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Freida J. Riley (1937 – August 5, 1969) was an American science and math teacher who taught at Big Creek High School in War, West Virginia during the late 1950s and early 1960s while suffering from Hodgkin's disease.[1]

Riley was born in Squire, West Virginia, to J.F. and Sallie Beavers Riley.[2] She graduated from Big Creek High School, Concord College, and completed graduate work at Ohio State University and West Virginia University.[2] Riley was an alumna of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Beta Pi Chapter at Concord College. She was widely known for inspiring work with students, including Homer Hickam, Jr. and the Rocket Boys, which was told in Hickam's #1 New York Times best-seller titled Rocket Boys and also depicted (by actress Laura Dern) in the award-winning feature film October Sky. Riley also appeared in the two follow-up memoirs titled The Coalwood Way (2000) and Sky of Stone (2002).

The Freida J. Riley Award was established in her honor and is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact students. The award is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and administered by the Partnership for America's Future.[1]

Freida Riley died of Hodgkin's disease on Tuesday, August 5, 1969, in the West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown. She was 32 years old.[2] She is interred at Grandview Memory Gardens in Bluefield, Virginia.[2] At the time of Riley's death she was survived by a sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Dean of Tazewell, Virginia, one niece, Emily Dean of Tazewell, and two nephews, Steven and Fred Dean of Tazewell.[2]


Freida Riley in popular media

  • The role of "Frieda Riley" in Homer Hickam's October Sky was played by actress Laura Dern.

See also


  1. ^ a b Estell, Janice M.; Laura C. Bourgeois, eds. (May 2008). "Tennessee Member Receives National Museum of Education's Freida J. Riley Teacher Award". Alpha Delta KAPPAN (Alpha Delta Kappa) 38 (1): 16–20. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Obituary of Freida J. Riley". Clinch Valley News. 1969. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 

External links



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