Provided by South Plains College
LEVELLAND - On June 30, 2014, Anthony "Tony" Riley will conclude a professional career that featured more than 30 years of service at South Plains College and 30 years of active and reserve service in the military.
He said began his career at SPC in 1981 as a part-time adjunct faculty member teaching in Business Administration. At that time, he said, if you went from being an adjunct faculty member to a full time faculty member, the time you spent as an adjunct counted for service awards and nothing else. He became a full-time instructor on Aug. 14, 1991 and two years later, he was promoted to Vice President for Finance and Administration. SPC recently recognized his 23 years of full-time service.
The Morristown, Tenn., native received his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Clemson University and Furman University. Riley later became a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Texas.
Riley's military interest goes back to the time he spent at Virginia Tech. The school had a cadet corps akin to the one at Texas A&M University. The time at Virginia Tech served him well when Riley entered the United States Army after graduation as a second lieutenant. He served a tour in Vietnam. Upon completion, Riley served as a marksmanship instructor and found that he had a knack, and a love, for teaching.
"One of the main lessons I learned when I was in the Army was not to micro-manage your people," Riley said. Riley had been assigned to build a bunker with help from a sergeant and two privates. While trying to figure this out on his own, he received some very good advice from his battalion Sergeant Major who told Riley to tell his sergeant what he wanted done, when he wanted it done, make sure the materials were available to do the job and then turn it over to the sergeant and let him and the privates build the bunker. They did an outstanding job, he said.
"I found that as long as you have the right people to do the job, you should let them do the job until they give you a reason to doubt them," Riley said. "That's a lesson I still use today."
Riley retired from the military in 1993 with the rank of Lt. Colonel after serving in the Texas Army National Guard. He was sent to Korea and three times to Germany where he worked in the intelligence area.
After his military service transitioned into reserve status, Riley knew he wanted to continue to be a teacher. He had taught more than 400 recruits a week during his last year on active duty in the Army, and he knew teaching was something he had to pursue.
"I always thought I might want to teach higher education someday, and I finally got the chance when I moved to Texas," Riley said.
Riley landed a job with the Plains Cotton Cooperative / American Cotton Growers as the plant comptroller for the denim plant operating in Littlefield. He spent 12 years there while also serving as a part-time instructor at SPC teaching night classes at the SPC Reese Center campus four nights a week. He also taught at Wayland University.
Riley left the classroom in 1993 to accept a position in the college's administration. He said he had just completed a sabbatical and was living in Texarkana when he received a phone call regarding the job.
"Otto Schacht called me up and told me that John Dickson (the college's tax assessor-collector/business manager) was retiring, and he wanted to know if I would be interested in the job," Riley said. "I said yes, and came back as the vice president for Business Affairs."
During Riley's tenure, SPC secured seven buildings following the closure of Reese Air Force Base. He worked to connect all of the data systems, and added payroll. He also was instrumental in getting computers for SPC. Riley said one of his best hires was Tim Winders who helped to connect all of the college to the internet. Riley also is responsible for the growth and development of the telephone system throughout the college.
Like any other future retiree, Riley said there were not many things he would have changed over his SPC career, except one. He said he wished he had asked for three more buildings for the SPC Reese Center campus.
"Someone once told me that if you like your job, you never work a day in your life," he said. "I have worked very few days at SPC.
"I had the good fortune to be a part of SPC for a good part of my career," he said. "SPC has been my best career experience by far. I only wish that I had started here earlier."
Riley said he expects his golf game will get progressively better. He plans to continue his participation in the West Winds Brass Band.
"We (Riley and his wife Dorothy) plan to do some traveling to Alaska," he said. "We will be attending our grandchildren's sporting and musical events and enjoying a life without any scheduled activities. I plan to wake up in the morning with only one planned activity for the day; i.e. what I can I do to have fun!"
Riley said he will fondly remember the college.
"The SPC family concept is no myth," he said. "It truly exists and I feel fortunate to be a part of it."