April 2, 2010

VU mourns loss of noted pediatrician Harris Riley

Featured Image

Harris D. “Pete” Riley Jr., M.D.

VU mourns loss of noted pediatrician Harris Riley

Harris D. “Pete” Riley Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University, died March 26. He was 85.

Dr. Riley was a longtime supporter of Vanderbilt. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1945 from Vanderbilt University and medical degree in 1948 from the School of Medicine. During medical school, he became interested in pediatrics while studying under Amos Christie, M.D., former chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

He completed a pediatric residency at Vanderbilt University Hospital and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine. He joined the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics in 1953.

In 1958, he was appointed chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, where he served for 33 years. He remained a loyal supporter of Vanderbilt during his time in Oklahoma.

He was president of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association from 1974 to 1975 and served on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust from 1976 to 1986.

In 1980, he and his family established the Riley Scholarship Fund for deserving Vanderbilt students.

When he retired in 1991, the Harris D. Riley Jr. Pediatric Society was created at the University of Oklahoma. In 2008, the university established the Riley Chair in Pediatric Education.

After retiring from Oklahoma, Dr. Riley returned to Vanderbilt as a professor of Pediatrics. He oversaw the Amos Christie Society's Summer Scholars Program and continued to teach and care for pediatric patients.

“Pete Riley was a passionate, thoughtful and caring pediatrician who leaves a national legacy of achievement in pediatric education, research and clinical care,” said Jonathan D. Gitlin, M.D., James C. Overall Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. He had a profound effect on the practice of pediatrics at Vanderbilt and we are all better at our jobs because he was here and cared to show us the way.”

Dr. Riley received many honors and accolades at Vanderbilt. In 1986, three years after the inception of the Medical Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna award, Dr. Riley was honored with this designation. He is one of only 33 VU Medical Alumni to win the award.

“Dr. Riley, one of Vanderbilt Medical School's most distinguished alumni, was a kind and caring physician who not only excelled in his profession but brought warmth and energy to all those he touched in his daily walk,” said Ann Price, M.D., associate dean for Alumni Affairs at Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

“He was a 'goodwill generator' — a person who sought the good in others, found it, and returned it one hundred fold. We have lost one of Vanderbilt's truly notable physicians.”

In 1994, Dr. Riley received the Vanderbilt Chair from the Amos Christie Pediatric Society for distinguished contribution to the Department of Pediatrics and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. In 1996, he received the “Outstanding Physician and Role Model” award from the Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Riley is survived by his wife, Margaret, three children, Steven Allen Riley (Laura), Mark Barry Riley (Becky) and Margaret Riley Sisson (Fred); and seven grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Harris D. Riley Jr. Chair in Pediatric Education at University of Oklahoma Children's Hospital, 940 NE 13th Street, Oklahoma City, OK, 73104 or to Vanderbilt in memory of Dr. Harris Riley, designated to the Riley Scholarship, Vanderbilt University Gift Processing Office, PMB 407727, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-7727.