A Selfless Mentor to Many
By Andrew B. Jones, senior, School of Communications;
intern, Office of University Communications
Working comfortably behind a large desk stacked high with papers in Howard’s athletic office sits F. Andrew Riley IV, whose unique story is an inspiration to students and colleagues. His professional journey from student to employee at Howard has been impacted by significant personal challenges. Yet, despite the challenges, he remains selfless when it comes to mentoring young people.
The journey started when Riley, 31, was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, and served as a student worker in the Department of Compliance. He was moved by the dedication of the Compliance staff, who work to certify student athletes.
“As a student, he was filled with enthusiasm, youthfulness and excitement about making a contribution,” said Edward Hill Jr., sports information director for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Riley was also excited about the opportunity to help area youth by exposing them to University events. “We encouraged community groups to bring children, so they could get the opportunity to see a game and take something from that,” he said.
After graduating in 2001 and enrolling in the master’s program in Educational Psychology, Riley worked as a graduate assistant in the Department of Compliance. Despite his passion for the position and his desire to continue his education, at his mother’s request he returned home to New York to assist his family when his brother was stricken with a brain aneurysm.
Riley started teaching third grade in the New York City Public Schools while tending to family matters. After four years at home working as a teacher, Riley’s mother encouraged him to continue his studies.
“My mother made sure I came back to Howard,” said Riley, who found difficulty in the decision to return, because he had grown to love teaching.
Once he returned, he was hired as a compliance specialist in the same department where he had worked as a student.
“He came back a professional; his approach became a big asset to the department,” said Hill. As a full-time professional, Riley’s interest lies in helping those around him, particularly the students. “My driving purpose in life is to be of help to someone else,” said Riley. “It pains me when I can’t go above and beyond to help someone.”
He remembers the impact that certain staff members had on his development as a student, and hopes to have that effect on others. “I strive to encourage anyone who comes into my office,” he says. “It’s a good feeling to know that you’re helping someone out.”
“He’s a mentor to me because I can talk to him about things outside of school,” says Nikeema Kadary, a junior public relations major who works in the Department of Compliance. “He understands the struggle and things that will wear you out or cause you to have breakdowns.”
On a personal level, Riley hopes to continue to be supportive to his family and the community. Already a godparent to 10 children, he continues his mentorship and involvement in Kidsave and other children’s organizations.
“Adoption may also be an option for me,” said Riley, who spends his spare time cooking, reading and attending church.
The one overarching theme for Riley’s life is helping others. “If I can help somebody as I go along, then my living will not be in vain,” he said.