Family describes Geithner ‘83’s youth
By Kate Farley, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, October 3, 2008
Timothy Geithner '83, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is so drawn to athletics that he's been known to turn up at business meetings in Europe wearing ski boots and to start pick-up basketball games with colleagues in his New York office. Geithner's position at New York's Reserve Bank has made him a key player in the government's efforts to resolve the ongoing economic crisis.
Geithner, along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson '68 and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, has been a primary engineer of the government's response to the recent financial meltdown. As the government's primary representative on Wall Street, he brokered the Bear Stearns buyout in March 2008 and was instrumental in the government's decision to rescue American International Group.
Deborah Geithner, Timothy Geithner's mother, said her son's on-the-go nature became apparent "when he was crawling around on all fours."
"He used to chase me around when I was cleaning the house," she recalled.
Born in New York City, Geithner spent most of his childhood in foreign countries, including present-day Zimbabwe, India and Thailand, where he attended high school at the International School of Bangkok.
"Tim was always very adaptable to the changing locations in which we lived," his father, Peter Geithner '54 said. "I think [moving] allowed Tim and his siblings to get used to getting on planes, used to being in different situations."
An amateur photographer in high school, Geithner traveled to Cambodia and took "striking" black-and-white photos of refugees, according to his parents.
"He turned our bathroom in Bangkok into a darkroom," his mother said.
Geithner continued his pursuit of photography at Dartmouth, where he worked as an event photographer. A double major in government and Asian studies with a concentration in Chinese, he also was a Chinese drill instructor.
Susan Blader, Dartmouth professor of Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literature who instructed Geithner in Chinese during his first year at the College, said he was a "natural language learner."
"Tim was international, he was lively and he had this wonderful giggle," Blader said. "Everyone loved him."
The image Timothy Geithner projects in the media, Deborah Geithner said, is at odds with her son's personality.
"[In magazines] he looks so serious to me," she said. "He's really very lively and has a good sense of humor."
Justin Rudelson '83, senior lecturer in Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures, participated in a study-abroad program at Beijing University with Geithner. Geithner's sense of humor and ability to "break the ice" were invaluable during their time in China, Rudelson said.
"Tim had a very wonderful way of getting to know people all over the place," he said. "He was good at breaking down the huge gap that existed because we were privileged Americans, and we were meeting people of more modest means."
Geithner's ability to connect with people, as well as his skills as a "behind-the-scenes" strategist, are strengths that Rudelson said he believes will help Geithner to resolve the current financial crisis.
Blader also expressed confidence in Geithner's abilities, claiming that he brings valuable perspective to his job because he does not have a traditional background in economics.
"Tim is a straight arrow, and he's a very upright person," she said. "I trust his judgment implicitly."
After graduating from Dartmouth, Geithner attended Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a master's degree in international economics.
He worked as a consultant for three years at Kissinger and Associates in Washington, D.C, before joining the International Affairs division of the Treasury Department in 1988.
He held a variety of positions in the department before being promoted to Under Secretary of International Affairs in 1999. Geithner moved to the International Monetary Fund in 2001 and assumed his current position at New York's Reserve Bank two years later.
"Tim's been the youngest undersecretary of the treasury, the youngest Federal Reserve president, which is kind of a paradox with traditional seniority," Peter Geithner said. "He's excelled in those roles, though."
The Dartmouth was unable to reach Timothy Geithner by press time.