Ida Riley, the forgotten co-founder of Columbia School of Oratory, was born on April 11th 1856 in Mercer County, Illinois. Today, the founder of your college turned 158 years old. So have a cupcake, have a beer, and make a toast to the woman who made your education.
Ida was raised in Union Township, Iowa where she grew up on a farm. Her parents were farmers and in the words of Heidi Marshall, the head of the Archives Department, “Ida was a mid-western girl through and through.”
Ida became the principal of her childhood public school in Iowa after her husband Heston Riley died of influenza in 1879. In 1877, while teaching at the State Agricultural College in Ames, Ida met Mary. Mary was sent to Iowa from Emerson College in Boston to teach elocution and expression and the two women became close friends, Mary encouraging Ida to study at Monroe College of Oratory. She moved to Boston with Mary and got her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Oratory at Emerson. Ida joined Mary in Chicago, establishing Columbia School of Oratory together in 1890.
Up until her death, Ida was on the board of directors for the National Association of Elocutionists, serving as secretary.She died on March 7th, 1901. She is buried next to her husband in Ashley, Ohio.