History of Matilda White Riley House

Home of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Matilda White Riley House was dedicated on May 8, 1996. It is located at 7 Bath Road between Edward Pols House and Rhodes Hall, across from Adams Hall.

imgMatilda White Riley '72, pictured here with A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences, Susan Bell, was the first woman to serve as a full professor on the Bowdoin faculty and is known as a pioneer in the sociology of age. She has worked and published extensively in research methodology, communications research, socialization and intergenerational relationships, and the sociology of age and the life course.

In recent years Dr. Riley was the Senior Social Scientist at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and Associate Director of NIA for Behavioral and Social Research. She has received a number of awards, and the publications with which she is credited include, among others: an entry titled "Sociology of Age" in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2001), Aging and Society (3 volumes, 1968-1972), Sociological Research (2 volumes, 1963); The Oldest Old (co-editor, Milbank Quarterly, 1985), Social Change and the Life Course (2 volumes, 1988); AIDS in an Aging Society (co-editor, 1989); and The Quality of Aging: Strategies for Interventions (co-editor with John W. Riley, Jr., The Annals, 1989). She is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.

"[Dr. Riley] challenged scientists, policy makers, and students alike to think of aging as a sociological and psychological as well as a biological process-this was unheard of at that time-and she argued that the realities of aging were far more positive than the prevailing stereotype would have us believe. Matilda was fond of saying, 'people don't grow up and grow old in laboratories-they grow up and grow old in changing societies.'" --Karyn A. Loscocco, one of Dr. Riley's first students at Bowdoin and Associate Professor of Sociology at State University of New York-Albany.

Dr. Riley, Professor Emerita of Sociology at both Rutgers University and Bowdoin College, was recently honored with a lecture series titled "Soaring: An Explanation of Science and the Life Course." The lecture series, presented by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), in collaboration with four NIH Institutes, represents a metaphor for Riley's life and refers to her early book, titled Gliding and Soaring: An Introduction to Motorless Flight, which was published in 1931 under the pseudonym "Mat Riley" due to discrimination against women technical writers. Dr. Riley is currently a retired sociologist and an ever-active member of the Brunswick community.

For more information about the five lectures honoring Dr. Matilda White Riley, presented by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), in collaboration with four NIH Institutes, please visit the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Lecture Series website.


Dorsey, Elizabeth. "Expert on aging continues her work in Brunswick." The Times Record 2 Oct. 2001, pp. 3.

Loscocco, Karyn A. "Remarks for Dedication of the Matilda White Riley House at Bowdoin." Bowdoin College, Brunswick 8 May 1996.

"Matilda White Riley House to be Dedicated May 8." Sundial: Bowdoin College News and Community Calendar. Vol. 7, No. 27. 2 May 1996, pp. 1.