Peter Reilly
December 26, 1938 - November 2, 2017

Peter Reilly

Peter Reilly
Dec 26, 1938 - Nov 2, 2017

Peter Reilly
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Peter J. Reilly
Ames, Iowa

Peter J. Reilly died on November 2, 2017, of duodenal cancer. A visitation will be held Friday, November 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St. Thomas on Saturday, November 11 at 11 a.m. A lunch will follow at the church.

Pete was born in Newark, New Jersey, on December 26, 1938 to Edward and Anita (Galdieri) Reilly. After early years in Philadelphia and on Long Island, New York, his family moved to Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, where he attended Pompton Lakes High School, graduating as valedictorian and unanimously selected by his classmates as "Outstanding Boy." He attended Princeton University, where he received his A.B. in Chemistry in 1960, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering in 1964.

After a brief stint at the DuPont Company in its Organic Chemicals Department in Deep Water, New Jersey, Pete began his academic career at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He joined the faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Iowa State University in 1974. In Ames, he met Rae (Messer), and they married in 1976. To this marriage, he brought twin daughters, Diane and Karen.

Pete remained on the faculty of Iowa State for forty years, until his retirement in 2014, becoming Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering in 1992. He also served as visiting professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, at the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland, Australia, and at the Zuckerinstitut of the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany.

In recent decades, Pete examined biotechnologically relevant carbohydrate hydrolysis enzymes using computational techniques. He published widely in scholarly journals, and supervised twenty-two Ph.D students from eleven countries, including Korea, Nigeria, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Taiwan, Portugal, Switzerland, India, and China, as well as the United States. He took particular pride in the fact that eleven of his students chose careers in university research and teaching.

Pete especially enjoyed the international facet of his career, and throughout sought to enable his colleagues and students to benefit from international experiences in exchanges, summer study abroad programs, and collaborations. He founded an international program, unique in the world that exchanged students, faculty, and staff from across Iowa State University with those at the University of Glasgow. In addition, he founded university-wide exchanges for students with two universities in Lausanne, Switzerland. He enjoyed leading summer programs for chemical engineering students to University College, London and the Universidad de Oviedo, Spain.

Pete had many interests beyond his scientific pursuits. He enjoyed serving on and then chairing the ISU Library Advisory Committee. In his retirement, he served on the board of the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association, serving as its president for two years.

Pete was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife Rae, daughters Diane Reilly, her husband Giles Knox, and their son Ian; Karen Reilly, her husband Tom Fudge, and their children Nicholas and Sophie; his brother Tom and his wife Suzzie; and numerous devoted cousins.

Despite his love of Iowa, he remained a Yankees fan all his life.

Memorials may be directed to the Peter Reilly AIOFA Fund (Ames International Orchestra Festival Association) through the ISU Foundation, or the William R. Bliss Cancer Center or MGMC Hospice, both through the Mary Greeley Medical Center Foundation.

Online condolences may be directed to

andrew gunstone on Dec 30, 2017

Dear Rae and the Reilly family,
I am very sad to hear this news, Peter was instrumental in my exchange year from Glasgow to ISU and apart from my degree and future career this also helped by chance me meet my future wife. We were very happy to see you both in Lausanne a few years back now... I was just trying to find Peter's email address to inform him of our 2nd son's birth, when i found the news.
May he rest in peace.

Andrew Gunstone
Villars-le-Terroir (originally from Aberdeen, Scotland) on Dec 19, 2017

Dear Rea,
I have just heard about the sad news and would like to express my heartfelt condolences. Peter means a lot to me, because I do not only do my diploma thesis with him in Ames as an exchange student. He always supported me a lot and helped me a lot with teaching at the beginning of my professorial career. He supported me as a guest lecturer in Mannheim (Germany) and it was a pleasure to show you Karlsruhe and Alsace together with my husband. His joy and infinite power of for travelling, with you at his side, impressed me a lot. You have really been a great team and I wish you and the whole family a lot of strength. Especially now at Christmas time.

Sonja, Germany

Gungor Gunduz on Nov 18, 2017

Dear Rae,
Pete was a very special person for us; Ufuk was the first graduate student of Pete in Ames in early 1970s and I had the opportunity to chat with Pete the world politics and international affairs in the very non-political environment of ISU. His very wide scope on international issues and his international scientific collaborations will always be remembered by foreigner like us with great appreciation; we are indebted to him. He had great enthusiasm to grasp the new developments in chemical engineering, and had great sense of wit and humor, and used to transfer his positive energy to all around him. In 2003 you had invited us for a dinner at your home. I still remember that night and your very warm hospitality. When we gathered around the table Pete showed a chair and said to me "you had sit on that chair before!". That was just twenty years ago! A brilliant mind, a brilliant memory that I can never forget.
The words used for condolence in our language have a meaning of not only to express sadness felt, but also wish the partner to sustain the life and the memories. Memories look for the branches to land on; and we are sure you'll do that for your children, grandchildren and for all Riley friends.
Gungor Gunduz
Ankara, Turkey

Ufuk on Nov 14, 2017

Dear Rae,
Dr. Reilly (as I calling him) was such a lively person that it is hard to believe his loss.. He was my advisor during my graduate study.He was a bright light in our lives. He was always thinking about new projects, or in action, doing new projects. He was happy to meet new people, or visiting new places.
I am so sorry.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Ufuk Gündüz

Kimberly Greder on Nov 11, 2017

I always enjoyed visiting with Pete. He was such a kind man with a quiet sense of humor and wit. I recall a couple of years ago meeting Pete in the airport in Denver-- we enjoyed a great breakfast and conversation. That is the most enjoyable time I've had in an airport waiting for a flight. Pete always had a smile and something interesting as well as nice to say. He is missed by many.
God Bless,
Kim Greder

Jim Hayes on Nov 11, 2017

So sorry for your loss and that we can't be with you for the funeral. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

In sympathy,

Jim and Sarah Hayes

Letitia Kenemer on Nov 10, 2017

Rae, My thoughts are with you. Reading the tributes I can see that your husband was an amazing man who touched many lives. - Letitia Kenemer

Mike Steffenson on Nov 10, 2017

I was so sorry to read about Pete's death. Whenever I would return to the ISU Chem Engineering Department, I would stop by Pete's office and he would interrupt whatever he was doing to visit and bring me up to date on what was really going on. I have missed those visits since his retirement. I was surprised that his retirement was so complete, and now I understand why that might have been.

Please accept my sympathies on your loss.

Mike Steffenson. Davenport Iowa

Nelle N. Blain on Nov 10, 2017

Peter and I became acquainted through our mutual devotion to study abroad and for many years we swapped students and stories about our experiences. He was consistently supportive and interested in study abroad and recognized the value of the opportunities it provided. He was passionate about his work and his students and I got to know several of those who were from France or French speakers. It was always a pleasure to run into him on campus or elsewhere because he inevitably had time for a conversation.
I am sad that this terrible disease caused him pain and suffering and that now it has taken him. He will be missed.

Nelle Blain

Diane Rover on Nov 9, 2017

Pete was a cherished colleague and mentor, and it was a privilege working with him in the college on program development in bioengineering and study abroad. I saw his dedication to students in many ways, including through my daughter's experience in chemical engineering at ISU. He was always ready to say hello and catch up. Craig and I send our deepest sympathies to the family and wish you joy in your memories.

Robert Brinster on Nov 8, 2017

Pete was a very dear and important friend of mine during our teen years. I have happy memories of Pete, his brother Tom, who we called Timmie, and his parents who often offered me useful advice on any subject I had need. After losing contact for many years, Pete and I had just recently begun exchanging emails. I will miss him.
Bob Brinster

P. Jeffrey Berger on Nov 8, 2017

November 8, 2017
Dear Rae, Diane, Karen, and other members of the Peter Reilly Family;
With deep regret, I express my condolences at this time. Peter Reilly and I grew to know each other through monthly meetings of the Osborn Research Club.
We both shared mutual backgrounds having grown up in New Jersey: Jeff in rural Hunterdon county and Peter in Pompton Lakes. Fortunately, we were close enough in age that we began attending class reunions at our respective High Schools over the last two decades. Therefore, these events became a good discussion starter and chance to swap information whenever we met. The discussion usually started with a question about the girls in our graduating class e.g., "Were the girls as good looking as they were when you graduated? "
No offense to Fran and Rae, you both remained to be our respective "BEST CHOICE".
Our professional careers never overlapped. It was the love of science and engineering and being able to understand and get answers to questions of WHAT HOW WHY across disciplines that brought us together at Iowa State University.
I always enjoyed Peter's enthusiasm for new discoveries in science and engineering. May this letter find you together as you celebrate the life of Peter Reilly. Keep sharing the many events and times you were together with Peter.
With kind regards for strength and renewed joy in the future;
P. Jeffrey Berger
Emeritus Professor of Animal Science

Lee Blyler on Nov 8, 2017

I first met Pete in a chemical engineering class we both took at Princeton. We became friends got together with our families from time to time over the years, often at Pete's parent's home in Pompton Lakes. Each year I have looked forward to reading Pete's Holiday recounting of the events and adventures of the Reilly extended family. What a wonderfully distinguished, meaningful and joyful life he led! I just wish I had spent more time with him.

Rae, Diane and Karen,
My deepest sympathies to you and your families. I will miss him too.

Lee Blyler
Basking Ridge, NJ

Blake Mertz on Nov 7, 2017


As I write this from my academic office at West Virginia University, I know that Pete is looking down on me. Probably with a reminder to get back to work on publishing my next paper, writing my next grant, or correcting another set of homework. There was SO MUCH that I took for granted as a graduate student that Pete took care of behind the scenes. Now that I'm on the other side of the fence, I truly appreciate the lessons learned (and the summer he didn't take salary so I could continue doing research!). I'll miss being able to come back to Ames and count on meeting up with him, to give him updates on the research in my lab and how big my kids are getting. We've been praying for him down here; now we'll be able to pray for him up there.


David Gregory on Nov 6, 2017

Dear Rae: When Pete sent the Gregory family to Scotland for academic year 1999/2000, as part of the exchange with Glasgow University, it launched our friendship with the Reillys and (in no small way) fueled our enthusiasm for all the international travel and service that has followed. We will always appreciate that "spark" that Pete provided. We lift you and your family up in our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers, and are sorry for your loss. -- David and Mary Gregory, U. S. Peace Corps Volunteers (2016-2018), St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Meleah LaPree on Nov 5, 2017

I am sorry to hear of Professor Reilly's passing. His passion for international study has made a lasting imprint on my life and I am grateful for the program that he ran with UNIL. He was kind, supportive, and passionate. My deepest sympathies.

Eli Reiser on Nov 5, 2017

Riley Family,
Pete served as advisor to the AIChE student organization for many years, during that time he helped many of us to become not just better students, but better members of the community. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work closely with him while I was involved in the AIChE leadership. I will never forget the many stories he shared, or the "Most Difficult Exam" awards that I presented to him. I am sending thoughts and prayers from New York. Eli Reiser ISU Alum 2016

Pat Thiel on Nov 5, 2017

Pete was a great colleague and great friend. He was also courageous, putting up a tremendous fight to fend off his cancer. Jim and I will miss him. - Pat Thiel

Alan Atherly on Nov 5, 2017

We are so sorry to hear of Pete's passing and you have our deepest condolences. Pete arranged both our sabbaticals in Glasgow where we both had wonderful experiences and we will be forever grateful. Pete was a wonderful guy and will be missed. Mary & Alan Atherly

John Rosazza on Nov 5, 2017

Dear Mrs. Riley: I wanted to express my deepest condolences to you and your family on Pete's passing. I am a retired professor from the University of Iowa. It was my pleasure working with Pete on a program involving ISU, UI and the city of Cedar Rapids. We met at least a few times a year - one of the really good things that brought both great universities and their people together. Pete and I shared a few things in common: late december birthdays (mine Dec 25, his Dec 26); both of us being Irish/Italian (I call it Gaelic and Garlic); and both very interested in good science. I was privileged to know Pete, and am so sorry for your loss. All best wishes to you and your family, Jack Rosazza, Prof Emeritus Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry; and, Director Emeritus and founder of the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing.



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St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
2210 Lincoln Way
Ames, Iowa 50014
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM


St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
2210 Lincoln Way
Ames, Iowa 50014
11:00 AM

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