Freida J. Riley

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Freida J. Riley
Freida Joy Riley

(1937-03-01)March 1, 1937
Squire, West Virginia
DiedAugust 5, 1969(1969-08-05) (aged 32)
Morgantown, West Virginia
Cause of deathHodgkin's lymphoma
Alma materConcord University
Ohio State University
West Virginia University
OccupationHigh school teacher
Known forTeacher of the Rocket Boys

Freida Joy Riley (March 1, 1937 – August 5, 1969) was an American science and math teacher. She taught at Big Creek High School in War, West Virginia during the late 1950s and early 1960s when she had Hodgkin's disease.[1]


Riley was born in Squire, West Virginia, to J.F. and Sallie Beavers Riley.[2] She graduated from Big Creek High School, Concord College, and completed graduate work at Ohio State University and West Virginia University.[2] Riley was an alumna of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Beta Pi Chapter at Concord College; as a teacher, she was widely known for her inspiring work with students, including Homer Hickam, Jr. and the Rocket Boys,[3] which was told in Hickam's #1 New York Times best-seller entitled Rocket Boys. Riley was depicted by actress Laura Dern in the feature film October Sky, which was based on Rocket Boys, she also appeared in Hickam's two follow-up memoirs entitled The Coalwood Way (2000) and Sky of Stone (2002).

The Freida J. Riley Award was established in her honor and is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact students. The award is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and administered by the Partnership for America's Future.[1] Concord College has also established an annual scholarship in Riley's name.[4]

Freida Riley died of Hodgkin's disease on Tuesday, August 5, 1969, in the West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown, she was 32 years old.[2] She is interred at Grandview Memory Gardens in Bluefield, Virginia. [2]

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  1. ^ a b Maxwell, Jane; Spann, Louise (May 2008). "Tennessee Member Receives National Museum of Education's Freida J. Riley Teacher Award" (PDF). Alpha Delta KAPPAN. Vol. 38 no. 1. Alpha Delta Kappa. pp. 16–20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-07.
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituary of Freida J. Riley". Clinch Valley News. 1969. Archived from the original on March 3, 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  3. ^ Tennis, Joe (November 30, 2008). "Banking On Memories in Coalwood, W.Va". Tribune Business News. McClatchy. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Named Scholarships". Concord University. Retrieved 30 May 2010.[dead link]

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