As Charleston Mayor Joe Riley winds down his historic 40-year tenure at the helm of one of the greatest cities in America, the College of Charleston looks back on six of the many important moments our university community has shared with the city’s famous mayor.

1. Launching Spoleto in Cistern Yard, 1977

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley speaks in Cistern Yard at the opening ceremonies for the inaugural Spoleto Festival USA on May 25, 1977. Photo: CofC Special Collections.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley speaks in Cistern Yard at the opening ceremonies for the inaugural Spoleto Festival USA on May 25, 1977. Photo: CofC Special Collections.

Mayor Riley has said that if not for former College of Charleston President Ted Stern and the resources of the College, Spoleto Festival USA would never have gotten off the ground.

So it was fitting that Riley, Stern and others kicked off the opening ceremonies for the inaugural festival on May 25, 1977, in the College’s Cistern Yard. The College and the international festival have enjoyed a close and symbiotic relationship ever since.

2. Dedication of Addlestone Library, 2000

The Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library is the intellectual hub of the College of Charleston campus and a vibrant presence along the city’s Calhoun Street corridor. Recognizing the importance of the library for the campus and Charleston communities, Mayor Riley spoke at the dedication ceremony for the library in March 2000. (Watch the video below for a portion of his remarks.)

3. Establishing the Riley Center, 2001

First established in 1978 as the Center for Metropolitan Affairs, and reinstituted in 1983 as the Center for Public Affairs and Policy Studies, the “Riley Center” was renamed in 2001 as the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Studies. More recently, in April 2010, in an effort to reflect the center’s more committed focus to enhancing community life in the Charleston area, the College renamed the center as The Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities.

Mayor Joe Riley (far right) enters Cistern Yard behind former CofC President Ted Stern. Photo: CofC Special Collections.

Mayor Joe Riley (far right) enters Cistern Yard behind former CofC President Ted Stern. Photo: CofC Special Collections.

4. Welcoming Future President Barack Obama in Cistern Yard, 2008

When then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama made a campaign appearance at the College on Jan. 10, 2008, as part of the College’s Bully Pulpit Series, Riley helped fire up the jubilant crowd of thousands packed into Cistern Yard, enthusiastically forecasting that Obama would go on to become “the next president of the United States.”

5. Delivering Keynote Speech and Receiving Honorary Degree at Winter Commencement, 2009

In his graduation speech on Dec. 19, 2009, Riley recounted his long association with the College, which began in 1969 with his service in the S.C. House of Representatives and continued through the decades as he worked closely with several College presidents in his role as mayor. Reading from his handwritten speech about building and creating great cities, Riley urged the more than 500 graduates to, “Fight to make your community livable and memorable.”

Riley also shared life lessons from a woman he described as “the finest College of Charleston graduate that I have ever known.” That graduate was the College’s 1936 salutatorian and Riley’s late mother, Helen Schachte Riley.

Watch a video of Mayor Riley’s 2009 commencement address.

6. Becoming the First Recipient of the Simons Medal of Excellence, 2010

Established by the College’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning program in honor of the 20th anniversary of the School of the Arts, the inaugural Albert Simons Medal of Excellence was bestowed on Riley on April 15, 2010, for his unwavering commitment to civic design, historic preservation and urban planning.

Watch a video montage of Mayor Riley discussing the College and participating in College events:

For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded.
I Accept