Riad Ghaleb Mahayni
May 6, 1942 - June 23, 2017

Riad Ghaleb Mahayni

Riad Ghaleb Mahayni
May 6, 1942 - Jun 23, 2017

Riad Ghaleb Mahayni
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Riad Ghaleb Mahayni passed away peacefully on June 23rd after a courageous battle with cancer. Just as he would have wished, Riad spent his final moments surrounded by his family, nieces, and nephews. The youngest of seven children, Riad was born on May 6, 1942, to Ghaleb and Rushdiyeh in Damascus, Syria.
Riad came to the United States in 1962 to study at Oregon State University and stayed in the northwest until 1972. In this time he earned his Master of Urban Planning from the University of Oregon and his Doctor of Philosophy in Regional Planning from the University of Washington. In 1973, Riad relocated to the east coast where he spent several years teaching at the University of Rhode Island. In 1979, Riad was recruited to Iowa State to launch and chair the Department of Community and Regional Planning.

Riad married Fatina in 1981 and in 1983 they welcomed their first child, Basil. Later in the year, Riad, Fatina, and Basil moved to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where he led the holy city's regional planning efforts. While overseas, Riad and Fatina welcomed their second son Tamim in 1984. Riad and his family returned to Ames in 1986 so that he could rejoin the faculty at Iowa State. Under Riad's leadership, the department earned national recognition and accreditation of its undergraduate and graduate programs by the Planning Accreditation Board, expanded the number of faculty and students, and increased collaboration with communities in central Iowa and around the world. Riad retired from Iowa State in 2012.

Riad was deeply devoted to Fatina and his kids and regularly reminded us that nothing is more important than the bonds between us. He was often the most vocal parent on the sidelines of Basil and Tamim's soccer games, frequently calling out that he's hungry when it was time for that game winning goal. Almost daily, Riad would phone his siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends and never hesitated to support near and distant relatives during difficult times.

Riad was a devoted and compassionate teacher. In his thirty years at Iowa State, he taught thousands of undergraduate students and advised hundreds of graduate students. In the process, he formed relationships that transcended his time with them in the classroom. Dad stressed the importance of critical, analytical, and solution-oriented thinking and to always do what is best for our communities. This past spring, we honored dad with the announcement of the Riad Mahayni Civic Planning Award, a scholarship which will support students in his former department.

Riad was also committed to the city of Ames. He spent over 20 years serving the community, including chairing the Historic and Preservation Committee, serving on the Planning and Zoning Committee, and for nine years represented the 4th Ward on the Ames City Council. Riad was instrumental in the establishment of the Darul Arqum Islamic Center in west Ames and helped to forge a strong relationship between the Ames community and the university. He was also involved in numerous community organizations, including Youth and Shelter Services, Story County United Way, and Ames Rotary Club.

Dad always loved telling stories, particularly over a cup of his famous Turkish coffee. With his distinct Syrian accent, Riad had an incredible ability to hold an audience and impart perspective and wisdom that will stay with us for a lifetime. Though we will miss him dearly, we are fortunate to have so many great memories of him and with him.

Riad is survived by his wife Fatina, sons Basil (Amal) of Arlington, Virginia, and Tamim (Danielle) of Ames, his adorable granddaughter Daliah, his sister Tharwat (Atlanta, Georgia), and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins in the United States and Syria. The family would like to thank all of the staff at Mary Greeley Medical Center, particularly the physicians, nurses, and staff in the William R. Bliss Cancer Center, the staff at the Israel Family Hospice House, and our friends and family for their support over the last few months. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Riad Mahayni Civic Planning Scholarship at Iowa State's Department of Community and Regional Planning. A memorial service will be held at the Iowa State University College of Design Lyle E. Lightfoot Forum (Atrium) at 5pm on Thursday June 29.

Online condolences may be directed to

Jay Ghazali on May 22, 2020

I had to greatest honor and pleasure to be one of Dr. Riad's lucky students when I attended the Community and Regional Planning Master's program at ISU. To all of us he was more than just a professor. He showed his genuine care and interest in each one of us and demonstrated his sincere dedication and commitment to see us succeed in our studies and lives as well. For all of that, I and the rest of my classmates will always be indebted an grateful.
I wish to extend my most sincere condolences to DR. Riad wife and children as well the rest of his family and loved ones. My his sweet soul rest in peace.
Jay Ghazali
Class of 1987 MCRP Program

Jami Larson on Jul 10, 2017

Having been out of Ames for several weeks, I was so saddened to hear of my friend Riad's passing when I returned home. I enjoyed very much serving on the Ames City Council with Riad for five years. He was the "voice of reason" during so many important decisions made on behalf of the City of Ames. I will miss sharing a cup of Turkish coffee and Fatina's baklava with him. Riad was a good man!

Barbara Peterson on Jun 30, 2017

To Fatima,, Basil, and Tamim - My deepest condolences on the death of your husband and father. I knew Riad for many years, mostly as Dennis's poker buddy, but also as a pillar of the community and father of two wonderful Spanish students. May the pain of loss be alleviated by many happy memories.

With sympathy,
Barbara Peterson

Mary Joyce VeVerka on Jun 29, 2017

Thank you councilman Mahayni for serving your neighborhood and city well.

Tracy Bolte on Jun 29, 2017

My prayers go out to Riad's family during this time of remembrance. Riad was one of the best professors in the CRP department during my time at Iowa State. I did not have the pleasure to have him as my advisor, instead, I had his good friend Mr. Shinn. Riad was always a positive influence on all students and faculty. He was a valuable resource to me at graduation time - he helped me work out some of paths I could choose. His guidance will carry on via the memories and impacts he had on students, peers, family and friends. Heaven gains another impactful soul and we will all miss him until our day comes to join him!

Jason Niegsch on Jun 29, 2017

My sincerest condolences to you and your family. While I never had the pleasure of knowing Riad, I can tell he was quite a remarkable man. I'm so sorry for your loss. -Jason Niegsch

Maamar Abu Malik on Jun 29, 2017

Dear Riad's Family,
I have know Riad during the establishment of Darul Arqum islamic centre, a wonderful man to deal with... Ames muslim community is indebted to his guidance and contribution to establishment of the centre... May Allah have mercy on his soul and bless his family. Abu Malik

Heather Rutz on Jun 28, 2017

Riad was a wonderful professor. He was very supportive of all his students and his stories and wisdom will be missed. My sincere condolence to all his family and friends.

John Wahlman on Jun 27, 2017

I have many fond memories of Riad and will miss him greatly. I first met Riad when I attended an awards ceremony at the College of Design to accept a scholarship before my freshman year at ISU. I attended the ceremony with my grandfather and Riad was incredibly kind and welcoming to us both. Over the ensuing years, every time I met with Riad he always asked about my grandfather. I was extremely fortunate to have Riad as my undergraduate advisor during my years at Iowa State and I always enjoyed meeting with him for his advice and to listen to him tell wonderful stories. I remember when I was a freshman, Riad made a call to the Dean's office and got me a work study position in the Dean's office where I made several life long friends. I stayed in touch with Riad after graduating from ISU and moving far away from Ames. Whenever I returned to Ames I would contact Riad and he always wanted to meet with me and meet my wife and daughters. He often invited us to his home for dinner or to visit over Turkish coffee where he enjoyed playing with my daughters while we caught up with each other. My condolences to Fatina and his sons.

Tom Sanchez on Jun 27, 2017

Riad was my mentor when I joined the faculty at Iowa State as a young assistant professor. Many of his words of wisdom stick with me today over 20 years later. I have very fond memories of him and the deepest respect. Condolences to his family.

Mark Stursma on Jun 27, 2017

Riad was a teacher and mentor of the highest order. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to study under him at ISU. He has, without question, made the world a better place...which is the ultimate aspiration of every City Planner. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Katie Peterson on Jun 27, 2017

Without hesitation I can say Riad is the reason I became a city planner and to whom I owe my love for planning. I had the privilege to be in three consecutive classes with my first semester in the CRP Program at Iowa State in which he dovetailed his love of planning with his love for his family and culture making his (sometimes lengthy) lectures interesting for everyone. His love for learning, baklava, Eugene, OR, his students, Turkish coffee and abbreviations will impacted so many of our lives. My prayers are with the Mahayni family in this difficult time.

Rod and Phyllis Williamson on Jun 27, 2017

Riad became our next door neighbor upon his arrival in Ames in 1979. Soon he was inviting our two young kids to go with him for some ice cream, which we initially declined since we didn't know him. Little did we know he would become one of the best neighbors we ever had - a kind and thoughtful man with a keen wit.

We moved out of state in 1983 and fell out of regular contact, although from time to time we'd make a brief connection on a return trip to Ames. We are so thankful that for some reason we made it a point to swing by his home in early May, arriving unexpected and glad to see he and Fatima were home. We were unaware he was ailing although it was apparent something was amiss. He told us he had diabetes, no doubt to ease our worry. I was able to tell him about our family and what his impact on it meant to us. In hindsight there was a spirit guiding us that memorable evening.

We have lost a fine man and a good friend but as with his other acquaintances, he will never be forgotten. In this world of turmoil, remembering Riad will help guide our thoughts.

Joel Glasscock on Jun 27, 2017

An inspiring professor and tremendous person. There was never a dull day in class. I am honored to have been one of his students. He will be missed, but never forgotten as I reminisce my days at Iowa State University.

Gina Gore on Jun 27, 2017

Riad was my absolute favorite professor while I was at Iowa State. Whether he was telling an elaborate story about planning in Syria or playfully teasing a member of the class, he could always put a smile on your face. He was one of my biggest supporters to continue with Planning and helped me understand public sector planning better than anyone else at the college. He will be deeply missed but never forgotten.

Travis Halm on Jun 27, 2017

Riad has been a mentor of mine since my first planning course in 2009. Riad's vast array of knowledge, coupled with a wit that is unmatched has provided me guidance and direction as I advance in my career. Riad has always welcomed me with open arms into his office or his home and I'm forever grateful for the support he has provided to myself and my cohorts.

Lori Johnson on Jun 27, 2017

I'm a former grad student that worked with Riad. He was truly admired and loved by his students and he was such a good teacher. I will always remember him fondly and will remember his impact on his students and the communities he worked with.

Nasser and Ginger Mansour on Jun 27, 2017

Riad was a great and good friend to my husband and me! We will miss him dearly! Specially the Saturday phone calls he and Nasser enjoyed so much!

John Tillo on Jun 26, 2017

I knew Riad first as a colorful character who would yell great words of encouragement from the sideline at soccer matches. I played with his sons, Basil and Tamim, for many of my boyhood years on a soccer team. Riad would insist the team sing a unique song our team had developed after each victory. He would lead the rendition - or insist another soul gone too early, Chase Winkey who played on that team, lead the rendition. After the song I remember many hugs from Riad and gentle head-locks. He knew how to instill confidence and share compassion with others. That always struck me about Riad and I remember the character he was in my mind as a child fondly.

Later in life, I grew to know more about Riad's contributions to the community. Whether serving on YSS, Rotary, or being engaged in the City Council or Planning and Zoning Commission, he wanted to make Ames better. If we could ALL be as active as Riad was in his public life in our public lives, we would be on our way to making a great community (or any community we live in) even better.

Finally, I got to know Riad again and appreciated him even more for the love he has shown, and showed, my wife, Sophia Magill. While she was a student at Iowa State University, where I met her, she developed a strong bond with Riad. It was a bond forged in leadership and in problem solving. Sophia was President of the ISU Student Body during the VEISHEA riots of 2004 and Riad was serving on the Ames City Council at that point. Thus, they had opportunities to work together and have some frank (and perhaps uncomfortable) conversations. It must have been these times working together which forged this bond between them because whenever Riad would see Sophia (at least when I was present) he would instantly call to Sophia (regardless of where he was or she was in the room), share a great big smile and a hug (maybe too long an embrace for my comfort;-), and eventually say "hi" to me as well. Even though I had known him for a lot longer! Hah! His love for all people was clear, but I particularly loved the way he loved my wife.

Riad Mahayni led a life of significance. He will be greatly missed. May he rest in God's and Allah's warm eternal embrace.

Duane Shinn on Jun 26, 2017

Riad and I first met in 1969 at the Transportation Research Center, University of Washington. He was a new doctoral student in a turbulent time for the Department of Urban Planing. We agreed that I should be his major professor, because of similar research interests. There are many tales to be told of our great years together, which put us in Ames just 35 years, ago. It was a relationship, in which we spurred one another to new heights. We took each others' advise on major moves in our careers. I kidded him, that from the first day, he would bring me a new reading list, so I could keep up with him. Our families grew up knowing each other. He will be missed by all of us. Our special condolences to Fatina, Basil and Tamim. You were blessed to have a wonderful husband and father. Duane and Rita Shinn and family.



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Iowa State University College of Design Lyle E. Lightfoot Forum (Atrium)
715 Bissell Road
Ames, Iowa 50011
5:00 PM

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