Last Surviving Member of the First Graduating Class of 1933 Dies

Alice McKeever Riley, the last surviving member of the very first graduating class, died on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at 107 years of age.

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Alice McKeever Riley, Class of 1933, Died in Springfield, Ill., at 107 Years of Age

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Alice McKeever Riley, the last surviving member of the very first graduating class (1933) at Carlow University (then known as Mount Mercy College), died on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at the age of 107.

Riley lived in the Sacred Heart Convent of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, with her daughter, Sister Rose Marie Riley, OP.  That is where she died.

She was born on June 17, 1910, in Pittsburgh, Pa., the daughter of Thomas V. and Stella (Kennedy) McKeever.  The family lived on Mt. Washington, and she attended St. Mary of the Mount grade school before enrolling at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in 8th grade, a school located on the Carlow campus.  When Mount Mercy College opened in 1929, Riley was ready to continue her education.

“My parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to college,” Alice told the Carlow Journal on the occasion of her 100th birthday celebration.  “Papa believed that women should have a good education, just like men.  My twin brothers (who attended Duquesne University) were the oldest, followed by four girls.  He wanted all of us to go to college, and so did Mama.  I never thought of it, but I guess Papa believed in equality for women back then.”

The Sisters of Mercy founded Mount Mercy College in September 1929, just weeks before the stock market crash of October ushered in the Great Depression.  The Depression caused many worthy students to forego their dreams of college, but the McKeever family all worked and took extra jobs to help with the cost of college.  Alice worked at Woolworth’s Five and Ten Cent Store, polishing all of the equipment before she went home each night.

At Mount Mercy, she majored in home economics, and she taught until her retirement in 1974.  She married William Austin Riley on August 14, 1943 in Sebring, Florida.

She is survived by her children, Alice (Daniel) Chamber, Catherine Seper, Sister Rose Marie Riley, O.P., and William Austin (Donna) Riley; nine grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.  

Visitation will be held at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield, on Wednesday, March 21 from 2 to 4:30 p.m., with a prayer service at 2 p.m.  The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel of Sacred Heart Convent.  Graveside ceremony will be held at Assumption Cemetery in Glenwood, Ill., on Thursday, March 22 at 11 a.m..

Alice’s family is very grateful to the Dominican Sisters for the loving care extended to her in recent years.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dominican Sisters Retirement Fund, 1237 W. Monore Street, Springfield, Ill., 62704.


About Carlow University

Carlow is a private, co-educational, Catholic university located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Eds, Meds, and Tech” district. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s graduates, curricula, and partnerships reflect its strong commitment to social justice; ethical, forward-thinking and responsible leadership; and service to the community that has a meaningful impact. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in three colleges: Health and Wellness, Leadership and Social Change, and Learning and Innovation. Carlow graduates are in demand for their professional expertise, in fields ranging from nursing, the sciences, and perfusion technology to counseling, education, and forensic accounting; their entrepreneurial spirit and creative mindset; and their ability to manage change.  Carlow’s 13 athletic teams are known as the Celtics, a reflection of the university’s Irish heritage and roots.

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