Robert B. “Bob” Riley passed away in Urbana on August 21. Bob’s influence on our department and field during the past half-century has been immeasurable.
Born on January 28, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, Bob studied philosophy at the University of Chicago, (B. Phil., 1949) and architecture at MIT (B. Arch., 1954). During a decade of private practice, eventually as principal of his own firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bob’s interests in landscape and planning burgeoned, and he took on new roles as campus planner, Associate Professor of Architecture, and Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Development at the University of New Mexico (1966-1970). In 1970, Bob relocated to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture for fifteen years, after which he continued to teach as a professor in the department for more than two decades. He also became a key founder of the joint Ph.D. Program in Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois, which launched in 2001.
Bob was made a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1979 and served as president (1984-85) and chairman of the board of directors (1985-86) of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA). He later won that organization’s Outstanding Educator Award (1992) and President’s Award (1994). In 1990-91, Bob chaired the board of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), and he was honored with an EDRA Career Award in 2003. From 1992-99, Bob served on the Senior Fellows Committee for Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, the last three years as chair, and he was a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1996-97.
The author of numerous influential essays about landscape, key examples of which were compiled in the book The Camaro in the Pasture: Speculations on the Cultural Landscape of America (2015), Bob collaborated with J.B. Jackson on the pivotally important journal Landscape, eventually succeeding Jackson as its editor, and he went on to serve as editor of Landscape Journal.
The family has held a private service, and the Department of Landscape Architecture will work with Bob’s daughter, Rebecca, and son, Kimber to plan a commemorative celebration of his career to take place later this fall.