Campus News

Matilda White Riley To Be Honored With Lecture Series at the National Institutes of Health

Story posted August 30, 2001

Matilda White Riley H'72, the Daniel B. Fayerweather Professor of Political Economy and Sociology Emerita, and Research Professor in Sociology (honorary), is being recognized and honored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a lecture series reflecting the main areas of her contributions in the behavioral and social sciences.

A pioneer in the field of social gerontology, Dr. Riley was the first woman to be named a full professor at Bowdoin College. She taught at Bowdoin from 1973-81, and afterward remained an active part-time professor emerita. She established and directed the College's joint department of Sociology and Anthropology, now housed in the building at 7 Bath Road named in her honor.

Dr. Riley served as the founding Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Research (1979-91), Senior Social Scientist (1991-97) and finally Scientist Emeritus (1998- ) at the National Institute on Aging. Recently she returned to Brunswick to live with her husband of 70 years, Jack Riley (Bowdoin Class of 1930, H'72), also a renowned sociologist.

The Dr. Matilda White Riley Lecture Series, "Soaring: An Exploration of Science and the Life Course," is being presented by the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, NIH, in collaboration with four NIH Institutes. It will feature five lectures between September 2001 and January 2002 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The title of the lecture series is drawn from Dr. Riley's early interest in the sport of soaring and gliding, and is a metaphor for her professional and private life. Creativity, vision, and adventure have hallmarked both.

The inaugural lecture will be presented by Dr. Paul B. Baltes, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany. Dr. Baltes' lecture, "The Dynamics of the Life Course: The Interplay of Culture and Biology," will be held at 3 p.m., Friday, September 14, in Bethesda. The National Institute on Aging, cosponsor of the inaugural lecture, will host a reception in honor of Dr. Riley immediately following.

The series' five lecture topics reflect the main substantive areas of Dr. Riley's contributions over the course of her long and productive career: fertility behaviors, mass communications, health and behavior, life course perspective, and age and aging. More information about Dr. Riley and the lecture series is posted at online at

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