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Greenville Business Magazine

Public Unveiling Of Sculpture Honoring Former Governor Dick Riley Scheduled At Peace Center

Nov 06, 2018 12:26PM ● By Kathleen Maris

The public is invited to a sculpture unveiling honoring former South Carolina Governor Richard W. “Dick” Riley on Monday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m. on Graham Plaza at the Peace Center. The sculpture, by artist Zan Wells, represents Riley’s extraordinary public leadership and commitment to quality education for all children.

“Dick Riley is a Greenville icon,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White. “Secretary Riley’s dedication to public service, especially to quality education for all children, will be reflected in this beautiful sculpture aptly located at the Peace Center. His legacy will continue to inspire us for years to come.”

The City of Greenville invited a committee of local citizens to propose a sculpture to be sited in the city’s downtown as a representation of the life work of Riley, a former U.S. Education Secretary (1993-2001) and former South Carolina Governor (1979-1987). The committee, which also raised the funds for the sculpture, was co-chaired by Frank Holleman, Riley’s former deputy at the Education Department, and Erwin Maddrey, a long-time leader of Greenville’s business community.

“I am honored that the city has authorized this tribute,” said Riley. “I’m delighted with the sculpture that Zan Wells has created, and I’m very grateful to all who have supported it. The arts are an integral part of a high-quality education and the vitality of a community, so I’m particularly pleased that the Peace Center offered to have the sculpture placed on Graham Plaza. My hope is that all children and adults will believe in and commit to my quote on the sculpture – ‘Education Really Matters.’”  

The sculpture by Wells portrays Riley reading a book to two children and encourages all people to be directly involved in the education of the community’s children. The design invites families and children to engage with the sculpture and to photograph themselves as reading with Riley.

“It has been a pleasure working on this sculpture,” Wells said. “I hope that many people will enjoy the sculpture and appreciate the many reasons that Dick is honored by it being here in this special place.”

Riley is the only Greenvillian to serve both as South Carolina Governor and as a member of a President’s cabinet. He was South Carolina’s first two-term governor in modern times. During his tenure, the legislature and the people voted to amend the South Carolina Constitution to allow Riley to serve a second term. During his service, Riley became known as South Carolina’s “Education Governor.” With the involvement of 13,000 educators, parents, and business and community leaders, he led the state to enact the Education Improvement Act of 1984. The EIA is considered one of the most comprehensive and successful education-reform packages in America. Since then, Riley has been inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. 

Riley also is the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Education in the nation’s history, with a full eight-year tenure. During his service as Education Secretary, Riley worked to raise academic standards for all children, support teachers, increase aid for students going to college, make the internet available to the nation’s public schools and libraries, and provide for quality afterschool programs. In 2009, TIME magazine named Riley one of the "Top 10 Best Cabinet Members" in U.S. history.

Riley has spent his life in Greenville. He graduated from Greenville High School and Furman University. He then served as an officer on a minesweeper in the U.S. Navy. After military service, he graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School. Before being elected Governor, he represented Greenville County in the South Carolina House of Representatives and then the State Senate. After his service in Washington, Riley returned to Greenville, where he lives and continues as a partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough.

Since returning to Greenville, he established the Riley Institute at Furman University, including its award-winning, statewide Diversity Leaders Initiative. Riley has served as Trustee Chair at Furman University and continues as an emeritus Board member. For the last five years, he has served as a Board member at the Peace Center.

No tickets are required for the unveiling.