Francis X. Riley
Professor Emertius Francis X. Riley devoted his life to the law and education. He was one of the law school’s original faculty members when it opened in 1975 at Lewis University in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He also played an integral role with the transfer of the law school to NIU in 1978. He taught full-time until 1983 and then part-time until 1987.
Highly respected among the student body, Professor Riley received the NIU Law Faculty Member of the Year Award from the classes of 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984. In 1998, the NIU Law Alumni Council named Professor Riley an Honorary Alumnus. After his retirement, Professor Riley remained highly involved with NIU Law as a member of its Board of Visitors, which he served on until recent years.
His genuine love for the law and education was invigorating and we owe much of our development and success to Frank’s visions and passion. Even in his 90s, Frank remained a leading advocate of NIU Law and we will always be grateful for his service and unwavering support. He will always be revered as an exemplary leader for all in the legal profession, and his contributions to NIU Law will never be forgotten.
Renowned for his public service, Professor Riley was instrumental in the development of the law school’s programs and curriculum that have lent to its reputation as a leader in producing graduates who go into public interest law. In 2001, Professor Riley received the Laureate Award from the Academy of Illinois Lawyers. This prestigious award honors lawyers who have established and maintained the highest principles of the profession as demonstrated by their pervasive record of service to the law and the public.
Professor Riley’s many years of public service include positions with the federal government as field investigator for the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Migration; special investigator for the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices; special appellate attorney, Office of Price Administration; and regional counsel, Alaska Public Works program.
He personally touched lives, mentored, and inspired countless individuals from judges, legislators and public officials to the leaders of the private bar. As chief of the Appeals Division of the State’s Attorney of Cook County, Illinois, Professor Riley helped launch the legal careers of such people as Governor James Thompson, James A. Glasser and Judge Marvin Aspen. He also is listed as counsel in more than 500 published Illinois Appellate and Supreme Court opinions and 50 federal court opinions.
In January 1993, NIU Law dedicated and renamed its moot courtroom the Francis X. Riley Courtroom. In addition to serving as one of the school’s main classrooms, the Riley Courtroom plays host to major speaking engagements and court visits. In addition, an annual lecture series named in Professor Riley’s honor was established in 1994. The Francis X. Riley Lecture Series on Professionalism brings distinguished speakers to NIU Law to discuss ethical issues related to the legal profession. Professor Riley passed away on September 14, 2006 at the age of 93.