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Accounting professor receives Foundation’s Outstanding Teaching Award

Richard Riley

The nation's 35th president, John F. Kennedy, once said, "Only those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly."

Richard Riley would agree.  Recently awarded the WVU Foundation's Outstanding Teaching Award, Dr. Riley believes his classrooms are perfect places for students to fail—and then to learn from that failure to achieve.

He specializes in case studies and simulations that challenge students to use what they are learning to handle situations that have occurred, or could, in the real world.

"Simulations allow students to fail without penalizing them for that failure," he said. "The classroom is a laboratory, a place where students can experience failure and a place where they can learn. Sometimes the painful lessons of failure are most valuable, and I tell my students that up front. 'Learn from failure so you will avoid it later — when it really matters!'"

The fact is Riley's student evaluations show that his courses get nearly a top score for difficulty (4.8 out of five). However, he gets the similar scores for being a great professor.

"Dr. Riley believes in rigorous learning for his students," said College of Business and Economics Dean Jose Sartarelli.  "He's tough, but fair, and the students know it. They also know that they will learn and that he is preparing them to deal with problems they will face in their careers.  I think I speak for all of us at B&E in saying that he certainly deserves the Outstanding Teaching Award."

One of Riley's simulations is part of the College's Masters of Professional Accountancy program. In it he requires student teams to manage a hypothetical personal computer manufacturing company in competition with their classmates. Teams compete in making financial, operational, marketing, production and other strategic decisions.  

The teams must also solicit and negotiate with venture capitalists for growth capital.  In the end the teams report results, including return on investment, customer satisfaction and market share.

"The classroom is a laboratory, a place where students can experience failure and a place where they can learn. Sometimes the painful lessons of failure are most valuable, and I tell my students that up front."

This not only focuses on accounting and management skills, but also includes team-building and verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
Riley joined the College of Business and Economics faculty in 1998 and is one of the original architects of the College's anti-fraud, anti-white-collar crime curriculum, Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination (FAFE).

That program was mentioned in the international Fraud Magazine in 2010, and in 2011-13 Riley created a hybrid on-line version of the courses and program.

Moreover, in 2009, Riley received the Innovations in Accounting Education Award given each year by the American Accounting Association. 

Riley won the College of Business and Economics Outstanding Teaching Award in 2004-05 and again in 2011-12. Additionally, he won the 1999-2000 Outstanding Faculty Member, Beta Alpha Psi.  In 2008, the prestigious Association of Certified Fraud Examiners recognized him as the Educator of the Year. William J. Kresse nominated Riley. He is director of graduate programs in financial fraud examination and management at the Graham School of Management, Saint Xavier University.

Richard Riley teaching

"Dr. Riley is one of the most active academics in the promotion of fraud examination and forensic accounting as an academic discipline," he said. "His work at the helm of the Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute for Justice-funded model curriculum project was extremely important.  He is considered as one of the leaders in the anti-fraud community." 

Dr. Kresse was referring to a program that began in 2003 when accounting faculty were awarded a $614,000 grant from the Department of Justice to create forensic accounting and fraud examination guidelines for curriculum and training development.

Riley and Dr. Tim Pearson, former director of the Division of Accounting, were instrumental in moving the Institute for Fraud Prevention to West Virginia University.  

In 2012, Dr. Riley was awarded the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Outstanding Achievement – Hubbard Award. The Hubbard Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the anti-fraud profession during the past year.

Riley was senior accountant at Deloitte & Touche and vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer of Georgetown Leather Design Co. and Jordan Kitts Music. He holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from Wheeling Jesuit University, a master's of professional accountancy from West Virginia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. 

Riley enjoys fitness exercising and long-distance trail running.  He met his wife, Shelly, in Washington, D.C., and they have three children: Kelsey, 3; Andrew, 12, and Connor, 13.

Other professors in the College of Business and Economics who have received the Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award are:  Presha Neidermeyer, 2011; Paula Fitzgerald, 2004; Virginia Kleist, 2003; and Paul Speaker, 1990.