At its 7th annual dinner on Thursday, May 5, the Geneva Rotary Club presented its highest honor, the Paul Harris Award, to Mary Herlihy Gearan.
For the past four years, Gearan has served as co-chair of Interact, the junior Rotary club at Geneva High School. She was selected for the award because of how she has re-engaged the Interact club over the past few years and reinvigorated the students at the high school. Gearan serves with co-chairs Ford Weiskittel and John Oughterson.
The club’s “Service Above Self” dinner raised funds to help support the Geneva City School District’s Weekend Backpack Program, which builds on the district’s free or reduced-price lunch program during the school week. Through the Weekend Backpack Program, bags of food are assembled and distributed to more than 100 children every other weekend. With funds raised during the dinner, the Rotary Club hopes to expand the program to every weekend and, eventually, to eliminate the waiting list.
Since moving to Geneva in 1999, Gearan has been an active volunteer with numerous local organizations, serving on the board of directors of Happiness House-Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association since 2002 and as vice chair since 2007. Together with her husband, HWS President Mark D. Gearan, she served as honorary chair of its capital campaign and was instrumental in raising $1.5 million toward a new Happiness House building and expansion project. In 2011, Happiness House presented Mary Gearan with the “Happiness is Helping” Humanitarian Award.
Gearan has earned a number of other honors for her service including recognition at the 2011 New York State “Women of Distinction” ceremony, the 2010 Citizen of the Year award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, the 2010 Sharing the Light award from the Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, and a 2012 recognition from the Lake to Lake Women organization during their annual Women’s History Month celebration. In 2014, the Geneva Rotary Club honored the Gearans with the distinguished Springstead Award, in recognition of their service to the City of Geneva and the community at large.
As a member of the Geneva Festival of Nations committee for the past several years, she has helped to establish relationships between local organizations, businesses, the school district and HWS, resulting in opportunities for HWS students, Geneva school students and the community to celebrate their cultures during the event. Gearan also serves as adviser for the Geneva High School Multicultural Club and the Martin Luther King Jr. Art and Poetry Committee.
She holds a B.A. in political science and economics magna cum laude from Emmanuel College in Boston and a J.D. from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked for Congressman Robert F. Drinan, Congressman Joseph Moakley and in the Office of the General Counsel at the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. She was also a fundraiser, national delegate liaison and California Field Desk Officer on the Michael S. Dukakis presidential campaign. She served as vice president at the Wexler Group, a government relations firm in Washington, D.C.
Named for the Geneva Rotary Club’s founder and given in recognition of its motto, “Service Above Self,” the Paul Harris Award was presented to Gearan during the dinner, held at Club 86 in Geneva.
Major event sponsors included Hobart and William Smith Colleges, David and Brenda Rickey, Traditions Automotive Group, Red Jacket Orchards, Kinney Drugs, Nozomi Williams, Lyons National Bank, Bank of the Finger Lakes, Community Bank and Finger Lakes Medical.