Dr. Riley Chrisman
, history professor;

  • Bachelor’s, Central Missouri State, 1963, Social studies
  • Master’s, Central Missouri State, 1965, history
  • Ph.D., Oklahoma State U, 1974, history
  • Joined the BHSU faculty in 1979
  • Chair of the department of history and social science, 1997-99

Perhaps it will be best to remember Dr. Riley Chrisman, retiring history professor, through the words of his hero, Harry Truman, as someone who has “done his damnedest.”

Nearly every year on May 8, Truman’s birthday, R. Chrisman would gather friends and colleagues to celebrate the life of the Missouri statesman who served as 33rd president of the U.S.

R. Chrisman, who began his education career as a junior high and high school teacher, decided to pursue a career in higher education so he could “spend more time on content than discipline.” He began teaching at a community college in his home state of Missouri and then decided to pursue a doctorate degree.

His position at BHSU was his first full-time teaching appointment and it turned out to be the one that will go down in history for him as he made his career as a history professor at the university. Through the years, R. Chrisman taught a variety of history courses including Western Civilization 1 and 2, all the geography courses, History of the Far East, Latin American History, U.S. History 1 and 2, Historiography, and Recent American History. His favorite courses have been U. S. History 1 and 2, Western Civilization and a Canadian History course that he developed at BHSU.

During his time at BHSU, R. Chrisman served as Faculty Senate president, chair of the department and has spent time on numerous faculty committees including the Case Library Committee, the Facilities and Safety Committee and the Chiesman Committee.

R. Chrisman and his wife, Barbara, moved to Spearfish with their young son, Joe, and since then have made this their home. Although some relatives in Missouri are still waiting for them to “move back home” the Chrisman’s consider Spearfish their true home and are looking forward to spending their retirement here. R. Chrisman says that Spearfish was a good choice for them.

“It’s a place we like with people we like and a climate we like,” R. Chrisman says. He notes that Spearfish provided some relief for ongoing allergies that were much worse in the Missouri climate.

R. Chrisman, who is also a master woodworking craftsman, says retirement will afford him time to complete some projects and travel. In the classroom, Riley is known for being a true “craftsman” working to shape the minds and lives of students.

“I believe the word craftsman describes Riley both inside and outside of the academic environment,” Earley says. “A craftsman is a person who works with an object or a student until he has added to and/or shaped that object or student.”

Now, as he retires, R. Chrisman says that he knows he will miss the students and feels that working with young people all these years has kept him young at heart.

“In the classroom you remain 25 years old all your life,” R. Chrisman says. “That is until I look in the mirror.”

A retirement celebration for Riley and Barbara Chrisman will be held Sunday, May 1 from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the Hudson Hall (222 West Hudson Street, Spearfish). No gifts please.

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