Almost every day gives a new reason to marvel at how God uses Houghton graduates to impact the world. Whether it be a Chemistry major leading as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, a Music & Communication double major launching a not-for-profit meeting the needs of women in crisis in Tennessee, or a Theology major serving the local church community, Houghton graduates make a difference.
Today, as the United States inaugurates its 46th president, Houghton College reflects on how one graduate, in particular, has influenced this historic event. In 2010, Houghton College President, Dr. Shirley Mullen, awarded Dr. Eugene George ’60 the Houghton Medal for his exemplary work as a neurosurgeon specializing in micro-surgery for aneurysms and as an active purveyor of hope in the world today. His most famous patient: then-Senator and now President Joseph Biden.
Take a moment today to be inspired by Dr. George’s lifetime of service.
Originally Published in 2009
Dr. Eugene George’s advice to younger generations is simple: “Beware of old guys giving advice because the majority of the time they’re wrong.” Dr. George, a 1960 Houghton graduate, argues that history never repeats itself in quite the same way. New generations must always look at the past with fresh and skeptical eyes. This philosophy of constant intellectual inquiry has been a theme for Dr. George in both his career as a neurosurgeon and in his newfound retirement.
Dr. George began his higher education at Houghton College where he studied pre-med and psychology. “I was really pleased with my experience at Houghton,” he said. The smallness of the college, the challenging academics and the supportive atmosphere were especially important to him. Not only did Dr. George feel academically prepared for medical school, but he also left Houghton having developed both strong values and relationships.
After graduating from Houghton, Dr. George enrolled in medical school at the Upstate Medical University at Syracuse. During his first year of residency, he chose neurosurgery as his specific area of study and specialized in micro-surgery for aneurysms and blood vessel problems of the brain. After serving with the military during the Vietnam War, Dr. George became the Neurosurgery Chairman at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. According to Dr. George, his eleven years at Walter Reed were some of the greatest of his life. He became friends with roughly 75 percent of his patients and enjoyed being a source of support for them and their families during difficult situations. One Walter Reed patient who remains in contact with Dr. George is current Vice President Joseph Biden. In 1988, Dr. George performed surgery on two ruptured aneurysms on opposite sides of the former Senator’s brain. “Not only is Gene an amazing surgeon, he’s one of the most decent human beings I’ve ever known. He saved my life! Houghton should be very proud of him,” stated Vice President Biden. Dr. George left Walter Reed in 1990 and became Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Rochester and later at the University of Texas. “I really enjoyed teaching the most,” said Dr. George, reflecting on his career. “A lot of medicine involves helping to teach the next generation of neurosurgeons.”
While he was passionate about his neurosurgery and teaching, Dr. George retired to Virginia a few years ago to spend more time with his wife of 37 years, his four children and his grandchildren. Retirement has also given Dr. George the time to pursue his lifelong interests in history and current events. His study of political affairs has been supported by ongoing friendships and discussions with government officials who were his former patients. Vice President Biden, for example, still calls Dr. George occasionally to discuss issues, and he and his wife attended the Presidential inauguration as a guest of Biden.
Dr. George increases his knowledge of current affairs by reading about 70 internet newspapers from around the world each day. “I have really enjoyed a continuing approach to intellectual curiosity,” said Dr. George. He is hoping to go back to school to study either history or astronomy.
Whether practicing neurosurgery, teaching a new generation of doctors, or devoting time to family and the study of history, Dr. Eugene George looks at his life with joy and satisfaction. “If I could live my life over,” he said, “I would do the same thing.”