Dr. Patrick Geary, BA ‘70


He has dedicated his life to pursuing higher education and in doing so has helped countless young people along the way to achieving their dreams.


Dr. Geary is a class of 1970 Spring Hill Alum who graduated with a BA in Philosophy. The road to this major was not easy, however. As most undergraduates tend to do, he ended up changing majors several times before picking Philosophy. Originally, he had planned on majoring in Biology, but because of the heavy demands of the Honors Program at the time, it was impossible to be a science major while enrolled in the program. After a few weeks of managing both, he decided to change to History. Even though this was Dr. Geary’s interest, he noticed that the Philosophy department at the time was much stronger due to the Jesuit Philosophy at Spring Hill College. He ended up having enough credits in Philosophy, History, and Theology that he was able to choose which discipline in which he would take his degree. In the end, Philosophy was his major of choice.


During his time here, he was fascinated with Europe in the middle ages. During his sophomore year, his Spring Hill professors told him that they could not prepare him in the way he needed so he traveled to Leuven in Belgium to study history and philosophy. He studied at the Catholic University of Louvain in the year 1968-69. He then applied to graduate school in medieval studies. He ended up attending Yale University where he completed his doctorate in Medieval Studies. This eventually led to a teaching position at Princeton and soon after a position at the University of Florida. Following his time at these universities, he went to UCLA and spent a brief amount of time at Notre Dame to direct their medieval institute before returning to UCLA for 13 more years. He ended up being recruited to a professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Every year Institute professors invite about 130 scholars and scientists from around the world to pursue their research in total freedom. This is where Dr. Geary finished his career. He retired recently in 2019. He says he has had a very fulfilling career, which all began with the fascination he developed at Spring Hill in the honors program.


Though retired, Dr. Geary is still quite active, co-directing a multimillion euro research project with European collaborators. He has not been teaching for 10 years, but served as a mentor at the institute. “I love working with young people. Helping young and mid-career people to be the best that they can. My work as a mentor I find most fulfilling. And enjoyable.”


When asked what advice he would give to his younger self, he stated to “follow one’s passion, find one’s own voice, be realistic, and accept feedback from life. Too many young academics have dreams of careers but the support is not there. They cling to this too long to their own loss and that of their family. Follow your dreams, but also listen to feedback. There is not just one thing any person can do. We can be happy and fulfilled in a variety of roles. Live in between idealism and realism.”


Overall, Dr. Geary credits Spring Hill with helping him to achieve the impressive career he has had throughout his lifetime. “One other thing I would say, although  it is not directly apparent of what I do as a professional historian, is that the Jesuit education I received and the foundation in theology and philosophy I received have been sustaining to me throughout my life as a fundamental part of who I am, my religious faith, and how I understand the relationship between our world and the divine. The intellectual foundation of my religious faith that I received from the Jesuits has been important to me throughout my life and I am enormously grateful for that.”


By Catherine Edwards '21



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