Lorna '71 and Dan '69 Riley
Lorna Woodsum Riley '71 and Dan Riley '69 both came to UHart looking to get an education, expand their worldview, and of course, meet great friends. What they didn’t expect was finding their life partner. “I’m a very fortunate person because what I value most out of my four years at UHart is Dan…I didn’t go there looking for a boyfriend. I went to study piano pedagogy seriously,” remembers Lorna. But within the first few months of her first year, Lorna met Dan and they have been by each other's side ever since. Their story isn’t just a love story—it is so much more. It is two people standing up for their beliefs, facing their fears, and continuing to grow in their communities—getting into some good trouble, as the saying goes.
The pair met during Lorna’s Orientation week at an event held by the Leadership Development Commission, of which Dan was the co-chair. After Lorna was pointed out to him by his fellow group leader, Dan was “wholly distracted” and needed to find a way to talk to her. He went up to her and stated, “I have a flowered tie exactly like your skirt.” Lorna replied, “We’ll have to get them together some time.” The skirt is long gone, but the tie still hangs in Dan’s closet to this day. A few days later, after attending a University-wide picnic, the couple went on their first date to a bowling alley and shared a cup of hot chocolate. They were engaged by the end of October, about six weeks after they met. “We almost apologize to each other like ‘I hope I am not being redundant, but I’m going to say again, how lucky we are to be where we are,’” says Lorna.
Lorna and Dan were active students on campus. Both were members of the Leadership Development Commission; Dan became chairman of the group and subsequently called for an end to the group, seeing it as too elitist. The duo worked together with the University’s classic film series—Dan working as the projectionist and Lorna as his assistant. Lorna was in The Hartt School’s piano pedagogy program, which consumed much of her time with practice. Dan spent most of his time working on The Cauldron, the school newspaper, where he served as editor. In the late 60s and early 70s, the newspaper on campus was more than an extra-curricular activity for Dan. He worked to make the paper less campus centric and more engaged with the world changing around it. As The Cauldron covered politics, the Vietnam War, and other sources of turmoil, there was also turmoil behind the scenes at the newspaper. Dan, along with others at UHart at the time, have chronicled the newspaper's history.
UHart’s campus in the late 60s and early 70s was filled with protests, music, and a sense of change. “It was an energetic vibe for the most part and I can only speak from my field of vision, but people were very politically wired. They were asking a lot of questions, not to be troublemakers, but because it just didn’t make sense to send young people off to fight somebody else’s war in a foreign country where there wasn’t any purpose to it…Silent people became ‘unsilent.’ They were very active and there were protests,” Lorna recalls. The Rileys and their peers participated in these anti-war protests but recall that “we were the minority, even back then, even though we [political activists] drew a lot of attention, we were never, ever the majority.” While the Rileys were highly active during their college years, they commented that, “We actually did more marching between 2017 and the pandemic than we did back then…People our age are walking around with signs and saying, ‘I can’t believe we are still protesting.’”
Although there was a political divide on campus during their years at UHart, Dan remembers the power of music and its ability to unify the student body. “One of the things I remember vividly, one of our dearest friends, John Robinson ’68, M’72, was always the first one with the new vinyl. I remember there were three times when he walked in with Beatles albums and that entire cafeteria flocked around just to look at the cover. There was no record player to play it, but we got to hold the album in our hands and pass it around. This was one of the amazing bonding moments, because at that time, the political divide was taking shape, but the music culture—especially the Beatles—was such a unifying force,” says Dan.
Life after the University of Hartford held even more adventures for the Rileys as they ventured on their joint journey into the world. Dan became a teacher, but eventually found his way to becoming a writer. “I was helped by the confidence and experience I gained by being named editor of a campus paper at an early stage in my college career,” says Dan. As Lorna would say, her career had “more twists and turns than a plate of linguini.” She used her Hartt experience and taught piano for a while, then moved on to a myriad of other careers, including first-grade teacher, marketing, sales, advertising, and even as a digital font specialist. After being laid off twice in one year, Lorna decided not to look to others for a job or security but rather decided to challenge herself on her own. “I decided to do the hardest thing that I could think of—and that was public speaking. I mustered up all of what I had learned out of all these different careers and decided to go face my biggest fear, and that really liberated me,” says Lorna. She isn’t finished with her career, she says, “I’m not done. I’ve been combining learning with technology to help people transform their lives. I now have two companies that I started with my two partners, working with people half my age and twice the energy. It’s really exciting to be a part of purposeful work that has no end point, building companies that will have a huge impact long after I’m gone."
Lorna and Dan on campus in 1968.
Lorna Riley visiting campus in 2008.
Dan Riley visiting campus in 2008.
Lorna and Dan carving pumpkins at Elizabeth Park, October 1966.
UH faculty in attendance at Rileys wedding in Westport, CT, 1968. Left, Dr. Lee Yosha, his wife and Dan; right, Pauline Brody, Dr. Alan Brody, and Dan.
Riley Family reunion, Vista, CA, June 2021 L-R: Lorna; grandson Remy; grandson Nico, Dan, son-in-law, Niels; daughter, wife, mother, Gillian; oldest daughter Meagan.
Issue of The Cauldron.
News clipping from The Hartford Courant on Dan Riley and UHart.
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