ring discipline and respect for an opponent.

    That experience even helped in regular street fights with older kids who wanted to wrestle you to the ground or outnumber you with their friends.

    On one such occasion two friends & myself were walking from Lawrence to Methuen, when a gang of five kids from an off Broadway Lawrence  neighborhood confronted us.

    Their story was we were tresspassing on their territory and we should each pay them a quarter to safely pass.

    My friends ran and looked on about 15-20 yards away waiting for me to join them. I stayed & was immediately surrounded by the 5 gang members. The leader stepped into the circle and stood in front of me. 

    Without any hesitation or words I drew back and hit him squarely on the nose. He screamed to someone to get his mother while blood was squirting over his hands and clothes. I reached into my pocket and gave him my handkerchief to mop up the blood.

    When his mother arrived she was furious, and screaming at me, accusing me of breaking her son’s nose.

    Once I calmly explained what started the fight, she turned to screaming at her son and his friends for instigating the fight. 

    The mother thanked me for providing the handkerchief, and as I walked away I told her to keep it.

    The lessons that George Riley was teaching were DISCIPLINE & RESPECT. The lessons served me well in this local encounter in a  Lawrence neighborhood and beyond.

    Later in life, I shared this lesson with the men who served with me in the United States Marine Corps.

        AJ Longo

  4. Comment by Àaron krauss rabbi — March 25, 2023 @ 2:59 PM

    I have beautiful memories of Father George Riley,about whose death I have just read. He was a dear friend. We shared precious time together, His invocations received richly deserved and rare applause. His sense of humor was legendary. The friendly Sons of Ireland and Anti defanatio

  5. Comment by Àaron krauss rabbi — March 25, 2023 @ 3:04 PM

    I have beautiful memories of Father George Riley,about whose death I have just read. He was a dear friend. We shared precious time together, His invocations received richly deserved and rare applause. His sense of humor was legendary. The friendly Sons of St.PatrickDefamationLeague owe him special thanks.

  6. Comment by Susan D Smith — July 19, 2023 @ 8:49 AM

    Fr. Riley was one of my Religious Studies instructors when I was a student at Villanova (1971-1976). I also had the pleasure of working with him on the first Capital Campaign (Covenant 1) when I was an assistant in the Office of Public Relations. Fr. Riley was always a delight – he had a twinkle in his eye, a repertoire of funny stories and jokes at the ready, and was gracious and kind. I remember him fondly.

  7. Comment by Matt nastasia — February 16, 2024 @ 12:18 AM

    George and I were classmates CCHS 53 I last saw him during the requiem mass for Al lupo He was a good priest a great guy and credit to our school
    Matthew Nastasia

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Last Modified: September 26, 2022

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