Robert Wayne Richey passed away October 4, 2021, after contracting COVID-19 at Wesley Acres Stoddard Health Center. Known as “R. Wayne Richey,” he was born July 6, 1928, in Bradley, Illinois, the oldest of eight children of parents Ina Lee (Thompson) and Robert Walter Richey.
The family was raised in Western Saline County, Southern Illinois. Wayne attended Neal Country School for grades one through eight and Harrisburg High School, graduating in 1945. The challenge of daily travel from the country to town resulted in a job at the Kroger grocery store, a soda jerk at the drug store and living with Uncle James Thompson. Wayne joined the US Army Air Corps, from April 1946 to September 1947. While in Japan, he served in the Army of Occupation, achieving the rank of sergeant. His work in the Judge Advocate General's Office, 5th Air Force, included interviewing and transcribing testimony from former American Prisoners of War held by the Japanese in preparation for war crime trials.
Upon discharge, Wayne and his brother Dale moved North to Kankakee, Illinois where they hired-out on the New York Central Railroad. Dale’s twin, Don, soon followed. In Kankakee, Wayne met and fell in love with Anita Joann Sweeney. The couple eloped to Harrisburg in January 1950. Encouraged by Anita, Wayne took full advantage of the GI Bill and attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale earning a BA with honors in 1954 and MA in 1956. The couple accomplished this educational feat while raising three children and expecting a fourth. A large extended family embraced and helped the young couple and children.
In 1956, Wayne started his career in state government as an Analyst for the Kansas Division of the Budget. Anita, with the three children and baby, arrived on a passenger train to Topeka in late summer. The Richey family enjoyed an idyllic time living in the Potwin neighborhood of Topeka. After serving as the Deputy Budget Director, the family moved to Des Moines.
In the fall of 1966, Wayne accepted the position as Assistant Executive Secretary with the Iowa Board of Regents, the governing body for the three public universities: the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), Iowa State University, the University of Iowa; the Iowa School for the Deaf and Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. "No other individual has worked so long and so diligently as Wayne Richey to preserve the integrity and independence of Iowa's institutions. He has done so by steadfastly resisting political intrusions into the governing system that might infringe on academic freedom and sound educational practices. He has been a powerful advocate for increasing the representation of minority students in public institutions of higher education in the State of Iowa and for employing faculty and staff to represent the diverse cultures which comprise our nation and world. Wayne Richey has been a strong proponent of competitive salaries in the national marketplace and of the importance of professional development leaves for faculty renewal. He has been particularly respectful of the views of students in the policy process and has ensured student consultation and input regarding board decisions on issues critical to students such as proposed increases in tuition and fees." Stated UNI President Robert Koob. During the time period 1966 to 1992, the Board of Regents budget grew from $85 million to just under one billion dollars. In 1998, Wayne retired as Executive Director after 31 years as the regents’ chief executive. His tenure in the position as a state higher education executive was the longest in the nation at that time.
The University of Northern Iowa granted Wayne an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1998. Governor Robert D. Ray appointed Wayne an Honorary Colonel of the State of Iowa in the service of the National Guard of the State of Iowa for his service to the people of Iowa in 1983. An Award for Distinguished Service to State Government was presented in 1989 by the National Governors’ Association. The Iowa Association of the Deaf, Distinguished Service Award for Significant Contributions to the Quality of Life of Deaf People in Iowa was awarded to Wayne in 1989. During his lengthy career in Iowa, he served with distinction on a number of Iowa boards and commissions. Nationally, he served as president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) 1974-75.
Wayne and Anita enjoyed escaping to their 125 acres of woods and ponds in Appanoose County, Iowa. They loved inviting family to join them in nature hikes, fishing and camping. At their home in Des Moines, spending time with family was all-important with summer BBQs, hand-cranked ice cream and wonderful holidays. Living close to their grandchildren and great grandchildren, Wayne and Anita attended plays, games and activities at Hubbell, Merrill and Roosevelt schools. The couple traveled the US to research family genealogy, tour historical sites and visit family and friends. Wayne's personal hobbies included a passion for reading and discussing nonfiction and biographies with WWII and the Civil War as his favorites. He especially enjoyed reading the New York Times newspaper. If you would ask Wayne's family and friends of the most enjoyable parts of his personality, they will respond with his sense of humor, ability to listen, generosity and his enjoyment of people.
Wayne is survived by his son, Bruce of Des Moines; daughter, Rebecca Richey and son by marriage, Robert Tecklenburg of Springfield, VA; four siblings, James Richey (Dorothy), Shirley Hull (Joe), Rosemary Moore (BJ) and Glenda Fern Lane; sister-in-law, Willa Wilson (Scott Udey) and brother-in-law, Edmund “Ned” Sweeney. Surviving Wayne are three grandchildren, Roderick Butts, Sarah Butts and Allen Wayne Butts (Patricia); father of grandchild, Roderick Butts, Sr; mother of great grandchildren, Brenda Navara Butts; father of great grandchildren, Kenny James; ten great grandchildren, Marcellus (Kenzie), Marley, Myles, Keshara, Sierra, Sydney, Kayla, Kimberly, Tanya and Allen Wayne, Jr; and great great grandchild, Theo, is due any day.
Wayne was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Anita; daughters, Mary Richey Thomsen, Pamela Richey-Butts; parents, Ina and Bob; brothers, Donald and Dale; sister, Doris McGhee; and father of grandchildren, Allen Butts.
A visitation with family present will be held from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, October 30, 2021. A Celebration of Life Service will follow beginning at 2:00 p.m. at Iles Dunn’s Chapel. Due to COVID, masks are requested during the visitation and service. For those unable to attend, a livestream link for the service will appear just prior to 2:00 p.m. on Wayne’s obituary page at www.IlesCares.com where you may also leave online condolences.
Graveside services will be held at 2 PM, Saturday, November 13, 2021 at Liberty Cemetery in Galatia, Illinois and burial will follow.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Doctors Without Borders. Contributions may be made online to doctorswithoutborders.org.