RITís Oldest-Ever Graduate to Receive Diploma




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Retired vascular surgeon earns health systems administration masterís degree this Friday


Half a century separates the ages of most members of Rochester Institute of Technologyís class of 2002 and that of one special graduate.

Seventy-five-year-old Joseph Geary of Brighton will become the oldest-ever graduate from RIT this Friday when he receives his masterís degree in health systems administration.

Age, though, isnít Gearyís only distinction. Heís also an accomplished surgeon who in retirement plans to remain active in healthcare as an activist, consultant and physicians advocate.

"It was time for me to take a good look at the financial, administrative and management side of medicine and what makes the healthcare system tick," Geary says, explaining why he returned to the classroom after 40 years of surgery. He likens RITís health systems administration masterís degree to an MBA for doctors.

On co-op his last two quarters, Geary was an assistant to the president and chief executive officer with Via Health. He says of his studies, completed almost entirely online: "It was the perfect forum. The coursework is terrific. I learned a ton. Iím thrilled about it all."

The only drawback? An endless stream of job offers-something most would look upon favorably. Remember, though, as a surgeon for four decades Geary has earned the right to some leisure time. Boat and dock construction are favorite pastimes for the son of a shipbuilder from Gloucester, Mass.

Geary wonít be walking across a stage for the first time, of course. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Hampshire before deciding on a career in medicine. After graduating from Georgetown University and holding positions at St. Maryís Hospital in Rochester, Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Geary helped establish the first vascular surgery unit at Rochester General Hospital in 1960. Over the years, he was chief of vascular surgery at RGH, associate professor of surgery at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and associate professor of surgery with the Armed Forces Medical School in Bethesda, Md., where he was one of the oldest officers to serve during the Persian Gulf War.

This weekend, the father of six and grandfather to 14 will join 3,500 other RIT graduates to celebrate the achievement of becoming new alumni of the university.

"Iím looking forward to taking part in the whole weekend," he says.

He also looks forward to having more time to do what he enjoys most, building boats. That may have been his vocation, he says, had he not chosen medicine. His many patients over the years are grateful he chose "doc" over dry dock.

Note: Commencement ceremonies for RITís College of Applied Science and Technology begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 24. RITís academic convocation ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. on May 24. George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will deliver the commencement address.

Note: Digital photograph available. Send request to mjsuns@rit.edu.