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Robert Bartlett Riley

January 28, 1931 ~ August 21, 2019 (age 88)


Robert Bartlett Riley, 88, died on Wednesday, August 21 at his home. 

Bob was born on January 28, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois to Robert James Riley of Bellows Falls, Vermont and Ruth Collins of Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 19, Robert graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in philosophy, and went on to study under Mies van der Rohe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1954.

As an ROTC officer, then later in active service, Bob served as a Captain in the United States Air Force from 1954-1958. While posted in Norfolk, England in 1956, he met and married Nancy Rebecca Mills of Decatur, Illinois, a school teacher in the Air Force. Bob and Nancy returned stateside to Silver Springs, Maryland, where Bob was the Chief Designer in the Architecture firm of Kea, Shaw, Grimm & Crichton in Hyattsville, Maryland from 1959-1964. In 1965, Bob became a principal partner in his own architectural firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before becoming a Campus Planner, then Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the Center Environmental Research and Development, at the University New Mexico, 1966-1970.

In 1970, Bob joined the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as Professor of Landscape Architecture and Architecture. He served as Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture from 1970-1985, and as Director of the Doctor of Philosophy program, since 1999. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia in 1977, and Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 1996-1997.

He served as chair of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA), the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) and on the Board of Senior Research Fellows at Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University. He was an Associate Editor of Landscape and Editor of Landscape Journal. He also served as Advisor and Juror for the International Peace Park Competition in Gallipoli, Turkey 1998-1999 and the Invited Franco-American Landscape Design Competition for the French Consulate, in New York City, New York in 2000.

Bob was a Phi Beta Epsilon member at MIT, a Fellow of the American Society Landscape Architects (National Honor award 1979); a member of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, President from 1984-1985, Chairman of the Board of Directors 1985-1986; recipient of the Outstanding Educator Award in 1992, President's Award in 1994; Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board of Landscape Architecture 1996-1999), American Institute of Architects (Design Award Maryland 1962, New Mexico 1968, Environmental Service award New Mexico 1970), Environmental Design Research Association (Chairman of the Board 1990-1991, and recipient of the Career Award in 2003). Bob has been listed as a notable Landscape architect by Marquis Cd.

Bob was preceded in death by his wife Nancy Rebecca Mills, in 2002; he is survived by his daughter, Rebecca Hill Riley of Urbana, IL and his son, Kimber Bartlett Riley of Issaquah, WA, and four grandchildren, Robert W. Riley of Orlando, FL, Willis B. Riley, Dakota F. Riley, and Dashel C. Riley, all of Issaquah, WA.

Bob will be fondly remembered by his friends and family as a witty and charming conversationalist, a wine aficionado and an enthusiastic collector of art, predominately southwestern. Bob’s iconic dress style, blue button-down shirt, white jeans, knit tie and Concho belt has passed into University lore.


In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Robert B. Riley Endowed Fund, in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at a later date.



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