John Riley is well-known for his amazing work ethic. The Huntington High School Class of 2018 member has never been afraid to roll up his sleeves. The Worchester Polytechnic Institute bound teenager is this year’s recipient of the Howard H. Munson Memorial Scholarship, which honors one of the town’s legendary business figures.
The $5,000 Munson scholarship will help defray some of Mr. Riley’s college expenses as he goes about pursuing a degree in engineering. The scholarship is administered by the Huntington Fire Department. It was presented by ex-Chief Neil Getter.
“It was an honor to receive the Howard H. Munson scholarship,” Mr. Riley said. “Like Mr. Munson, I will be going onto college to study engineering. I also hope that I can emulate his life of working hard, getting my hands dirty and treating everyone with respect.”
Huntington High School Class of 2018 member John Riley
The teenager was announced as this year’s scholarship recipient at the senior academic awards ceremony held last month in the high school auditorium. Mr. Riley is ingenious, indefatigable, a problem solver and always up for a challenge; just like Mr. Munson was during a business career that spanned seven decades.
An Eagle Scout at the young of 14, Mr. Riley enjoyed a whirlwind high school experience, from helping to lead the robotics team to repeated trips to the FIRST World Championships, serving on the Relay For Life organizing committee and traveling to the Galapagos Islands to claiming honors in the National History Day competition for three consecutive years, maintaining membership in a string of academic honor societies and even running for a stretch on the Blue Devil winter track team.
While Mr. Riley never had an opportunity to meet Mr. Munson and might very well have little idea where his benefactor’s automotive shop was located on New York Avenue in the village, the businessman’s success and exceptional generosity will benefit the teenager as he moves into the college ranks and pursues his career goals.
Although Mr. Munson admitted that he never really enjoyed school, he knew it was important. So he did what needed to be done, graduating Port Washington High School and affixing his eyes squarely on the future. The scholarship award presented in his honor is made payable to the recipient’s college of choice.
Born June 28, 1908 to Frank and Dora Hill Munson, Howard “didn’t like school very much,” according to the Huntington Fire Department’s Neil Getter, who has presented the scholarship award in past years, but was unable to attend this month’s ceremony. “He liked being around cars and told his dad to forget about the new car he had been promised if he stuck it out and graduated, because he would rather use the money to study engineering at Pratt Institute, which he did, graduating in 1928. After Pratt, he went on to graduate from General Motors Tech.”
Mr. Munson opened an auto repair shop in Huntington in 1930 and continued running it until the very day he passed away on October 22, 1999 at 91 years of age. “During the almost 70 years he was in the auto repair business he served the local fire department, the rich and famous, the poor who could not pay, the local town folk and those who came from afar,” Mr. Getter said
A telling episode in Mr. Munson’s life illustrated his character and the values he held dear. “On one terribly cold and icy night, when there was a very bad fire in Huntington, he worked all night to keep a truck pumping and got it out of the way when the building started to collapse,” Mr. Getter said.
“Over the years, the business continued to grow, largely due to the fact that he cared about his customers, never once over charged nor cheated them in any way and while he got his hands dirty, he was noted for always wearing a necktie with his uniform and keeping the shop neat, clean and organized,” Mr. Getter said.
Just like Mr. Munson, Mr. Riley’s work ethic is remarkable. He will do well in life if he can realize even a fraction of the success that Mr. Munson did. “Though he chose blue collar work, he died a wealthy man,” Mr. Getter said.
This marks the 18th year the Howard N. Munson Scholarship Award has been presented to a Huntington senior.