Skip Navigation

Meet a Member: Tim ’72 and Sue ’72 Reilly

This Badger couple has traveled the world with WAA — and they’re not done yet.

If there’s a corner of the world that Tim ’72 and Sue ’72 Reilly have not yet explored, well, just give them time and a tour group. The Reillys are among the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s most-traveled members; their first trip with WAA took them north to Ireland in 2000, and their most recent sent them south to Antarctica just this year. While they’ve also followed their wanderlust outside of WAA’s travel program, nothing beats traveling with Badgers — and the Reillys have certainly logged enough miles with us to prove it.

You’re both enjoying retirement. Has traveling been primarily a retirement hobby?

Tim: Our first trip — to England, Scotland, Wales — was in 1977. We did one international trip when we were young and fancy free. And then we took our kids to Ireland one year. But what happened is we had kind of a gap period in our lives where we weren't working and we had the time, capacity, funds to do stuff, so we signed up for this trip around the world through the Northwestern University for the Millennium. It was over the change [from 1999 to 2000].

Sue: And our plane did not fall out of the sky.

Tim: [I thought], “This is pretty cool.” So whatever job I got after that, I said, “You don’t have to pay me for vacation time, but we want time to take these trips.”

What is it about traveling that keeps you booking trips and wanting to see more?

Tim: Part of it is the [WAA] trips because they offer the educational component. We’re not interested in just going and being plain old tourists. It’s good to be a tourist, but [WAA] offers this educational aspect and has lecturers and local involvement with folks. So that’s pretty marvelous.

Sue: You learn so much more when you’re traveling with a group where they present facts to you rather than just looking up online and finding an Airbnb and visiting places on your own. If you have a lecture, and you’re traveling with other university people, you pick up so much more, educationally.

Tim: We just did this trip to Antarctica, and we flew to Buenos Aires. As we typically do, we went in early so that we can acclimate ourselves a little bit. And we’re looking around Buenos Aires and whatnot, and I say, “This isn’t much of a place.” Then the next day, we connected with our [WAA] group and the tour guides and found out, oh, Buenos Aires really is a pretty cool place.

Sue: There’s a lot to know about Buenos Aires.

What are some of your most memorable experiences on WAA trips?

South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia (2006)

Sue: The South Africa trip was absolutely phenomenal.

Tim: Marvelous.

Sue: Just the educational aspect of learning all about apartheid and how that developed, and the process of going through that and where they are now, and seeing Soweto, and seeing where [Nelson] Mandela was a prisoner.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (2009)

Sue: We took our two sons and their wives, so there were six of us, and then there were four guys … that made a group of 10, and that was the UW group. All 10 of us summited, which is remarkable. We have photos to prove it.

Tim: And we flew the UW alumni flag atop Kilimanjaro. If you come to our house, you open the garage, and there is the UW alumni flag with a couple hiking poles that we used to get up there and then the picture of the six of us.

Oberammergau (2010)

Tim: In the year 2000, we had some friends who went to Germany to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau. And the history is [that] during the great plague, everybody was getting wiped out. They prayed that the plague would pass them by. It did, so they made this guarantee that they would put on the Passion Play every year. Over time, it got to be every 10 years. It’s a world-renowned sort of thing.

Our friends went to it in the year 2000, and we missed it, so we called the UW alumni association, and I said, “Are you going to do something in Oberammergau?” And [former WAA travel director Sheri Hicks] said, “Well, I don't know.” And a year later, I called again. That went on a couple of times, and then [Sheri] called and says, “Listen, we’ll do it if you agree to be the host.”

We had a very nice trip, and it was memorable because we carried on that responsibility.

Around the World: Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Saipan, Vietnam, Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Spain (2011)

Tim: We were in Egypt [during the Arab Spring] and had dinner in the courtyard of the Egyptian Museum. We finished our dinner, went to our hotel, slept the night. The next morning, we got up to leave. That evening, that whole courtyard was full of thousands of protesters.

Sue: Our hotel was a block from the park where the uprising was happening.

Peru: Amazon River Cruise and Machu Picchu (2017)

Tim: It was just a super trip, doing all of the things on the Amazon. And the incredible wildlife, the ecology —

Sue: Swimming in the Amazon —

Tim: Fishing piranha —

Sue: And eating what we caught.

Norway (2023)

Tim: We were having our first UW reception, and I was looking for the [room where it was being held], and this other couple ended up at the same place I was. We realized we were at the wrong end of the hotel, so we started chatting a little bit: “Where are you from? Where’d you grow up?” And it turns out, this woman grew up three houses from my grandparents, which was a couple blocks from where I lived, so I walked by her house all the time. She took piano lessons from my mom.

Sue: We both went to the same high school, and so did she.

Do you ever return to places you’ve already traveled to?

Sue: There are so many places to see that we try really hard not to repeat. … We have this world map that’s four to five feet wide, and we have our pins in [places that we’ve been], so we can tell where we have a lack of pins.

You’ve traveled with WAA to Alaska and Hawaii. Have you done much traveling throughout the rest of the continental United States?

Tim: I was in the toilet paper business, and so far, every state in the union uses toilet paper, so I just saw so much of the United States traveling [for work]. And when we both grew up, we were fortunate to grow up in families where we took driving trips to the Grand Canyon and Salt Lake City, and we did a couple of those trips with our kids — the Grand Canyon, the Dakotas. We just haven’t filled ourselves yet with the international travel.

Do you think you would have developed such a fondness for travel had you taken these trips outside of WAA?

Tim: No. One of the things that we really like is that we trust [WAA] to put together a good trip, to have the right people in place. There’s going to be little wrinkles that occur in the course of the trip, [and] they take care of all those things. It just takes the worry out of everything.

Now, we can do this stuff ourselves, and sometimes it provides you with a little more freedom to stay at certain places longer. … But by all means, it was just so easy to sign up for the [WAA] trips, to be able to travel with a wonderful group of people, and to have that educational aspect that’s just been outstanding.

Related News and Stories