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Richard W. Riley to be honored with downtown Greenville sculpture

Richard W. "Dick" Riley, a 1954 Furman graduate, was U.S. Education Secretary under President Bill Clinton and served two terms as South Carolina Governor.

The Greenville community will memorialize the work of Greenville native and Furman University graduate Richard W. “Dick” Riley through a sculpture representing his extraordinary public leadership and commitment to quality education for all children.

The City of Greenville invited a committee of local citizens to propose a sculpture to be located in the city’s downtown as a representation of the life work of Riley, a former U.S. Education Secretary under President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and former South Carolina Governor (1979-1987).

The committee has been working with the city and noted sculptor Zan Wells to create an appropriate design. The committee is co-chaired by Frank Holleman ’76, Riley’s former Deputy at the U.S. Education Department, and Erwin Maddrey, a long-time leader of Greenville’s business community.

Riley, who was known as South Carolina’s “Education Governor,” has visited public schools across the state in his role with the Riley Institute.

The design portrays Secretary Riley reading a book to two children and encourages all people to be directly involved in the education of the community’s children. The design invites families and children to engage with the sculpture and to photograph themselves reading with Secretary Riley. The City’s Art in Public Places Commission unanimously approved the design.

While the location has yet to be officially designated, it’s expected to be in the area leading to the entrance of the pedestrian bridge at Falls Park where it will be most accessible to park visitors.

Greenville Mayor Knox White said: “Dick Riley is a Greenville treasure. We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to have a sculpture in the city’s center that will honor for all time Dick Riley’s dedication to public service, including quality education for all children.”

Riley is the only Greenvillian to serve both as South Carolina Governor and as a member of a President’s Cabinet. He was South Carolina’s first two-term Governor in modern times, the Legislature and the state’s citizens having voted to amend the South Carolina Constitution to allow Riley to serve a second term.

Riley became known as South Carolina’s “Education Governor.”  With the involvement of 13,000 educators, parents, and business and community leaders, he led the state to enact the Education Improvement Act of 1984, which is considered one of the most comprehensive and successful education-reform packages in America.

Riley also is the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Education in the nation’s history, with a full eight-year tenure. Riley worked to raise academic standards for all children; support teachers; increase aid for students going to college; make the internet available to the nation’s public schools and libraries; and provide for quality afterschool programs. In 2009, “TIME” magazine named Riley one of the “Top 10 Best Cabinet Members” in U.S. history.

Riley grew up in Greenville, graduating from Greenville High School and Furman. After military service as an officer on a minesweeper in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Before being elected Governor, Riley represented Greenville County in the South Carolina House of Representatives and then the state senate. After his service in Washington, Riley returned to Greenville where he lives today and continues as a partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough.

Since returning home, he helped establish the Riley Institute at Furman, including its award-winning, statewide Diversity Leaders Initiative. Riley has served as chair of the Furman Board of Trustees and continues as an emeritus trustee. He is also a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

The sculpture committee is in the process of raising funds to pay for the sculpture. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Community Foundation of Greenville, Riley Sculpture Fund, at 630 East Washington Street, Greenville S.C., 29601, or made online at Online donors should use the pull down menu to designate the Riley Sculpture Fund.

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