Spring/Summer 2023

In Memoriam

Richard J. Riordan, ’56

Richard J. Riordan
Richard J. Riordan, ’56

Richard J. Riordan, ’56, a lawyer, businessman, and former mayor of Los Angeles, died at his home in Los Angeles on April 19, 2023. He was 92.

Riordan grew up in New Rochelle, New York, as the youngest of nine children. After earning a football scholarship, he enrolled in Santa Clara University in California. He later transferred to Princeton University and completed his bachelor's degree in philosophy. Following his undergraduate studies, Riordan joined the Army and served as a first lieutenant during the Korean War. After the war, he attended Michigan Law.

Riordan returned to California after graduating from the Law School and joined O'Melveny & Myers. He later practiced at Nossaman LLP and then became a founding partner of Riordan & McKinzie, which later merged with Bingham McCutcheon. He then co-founded the private equity firm Riordan, Lewis & Haden. During this time he also became a member of the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners.

Riordan was elected the 39th mayor of Los Angeles in 1993; he is the only Republican to have led the city since 1961. He took office in the wake of the 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating death of an unarmed Black man, Rodney King. A few years later, Riordan was praised for his leadership in rebuilding Los Angeles after the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake. He served as mayor until he was term-limited in 2001. 

He was a strong advocate for education, particularly supporting charter schools. His significant contributions to California's educational landscape include serving briefly as the education secretary under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. As mayor, Riordan is credited with saving LA’s central library from ruin; it now bears his name. He later established the Riordan Foundation, a charity for expanding childhood literacy.

Riordan’s philanthropy also benefited his alma mater. He gave $1.5 million to the Law School, dedicated to the Loan Repayment Assistance Program and the refurbishment of the Faculty Lounge. He served on various fundraising committees for the Law School and the University.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Gregory; his daughters Patricia, Elizabeth, and Kathleen Ann; grandchildren Luca, Jessica, and Elizabeth; and sister Mary Elizabeth.