Remembering Susan E. Riley
Foundation | December 14, 2016

Article from The Trident fall 2016 by Kathy Shultz, Oregon State

Susan Riley was a member of Tri Delta, Theta Mu Chapter, at Oregon State University graduating in 1965. In 1998 she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Treated by Dr. William Isacoff, one of the top pancreatic specialists in America, and utilizing the best known medical technology at the time, Susan put up a valiant fight. She died in 1999 at an age we still think is too young. Upon her death, Susan left a generous gift to the Tri Delta Foundation to fund scholarships for deserving Tri Delta members.

I will never forget knowing Susan at OSU in 1963-64 when, with four other sisters, we shared the large room on the top floor of our sorority in Corvallis, Oregon. Our room was on the way to the sleeping porch and became a hangout for everyone passing by.

In the fall of 1963, we had a lot to talk about. President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and with millions of Americans we found his death unthinkable in modern America. As a group, we attended services at the university, and were horrified watching on TV as Jack Ruby shot Oswald. Susan was particularly upset and re-affirmed her intention of going to law school when she graduated from OSU.

Raised in San Marino, California, she never stopped thinking of herself as a California girl. As part of her California image, she always had a red sports car. In Oregon, in the Willamette Valley in the winter, the rain splashes a lot of dirt on cars. I used to kid her about spending so much time washing it in the parking lot behind our house. The two of us often went to the dining room at night to study. I always wondered why she went, because she was one of the brightest sisters in a house that regularly got top grades among all the Greek houses on campus.

Following her plan, Susan graduated from law school at Loyola Marymount. Her legal career began in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and later she went into private practice in San Marino. During those years, as the last living member of her family, she began to actively manage the stock and property portfolio inherited from both her parents. One of the properties was the Riley family ranch, over 600 acres on the Pacific Ocean at Coos Bay, Oregon. The ranch contained a beautiful home, stables, barns and included part of the Oregon Sand Dunes. She continued to share the property with the Coos Bay Mounted Sheriff Posse, as her father did before her. A full member of the posse, she wore cowboy boots, which also was her trademark practicing law in San Marino. Fighting for her life, and she did put up a fight, 40 years had passed since her days at Theta Mu. Still that time in her life meant enough to her to leave a lasting legacy in an annual scholarship to assist sisters at OSU’s Theta Mu. Today, the Susan E. Riley Charitable Foundation is worth over $8 million.

The majority of funds from the Foundation are donated for research in pancreatic cancer to Stanford University, UCLA and the City of Hope. After Susan’s death, the Riley Ranch was sold and the proceeds went to UCLA for research in pancreatic cancer, still considered a death sentence. Annually, the Foundation funds, for this still deadly disease, research projects that are radical, speculative and are not funded through conventional donations. The Foundation also supports research, treatment, education and recovery programs for alcohol and drug dependency. The Foundation funded the Riley Room at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Susan regularly attended meetings of Alcoholic Anonymous and was very proud of being a member.

Susan Riley’s legacy makes all Tri Deltas proud. When my sisters who knew her, as I did, at OSU think of Susan today, we see her sitting on a white cloud above the gorgeous Oregon coast, in a red sports car. And we know she is pleased and proud of her lasting legacy.

The Susan E. Riley Foundation has awarded more than $142,000 in scholarships to 26 deserving Tri Deltas.

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