01 July 2016
Mr Brian Oldman, Director of the South Australian Museum and Mr Antony Simpson, President of the Waterhouse Club, issue the following statement upon hearing the news of the passing of Mr Steven Riley PSM:
We are saddened to hear of the passing of a great South Australian and consummate supporter of the South Australian Museum, Mr Steven “Steve” Riley PSM.
Steve’s wit, pragmatism and sense of humour gave him an uncanny ability to meaningfully connect with anyone he met. His legacy at the South Australian Museum is far greater than the tangible outcomes of his success, it is plainly evident that he had a positive impact on many people’s lives.
General Manager of the South Australian Museum from 2000 to 2010, Steve was a visionary who oversaw a transformational change. He was without question the driving force behind so many of the Museum’s major projects, and he worked tirelessly to further the South Australian Museum.
By any measure, the list of achievements attributable to Steve’s leadership are impressive. During his tenure he had a positive impact on every facet of the Museum’s operations.
Steve’s management of the Museum was a fine balance, he kept a close eye on the important elements and allowed the rest to get on with the job with a minimum of interference. He tolerated with dry humour, rather than participated in any bureaucratic distractions.
His bold approach to innovation and advancement, coupled with a savvy business background, forever changed the operations of the Museum. Steve’s operational initiative highlights included the establishment, and successful running, of the Museum Foundation, development of unique outreach programs and exhibitions and a transformational change to strategy which resulted in the South Australian Museum being Australia’s most highly awarded science research Museum.
Steve appreciated all too well the need for a Museum to thrive through dynamic public spaces. As General Manager, he diligently oversaw redevelopments of nearly the entire public space of the Museum. He was instrumental in the development of the Biodiversity Gallery, Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery, Pacific Cultures Gallery and the Forecourt.
In 2010, Steve was acknowledged in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and awarded a Public Service Medal for outstanding service in the arts, specifically with regards to the South Australian Museum.
He oversaw the establishment of the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, a popular innovation in its day, and the running of social events that attracted a wider audience into the Museum community. Here his Chairmanship of the Fringe gave him access to very different people who, when scattered through an audience, would create a unique atmosphere; one year it was morris-dancers, another acrobats dressed as zebras on stilts. It was said that the Museum had the best parties on North Terrace.
Be it a board room or at one of his wilder celebratory events, in any circumstance, Steve had the ability to always put people at ease and make them laugh.
For those close to Steve, and many were, it will be the charismatic charm of a man with an incredible memory, and love of a chin wag, which will be dearly missed.
We pass on our most sincere condolences to Pam, Judith, Susan, Felix, Kirsty and Zoe who we know are in deep mourning for a much loved husband, father and grandfather.
Rest in peace, Steve Riley, and as Steve so often said, as always, stay bright.