Matilda White Riley H’72, died on Sunday, November 14, 2004, in Brunswick, Maine.
Matilda White Riley died on Sunday, November 14, 2004, in Brunswick. Born in Boston on April 19, 1911, she prepared for college at Brunswick High School, and graduated from Radcliffe College magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1931. Following a year at the University of Vienna, she began graduate study, becoming the first research assistant in the newly-formed department of sociology at Harvard. She received a master’s degree from Radcliffe in 1937. She was vice president and research director of Market Research Corporation of America in New York City from 1938 to 1949, and from 1942 to 1944 served as chief consulting economist for the War Production Board during World War II. She joined the sociology department at Rutgers University in 1950, and taught there until her retirement in 1973. Dr. Riley also taught at New York University as a visiting professor in the graduate school from 1954 to 1961. Following her retirement from Rutgers, she joined the faculty at Bowdoin in 1973, becoming the first woman to be appointed as a full professor. As chair of the department, she established the modern Sociology-Anthropology Department at the College. She was named the Daniel B. Fayerweather Professor of Political Economy and Sociology in 1975. In 1996, the building housing the Sociology- Anthropology Department at the College was named in her honor. At age 68, Dr. Riley began a 20-year term at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health as the first associate director for Behavioral and Social Research. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, as president of the American Sociological Association for the 1985-86 term, and as president of the Eastern Sociological Association. She also served in leadership positions in the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Gerontological Society of America. She received the U.S. Presidential Meritorious Rank Award, the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology, the Common Wealth Award for excellence in sociology and aging research, and the Gerontological Society of America’s Distinguished Creative Contribution to Gerontology Award. Dr. Riley held honorary degrees from Bowdoin, Rutgers, Radcliffe, and the State University of New York at Albany. Among her numerous publications were the two-volume Sociological Research (1963) and the three-volume Aging and Society (1968- 1972). She was predeceased by her husband, John W. Riley, Jr. ’30, whom she married in 1930. She is survived by a daughter, Lucy Ellen Sallick of Westport, CT; a son, John W. Riley, III ’58 of Everett, WA; eight grandchildren, including Margaret E. Sallick ’86 of Brooklyn, NY, Erica S. Riley ’00 of Seattle, WA, and John W. Riley ‘05; and nine great-grandchildren.