Dan Riley, OFM (center), is presented with his St. Bonaventure University honorary doctorate of humane letters by SBU President Jeff Gingerich (right) and Luke Brown, a university trustee.

Dan Riley Receives Honorary Doctorate from SBU, Delivers Keynote Address to Class of 2023

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He attended St. Bonaventure University 63 years ago as an undergraduate student with his sights set on a career in medicine, but by the time he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, God had other plans for Dan Riley, OFM. He was called to religious life as a Franciscan friar and has been a charismatic presence – and one of the most beloved friars – at his alma mater for more than half a century. It was appropriate that he was among the attendees of SBU’s 163rd commencement exercises on May 14, not as a spectator, but to receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters – and to deliver the keynote address to the class of 2023.

Dan Riley, OFM, delivered the keynote address to the class of 2023 at SBU’s 163rd commencement exercises.

Dan Riley, OFM, delivered the keynote address to the class of 2023 at SBU’s 163rd commencement exercises.

As with everything he has done at SBU, this Rochester, New York, native and member of the class of 1964 was passionate, charismatic, joyful and encouraging in his message to the more than 800 students who received bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

“One of the good things about St. Bonaventure is that we look each other in the eye and get to know each other. If you don’t remember anything else, remember my love for you,” Dan told the graduates during his commencement address with his trademark big smile.

Luke Brown, ’89, a university trustee, had this to say before presenting Dan with his honorary degree: “What can you say in three minutes about a person who has meant so much to so many? Fr. Dan is beloved by the Bonaventure community because of who he is and what he has shared with us for so many years. He connects in a way with students that makes them know he sees each one as special and unique, making an imprint on their lives long after they’ve graduated.”

In 1974, Dan founded the Warming House, the nation’s oldest student-run soup kitchen, in Olean while he was serving as a spiritual director at SBU. When he returned to SBU in 1978 as campus minister and as a regional vocation director for Holy Name Province, he began discussions with students, Franciscan Sisters, and others about the possibility of establishing a retreat facility. Six years later, 204 acres of land were purchased in West Clarksville, New York, not far from SBU – and by 1990, Dan founded Mt. Irenaeus, the Franciscan mountain retreat in Allegany County. He has been director of Mt. Irenaeus ever since.

Dan, who has a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union, professed his first vows in 1966, made his final profession in 1970, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1971.

“Through your engagement with our faculty and the bonds you formed with your classmates, I know you developed a sense of our Franciscan mission and the values of compassion, wisdom and integrity that we try as a community to live every day,” said SBU President Jeff Gingerich, who presided over the university’s first graduation ceremony in the post.

“As you go forward, I know you will help us spread those values in a world that so desperately needs them,” he added.