Kind Words for Mike Riley

Please feel free to share any stories, or experiences you may have about our great Mike Riley.
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John Sobocinski
ISSA Motor City President

To the ISSA Motor City Chapter, and to anyone who knew Mike Riley,

As the new Chapter President, one of my first official tasks of 2017 is an unpleasant one. During this past week's monthly membership meeting, the attendees were informed of the passing of this chapter's founder and first member; Mike Riley.

As stated in his obituary, he "passed away peacefully on January 18, 2017". Although the cause and details of Mike's passing aren't known to me, the sense of loss to myself, his family, and our chapter is clear and keenly felt. I read Mike's obituary and noticed the family is requesting a private memorial for Mike to be held at a later date. When I contacted the Vermeulen-Sajewski funeral home, the consultant could tell me little more than what was posted online at their website.

I knew Mike for having bright smile, a strong opinion, and a caring heart. He was always looking out for the best interests of the chapter and especially its membership. Mike imparted to me his sense of responsibility for the chapter, and as the Chapter President, I understood his perspective.

I recall during the Holiday Gala in December when Mike spoke a few words as the 2017 Board of Officers was being introduced. I got the sense he was passing the responsibility for the success of the chapter on to the future volunteers of the organization. Some of my last words at that meeting with Mike were assuring him the Chapter's future was in good hands and that we wouldn't let him down.


John Sobocinski
President, ISSA Motor City

Caston Thomas
ISSA Motor City Member

A well-respected InfoSec professional, colleague, and friend passed away last week.

Two years ago, almost to the day, Mike took me aside before an ISSA meeting and said softly, “I’m afraid I have some news.” My first thought was… uh-oh, Mike’s accepted a position at another company. Previous to that night, Mike & I had been developing a program that we were going to roll out. We were days from kicking it off. But what came out of Mike’s lips next caused one of those moments where you can’t breathe and your knees get wobbly. Did I hear him right? Did he really just say, “I found out today that I have a brain tumor.”?

In that moment, nothing else mattered. The hard work that we had both put in. The hopes we had for doing some really great things together. The meeting that we were about to attend. Nothing else mattered. Just stunned silence. The way I remember it, the words stumbled out… “Oh my God, Mike. Is there anything I can do?” Pretty stupid response. I know. But even today, I don’t know if I could come up with anything better.

You see, Mike’s life was about making things better. Whether it was his profession, his family, or his friends, Mike was (and still is, quite frankly) about helping others. Mike was doing information security before it was even called information security. He founded the ISSA chapter in Michigan and was a force in just about every InfoSec organization in Michigan.

During the last two years, Mike never relented in his passion & support of the groups he participated. He was quiet about the health challenges he faced with courage & dignity. He focused on the organizations in which he was involved, always with a focus on making the groups stronger, and our digital world a safer place.

Mike led by example. He chose his words carefully, but it was his actions that inspired. Mike thought things through and spoke with conviction. I saw Mike “passionate” at times, but he avoided words that would hurt. I can’t recall him ever saying anything negative about anyone.

Mike lived his life with integrity. You knew where he stood on things, and you knew that his intentions were to make things the best they could be. Michael was a giver. You could see it in the work he did for his customers, in his leadership in the local InfoSec community, and the way he talked about his granddaughter.

Mike’s presence will be missed in the InfoSec community, but his contributions, perspective, and inspiration will stay with all those that worked with him over the years. With that in mind, I want to live a memorial to Mike. What I learned from Mike and his influence causes me to resolve to:

Actively participate in the local InfoSec organizations, with a focus on making our profession better.
Go about my work with integrity & passion.
Find more balance in my life and let those I love know it.
There's not a more fitting tribute than if each of us would commit to “Be More Like Mike”.

Obituary Link