Bruce & Peggie Riley
Bruce Riley leads the same way he teaches. He listens. He shares stories. He facilitates conversations that motivate and inspire collaboration. It’s a grass roots, ground-up philosophy that has helped UWL students and faculty in the College of Science and Health find success and transition through some complex times.
Riley, dean of the UWL’s College of Science and Health, retired in 2016 after 31 years at UWL.
Colleagues describe Riley as calm, collected and quiet, yet extremely passionate about students and the future of the university.
“He makes us cry at every single college meeting because he is so passionate,” says Jennifer Kosiak, UWL professor of mathematics. “He shares stories about former students and others that motivate faculty to understand that on this campus students should be the No. 1 priority. We are here to improve student learning.”
Riley is always thinking about students, adds Biology Professor Roger Haro.
“That is what you want to see in a dean — you help your faculty help the students, and that is what Bruce is all about,” says Haro.
It was that vested interest in students’ future that motivated Riley to continuously step into leadership positions — sometimes during challenging times.
He was chair of the Faculty Senate when one of UWL’s four colleges was eliminated in 2005, The College of Education, Exercise Science, Health and Recreation (EESHR). This led to a difficult time for the College of Science and Health as three new departments were added and the college needed to redefine itself. Riley accepted the interim dean position just a few years later as the college worked through the transition.
“The college was starting to fracture. He decided he might be good candidate to help us rebuild,” says Kosiak. “And he did it through guiding the faculty and being a facilitator, not a dictator.”
UWL has many talented and bright people with great ideas, notes Riley. “My purpose has been to help them focus on where they can be successful — really make an impact — and use their resources to reach those goals.”
Colleagues say Riley has been a huge advocate for teacher education, new faculty, underrepresented students and collaborations between diverse departments. His foresight in these areas and others have made a difference.
“I don’t think math and science education would be where it is at now if not for Bruce,” says Kosiak. “He has made us very visible in Wisconsin.”
But Riley says his best work at UWL was as a mathematics teacher. He came to UWL back in 1985 because of the university’s attractive blend of teaching and scholarship.
“We want to train students, but we also want to discover things,” he says. “When students participate in that discovery process, it gives more meaning to their education.”
Kosiak says she remembers seeing Riley in the classroom — sharing stories, having conversations and working through problems in a collaborative way. Facilitating learning was what he loved to do, she says. And it’s exactly what he’s done as a leader.
“It is sad for the university that he is retiring, but he has mentored faculty who will be able to step up in his role and lead — not necessarily the way Bruce leads, but he has mentored them so they will also be great leaders,” says Kosiak.