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Harland Alexander Riker Jr., 90, of Palm Beach, formerly of London and Cambridge, died peacefully on March 1, surrounded by his family.
Harland was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on August 1, 1928, to Harland A. Riker and Corinne Maria. Growing up in Newton Highlands, where his Lebanese mother moved the family for its excellent public schools, Harland felt a pull to explore the wider world. His mother, fluent in French and Arabic, no doubt stimulated his young imagination, and Harland spent nearly a year with her family in Lebanon where his sister Peggyanne was born when he was three.
A child of the Depression, he learned the values of self-reliance and resourcefulness at a young age, notably starting a wooden-toy business with his father, a musician and conductor in Boston’s silent-age movie theaters. Driven to excel in his studies, after graduating from Newton High School he was accepted at Tufts University into the first NROTC Program of Naval cadets. (In later years, he would joke about how he passed the strict physical, despite his rail-thin weight, by drinking buckets of water just before the exam.) Graduating with honors from the School of Engineering, he was commissioned in the US Navy where he spent three years on active duty, first in the Mediterranean and then in the Korean War.
The Navy offered a dramatic new horizon for a young man from Newton, igniting a latent spirit of adventure and a love for travel that would remain constant throughout his life. As a young officer thrown into the unfamiliar world of life aboard an aircraft carrier (USS Leyte), it also gave him his first lessons in leadership, working with all ranks toward a common purpose.
At the end of his tour of duty, he married Ann Morrill, the love of his life. They set off on a honeymoon to Europe lasting five months, a fitting start to an extraordinary life together that continued for the next 65 years. Returning to Boston, the young couple wrote the first guide to local restaurants, Beans, Beef and Bourbon (1956) while Harland attended Harvard Business School and Ann worked at Mass Investors Trust. After graduation, Harland joined the management consulting firm of Arthur D. Little (ADL),inspired by its dynamic culture, creative colleagues and collaborative approach to problem solving.
His determination to work internationally led him to join George Fry & Associates and to a posting in Tehran, Iran. For the next four years, as Director of the office, he consulted on the country’s nascent industrial development while also building a management training program that would later become the Industrial Management Institute. On his return to the US, he was recruited back to ADL to create a similar program for emerging leaders from Africa. The seeds of this innovative program grew into ADL’s Management Education Institute, which eventually became the HULT International Business School, from which he received an honorary doctoral degree.
During his more than three decades at ADL, Harland led the company’s internationalexpansion in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, opening and overseeing more than 20 offices worldwide, and transforming the Cambridge research firm into a global consulting practice. As a business leader, Harland had a special ability for nurturing talent and building teams, and was known for giving the same attention to everyone, whether the managing director or the receptionist. His wry sense of humor and self-deprecation, often telling hilarious stories exemplifying mistakes he had made, helped carry his teams through many a crisis. Respected for his sharp intellect, wise judgment and skills as a diplomat, he rose to become President of ADL International.
Harland and Ann created strong relationships with colleagues and clients wherever they lived, including four years in Tehran, four in Brussels and twelve in London. Thesefriendships and the close-knit communities they built endure to this day, and this spirit lives on in regular ADL reunions, the next of which is in Berlin, with over 100 attendees expected.
Throughout his career, Harland stressed that commitment to family was as important as to clients, and his happiest times were spent with Ann and their four children. They shared many adventures, traveling together, often by ship, to exotic ports and cities around the world. Summers were spent as a family on the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean and by the ocean in Gloucester. Harland and Ann retired to Palm Beach, Florida, over 20 years ago, where they shared a vibrant life with close friends, actively participating in local historic preservation and cultural events.
In addition to his responsibilities at ADL, Harland served as the Chairman of the Board of Cambridge Consultants Ltd, UK. After retirement, he served as a Member of the Board of Advisors of World Learning and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, and as Chairman of the Board of Advisors at Palamon Capital Partners in London. He also volunteered with the International Executive Corp, a commitment that brought him back to Lebanon. He was a member of the Harvard Club of New York, the Athenaeum club of London, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin and the Society of the Four Arts of Palm Beach.
An avid reader, Harland had an unquenchable curiosity and love of learning. Though he studied engineering, he developed wide-ranging intellectual interests, among these a fascination with the complex history of the Middle East. Wherever he travelled, he always had a book under his arm, and in his later years, at the encouragement of his children, he wrote two volumes of memoirs: The Time of My Life (2014) and A Run of Luck (forthcoming), the last chapter of which he completed while in hospital.
In addition to his wife, Ann, he is survived by his children Susan Riker and her husband Chris Hoenig (Washington, D.C.), John Riker and his wife Lisa Loveday (London), David Riker and his wife Elizabeth Downer (New York), and Elizabeth Riker (Cambridge), and grandchildren Nicole Riker, Alexander Riker, Sophia Hoenig, Leila Riker, and Maria Riker. His eldest granddaughter, Natalie Riker, died in 2017.
The Riker family wishes to express their gratitude for the many wonderful doctors, nurses, and therapists at Cambridge Spaulding Hospital who worked with Harland to recover from a car accident last September.
A memorial service will be held Sunday March 17 at 2 pm at First Church Cambridge, Congregational at 11 Garden Street in Cambridge, MA. More details can be found on the website of Brown and Hickey Funeral Home in Belmont, MA.
In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach; The Rehab Center for Children and Adults of Palm Beach; Mass General Hospital Development for Adolph Hutter, MD Research CPP; or Spaulding Hospital for Continuing Medical Care Cambridge.