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William J. Riordan '69, SM '76

Embracing a new life in China

When he walks the bustling streets of Zhenjiang, Will Riordan savors the turn of events that led him through a successful consulting career to live, teach, and learn in this small Chinese city. Since arriving in Jiangsu Province in 2008, Riordan and his family–his wife, Carol, and sons Connor, nine, and Finn, five–have immersed themselves in Chinese culture.

Will Riordan, wife Carol, and sons Finn and Connor.

“We came to China because we both enjoyed ‘things Chinese,’ respected China’s achievements over its long history, and admired its people,” Riordan says. “We wanted our kids to become as bicultural as possible. Thus we chose to live in Zhenjiang, a real Chinese city with very few Westerners. And we have been very happy here.”

This story is part of the March/April 2010 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
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While their sons attend local Chinese schools, Will and Carol teach English as well as math and science, introductory business, and Western history and culture at a language center. “Our students range from primary-school kids to senior executives in Chinese and multinational corporations,” Riordan says.

In Riordan’s previous life, he was a founding partner and board member of the Mitchell Madison Group (MMG), a global management consultancy headquartered in New York City. His new life began when he retired, shortly before the company was sold in 1999.

“My business associations and their consequences have always been serendipitous and had a startup flavor about them,” he says. “As a result, I ended up in Strategic Planning Associates when it started up and moved on to McKinsey and Company–just in time to propose the McKinsey Cambridge Systems Center.” Riordan then co-­managed the center for eight years with his former wife Lisa Riordan ‘69, SM ‘74. “During our early CSC years we were one of the heaviest recruiters of MIT undergraduates,” he says. Their four adult children include Cathy Riordan Bosse ‘00.

Upon graduating from MIT, Riordan put his undergraduate degree in mathematics to work for MITRE and then for a Lincoln Laboratory project in the Marshall Islands. His experience has ranged from developing sensor systems for military applications to investigating monitoring systems for clinical medicine. He is also an absentee trustee of the Theatre Development Fund in New York City.

The Riordans expect to resettle in Connecticut eventually. But China “has exerted a strange magic on us,” he says. “Every time we think about leaving, we always manage to find some reason not to. My next dream is to teach at Tibet University.”

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