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Freida Joy Riley (1937 – August 5, 1969) was an American science and math teacher. She taught at Big Creek High School in War, West Virginia during the late 1950s and early 1960s while suffering from Hodgkin's disease.
Riley was born in Squire, West Virginia, to J.F. and Sallie Beavers Riley. She graduated from Big Creek High School, Concord College, and completed graduate work at Ohio State University and West Virginia University. Riley was an alumna of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Beta Pi Chapter at Concord College. As a teacher, she was widely known for her inspiring work with students, including Homer Hickam, Jr. and the Rocket Boys, which was told in Hickam's #1 New York Times best-seller entitled Rocket Boys. Riley was depicted by actress Laura Dern in the feature film October Sky, which was based on Rocket Boys. She also appeared in Hickam's two follow-up memoirs entitled The Coalwood Way (2000) and Sky of Stone (2002).
The Freida J. Riley Award was established in her honor and is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact students. The award is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and administered by the Partnership for America's Future. Concord College has also established an annual scholarship in Riley's name.
Freida Riley died of Hodgkin's disease on Tuesday, August 5, 1969, in the West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown. She was 31 years old, just about to turn 32. She is interred at Grandview Memory Gardens in Bluefield, Virginia.