Gifts in Action: Reda Riley

Since graduating from LAU (formerly BCW), Reda Riley has not only lived across two continents and worked for Middle East Airlines, the Mission for Bahrain and Save the Children. She has also established the Allan and Reda R. Riley Foundation, a charitable organization that focuses on educational giving.

Riley credits her career and life’s work to her parents and her education at BCW: “When I graduated from high school, I told my mother I wanted to do what all the other girls were doing, which was to get married. My mother encouraged me to pursue my education first and marriage would come eventually.” She adds, “Both of my parents were supporters of education, and I owe everything to them.” Riley’s experience at BCW would later shape her outlook on education and motivate her to endow LAU with a $200,000 scholarship for students from her hometown of Enfeh, located in the El-Khoura district of Lebanon. The scholarship is named in honor of her parents, Aref and Helena Jabbour, whom she credits as being instrumental in her education at BCW.

Riley enrolled at BCW in 1954, a time when the college consisted of only the Beirut campus, which had a handful of buildings and a student population of roughly 100. “BCW had a fine collection of students and was considered one of the best colleges in the world. It was a place for educational enlightenment,” says Riley. Looking back on her years at the college, Riley acknowledges her choices would have been much more limited had it not been for her education at BCW. “Attending BCW was an eye-opener for me, a panorama of the wider world. It prepared me for the future, which I found extremely valuable later on.” Education gave her the independence to work and do what she wanted. According to Riley, “We were not only opening books, but also opening opportunities for the future. It opened many doors for me.”

After graduating in 1956 with an Associate of Arts degree, she began working for Middle East Airlines. In 1971 Riley moved to New York City, where she worked for the Mission of Bahrain. In 1978 she began her work for Save the Children. It was during her six years at Save the Children that Riley met her future husband, Allan, whose philanthropic giving to his alma mater, Notre Dame University, influenced Riley to give to LAU. “Allan established several scholarships in his parents’ name, brother’s name and our name,” she says. The profound impact these scholarships were having on students “planted a seed in my mind,” Riley adds, and that later materialized into the couple’s scholarship endowment. Riley explains, “You can see the disappointment in the faces of young people who can’t afford an education. I wanted to give students from the Enfeh region the same chance I had, to help them with the opportunities they only dreamed of but could never have afforded.”

She and her husband hope that their contribution will ultimately help students to rebuild Lebanon and restore long-term peace to the country. “Helping Lebanon is helping its youth through the creation of opportunities,” says Riley. “Lebanon is a beautiful country, but it’s meaningless without the people.”

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