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In Memory of Hugh Riordan, MD

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 1, February-March 2005, pp. 14-15.

La Leche League International was saddened to hear about the death of long-time friend Hugh Desaix Riordan, MD, on January 7, 2005. Dr. Riordan, a fervent breastfeeding advocate, was a former member of the LLLI Board of Directors. For over 30 years, he was a member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council and was a popular speaker at LLL Conferences. Dr. Riordan was instrumental in launching the capital campaign which made it possible for LLLI to purchase its headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois USA.

In 2001, he was the recipient of the Founder’s Award, given by the seven Founders of LLLI to an individual who has made continuous, outstanding, and exemplary contributions to breastfeeding in the world. Upon reception of the award at the LLLI Conference, Dr. Riordan turned the tables and presented the Founders with the gift of an original song to honor their contributions, which was performed by professional musicians.

Dr. Riordan, a distinguished psychiatrist, was the Founding Director and President of the Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning International, the Bright Spot for Health, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping individuals develop optimal health. He was in the process of completing the third volume of his trilogy, Medical Mavericks, when he died.

Dr. Riordan was married to LLLI Leader Jan Riordan, EdD, ARNP, FAAN, IBCLC. Dr. Jan Riordan is a member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council.

Memories of Dr. Riordan

Hugh Riordan was an extraordinary doctor and man! He was a man of great vision who created climates that would provide fertile ground for nurturing his goals and dreams.

In addition to the void Dr. Riordan leaves in his family and community, La Leche League is particularly indebted to him. He, along with Dr. Gregory White and Dr. Herbert Ratner, was a cornerstone of La Leche League. He mentored and supported the Founders almost from the time of our simple beginnings.

In the late 1950s, the Founders invited Dr. Riordan to become one of the few members of our first Medical Advisory Board. At that time, he was the only medical advisor who lived outside the Chicago, Illinois, USA area. Hugh would fly into town for the meetings at his own expense. He continued to provide medical advice during the next five decades and also encouraged us to be visionaries and think beyond the daily needs and challenges our evolving organization presented.

It is important to understand that Dr. Riordan strongly supported breastfeeding when most doctors and other health professionals had jumped on the formula bandwagon. During the early years, few doctors would associate their names with breastfeeding or La Leche League. Breastfeeding had become unpopular in the US during the 1950s and 1960s. Only 20 percent of mothers initiated beastfeeding back then.

Dr. Riordan also encouraged his wife, Jan, to contact LLL during the early 1960s. She had worked as a registered nurse before their marriage and they were in the process of rearing a large family. Shortly thereafter, Jan became one of our earliest Leaders and founded LLL of Kansas. Since then, Jan, also a remarkable person, has achieved much distinction in the medical profession.

Unquestionably, Dr. Riordan stands as a pioneer in bringing about the renaissance of breastfeeding. Throughout his life, in addition to his many other successes, he continued his steadfast support of LLL while persistently doing everything possible to foster a culture that supports breastfeeding.

Mary Ann Kerwin
LLLI Founder

I worked with Hugh on the LLLI Board for a number of years. He was the most delightful, "out of the box" thinker in the world. His humility was a great example to me. I had no idea the extent of his clinic in Kansas, USA, its enormous size, or the powerful influence it had on the health of so many people. Hugh was not inclined toward self promotion, but he always encouraged us to promote ourselves and La Leche League as an accomplished group of women.

Years ago, LLL received a business proposal from a baby food company. We made the decision not to take money even though there were no policies written on this subject at the time. We didn’t have any trouble making the decision, but we sure did need the money! Hugh sent all of us a small plaque that read "Integrity." I have that plaque in my office to this day. I will always remember his kindness and support.

The last time I saw Hugh was at the LLLI Conference in 2001. He was beaming, fun, and...Hugh. I carry with me the memory of his smiling, radiant face. He was a precious person, one of a kind.

Janet Jendron
Alumnae Association, Public Relations/Web

Hugh was a big man—not just because he was tall and barrel-chested, but because of the impact he had on everyone who knew him. His warm smile and deep voice added warmth and true humanity wherever he went. One of the few men to serve on the LLLI Board, he was always supportive of LLLI and breastfeeding mothers, and shared his unique insights with the organization. He certainly understood the tremendous value of Leaders and other volunteers. Hugh frequently spoke of the exponential return to the organization from appreciation and recognition given to volunteers, and he was generous with his personal appreciation of other’s efforts. Hugh’s "Integrity" plaque on my desk echoes his own character; he truly made a difference in the world. We’ll miss you, Hugh.

Carole Wrede
Leaven Managing Editor

Hugh Riordan was in a very busy time in his life when Mary Ann Kerwin approached him about nomination to the LLLI Board of Directors. She knew he could be instrumental in helping us begin a Capital Campaign with the goal being to purchase the LLLI headquarters building we have today. Hugh and his wife, Jan, have been devoted to LLLI for a long time. Hugh very graciously joined the Board of Directors during my term as Board Chairman and was, indeed, an enormous help guiding us through the infancy of what was originally called "The l995 Campaign." Hugh’s talents, expertise, and energy were invaluable as he worked closely with Betty Wagner Spandikow and myself, and then broadened his efforts. At Board meetings, his sense of humor and clear thinking were wonderful contributions, as were the bear hugs, pats on the back, and shoulder rubs during long meetings. An inspirational speaker on behalf of LLL, Hugh gave of his time and energy in order to help an organization he cared deeply about to accomplish its goals. He was a generous man with a big heart and kind and encouraging words. Hugh was a true friend to La Leche League and to all who were fortunate to know him.

Gail A. Berke, Milford, MA US
Leader, Past Chairman, LLLI Board of Directors

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