On Saturday, May 11, 2013, as the newest graduates of Carlow University receive their diplomas, they will be joined in spirit by Alice McKeever Riley, class of 1933, the sole remaining member of the original graduating class of Mt. Mercy College—now known as Carlow University.
Alice McKeever Riley, 102 years of age, lives in the health center of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., where her daughter, Sister Rose Marie Riley, is the prioress of the sisters.
“Mom never ceases to amaze me,” says Sister Rose Marie. “She will turn 103 in June. Her health is good. She is a mother and a teacher at heart. Mention ‘Mount Mercy College’ and her eyes light up. She recalls working hard at her studies and getting an excellent education.”
McKeever Riley grew up in Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington neighborhood, and was a student at St. Mary of the Mount grade school before enrolling at Our Lady of Mercy Academy—a high school located on the grounds of present day Carlow University. When the Sisters of Mercy founded the University, she enrolled there to continue her education. She recalls working at Woolworth’s Five and Ten Cent Store, polishing all the equipment before she went home each night, to help pay for college.
“My parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to college,” McKeever Riley told the Carlow Journal in 2011. “Papa believed that women should have a good education, just like men. My twin brothers (who attended Duquesne University) were the oldest, followed by four girls. He wanted all of us to go to college, and so did Mama. I never thought of it, but I guess Papa believed in equality for women back then.”
McKeever Riley tells her daughter that, “as soon as I graduated, I had a [teaching] job,” and she continued to teach until her retirement in 1974. She married Austin Riley in 1943, and they raised a family.
“I wanted my children to understand why I was working,” she told the Carlow Journal. “The cost of living had gone up, and my husband and I wanted our children to have a good education. I loved being a housewife and mother, but knew working was important for the children. They were able to get a good, Catholic education. We all worked together. That’s important for a family.”
With a deep faith in God, McKeever Riley credits her long life to “all part of God’s plan.”
“She enjoys visits from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren,” says Sister Rose Marie. “She especially loves watching the little ones at play. Her favorite pastimes are singing and looking at family pictures.”