Iowa Bill O'Riley Family Scholarship
When Bill O’Riley enrolled at Northwest Missouri State University he was 23 years old, married and a new father. He was five years into managing a 240-acre farm and he was barely earning enough income to support his family.
But he had a strong work ethic and he knew a college education could help him reach his full potential.
Now retired after a successful business career, O’Riley is giving back to Northwest as a tribute to all of the people who helped him earn two college degrees and to help others who need assistance with attaining their college goals.
O’Riley’s endowment has established the Iowa Bill O’Riley Family Scholarship program, which will assist a Northwest junior or senior who is majoring in marketing or management. Preference will be given to a married student who graduated from a high school in Iowa.
Having grown up on a farm in southwest Iowa, O’Riley attended grade school in Villisca and figured he was destined for a farming career. Things began to change for O’Riley, however, when a neighbor left his farm to earn a degree at Northwest. The neighbor, Roy Dwyer – whose landlord was Northwest chemistry professor J. Gordon Strong – earned his chemistry degree from Northwest in 1964 and convinced O’Riley he should enroll at Northwest, too.
O’Riley got some money and obtained housing. In 1964, he began working toward his degree while working at Sherman Bros. Lightning Rod in Maryville to pay for his schooling. O’Riley, who studied business and physical education, also credits his advisor, Dr. Burton Richey, for taking him under his wing.
O’Riley completed his bachelor’s degree in three years. After college he spent time teaching business courses and coaching football in Harlan and Clarinda, both in Iowa.
With the help of some additional connections he had made, O’Riley eventually found his niche in the savings and loan industry and was recruited for a sales position at General Electric. During his tenure with the company he helped increase its market share to levels it had not seen and was responsible for direct sales in at least 11 states.
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