Inspired to a career in politics due to her interest in serving her community, MaryAnn C. Riley started on her professional path when she was still a high school student. Hearing about Dwight D. Eisenhower on the radio, she was driven to involve herself in the Eisenhower presidential campaign. After she earned her high school diploma she joined Purdue University and achieved a Bachelor of Science in education in 1963. That same year, after gaining her teaching certificate in Indiana, she began teaching at the James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School, where she spent the next 20 years teaching in the first grade gifted program as well as regular classes for the third, fifth and sixth grades. Ms. Riley also spent a year teaching English and citizenship courses in Panama.
During her teaching career, Ms. Riley furthered her education, earning a Master of Science in education with a minor in theater at Purdue University in 1965 and completing postgraduate studies in education at the University of Hawai’i in 1968. During her time as a teacher, she remained involved in politics and put considerable effort into emphasizing the importance of voting to her students, noting that today’s politically savvy children are tomorrow’s voting adults. For the five years that she taught third grade, she created projects to involve her students in local elections and ran mock elections in the classroom. Since their local election site was the elementary school, Ms. Riley had the incredible experience of witnessing a 100% voter turnout for the parents of her students.
Moving to South Carolina in 1982, Ms. Riley began attending community meetings and her involvement in various local campaigns led to her appointment as the president of the Spartanburg County Republican Women later that same year. She continues to excel in this position, striving to cultivate a legacy of community giving and doing her utmost to make the world a better place for future generations. Furthermore, she maintains professional affiliation with the National Federation of Republican Women and the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women, and attended the 2021 National Republican Women’s Convention in Orlando, Florida.
Ms. Riley has also been very involved in community health. A major contributor to her local pregnancy center, she has volunteered her time with the mental health divisions of Crossroads and served as a foster care reviewer for her state’s Foster Care Review Board for 18 years. Other affiliations of hers include Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., Veteran’s Last Patrol, the St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, and her local chapter of Altrusa International, which focuses on reading for adults and children. Spending three years as the board president of the American Cancer Association, Ms. Riley has done considerable work in end-of-life care, working with cancer patients and comforting the dying, from friends and family to total strangers.
Having accomplished much over the course of her career, Ms. Riley has been incredibly gratified to receive recognition for her contributions as an educator and public servant. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Woman of Achievement Award from the South Carolina Legislative Republican Women Caucus. She has also been named Woman of the Year by Spartanburg County Republican Women and has twice received the honor of Catholic Woman of the Year. Ms. Riley has also been nominated for a Teacher of the Year Award.
Attributing much of her success to her parents, Clemens and Mary Shembab, Ms. Riley is particularly grateful to her father, who told her that she could do anything she put her mind to and that, while she would make mistakes along the way, the most important thing was to be kind to people regardless of who they are or what they have. She also cites her father as the person who instilled in her the strong work ethic and good values that have driven her professional ethics throughout her career. Considering the most important lesson she learned over the course of her career to be listening, Ms. Riley would advise young and aspiring professionals to not be afraid to meet new people, put yourself in new situations and work with a diverse range of individuals.