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1939 - 2017

George Beeler Jr., Ph.D. (PHYS ’69)

Dr. George W. Beeler Jr., 78, of Rochester, the former Division Chair of Mayo Clinic’s Information Systems Architecture and Technology and a leader in the field of health care standards, died Sunday, May 7, at Methodist Hospital after a long battle with lymphoma.

Woody, as he was known to friends and colleagues alike, was born in West Point, N.Y., and graduated high school from St. Louis Country Day School in 1956. He received his B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from Princeton University in 1960 and his M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1961 and Ph.D in Biological Systems Research in 1965 from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Woody met his wife, Selby Butt, through friends of his sister and after a cross-country relationship from California to New York City, they were married in 1965. After serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps in Ft. Rucker, Ala., the couple moved to Selby’s hometown of Rochester in 1967 when Woody joined the Mayo Clinic as an associate consultant in physiology to pursue research interests in the application of computers to biomedical research.

During his 33-year career at Mayo Clinic, as computer technology developed and grew, Woody served as head of the sections of Information Systems Technology and Information Processing and Systems before becoming chair of the Division of Information Architecture and Technology. His interest in health data sharing and creating data architectures to support clinical health care led to his deep involvement with international health care standards organizations including Health Level Seven (HL7).

A skilled negotiator and informed lecturer, Woody provided HL7 tutorials around the world and was named HL7 Volunteer of the Year in 2000. His HL7 work, which continued even after his retirement from Mayo Clinic in 2000, provided Woody and Selby many opportunities to travel, explore new cultures and form lasting friendships with his HL7 colleagues.

Woody was a bicyclist, eager traveler (especially to the Big Island of Hawaii), early tech adopter (from Apple II to Apple Watch), sailor, canoer, fisherman, poker player, neighborhood computer guru, golfer, avid reader, Donkey Kong master and the beloved summer bartender at his family cottage in northern Michigan.

In addition to his wife, Woody is survived by a daughter, Amanda (Andy Groover) of Wynnewood, Pa.; a son, Charles (Jenny) of Menlo Park, Calif.; five grandchildren, Lucy, Jane, Sam, Mary and Charlie; his 103-year-old mother, Jane Greenfield of Bellaire, Mich.; a sister, Janet Nesin of Madison, Ala.; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Woody was preceded in death by his fathers, George W. Beeler Sr. and Milton Greenfield Jr.

A celebration of life will be held 3 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at Rochester Golf & Country Club followed by a reception after the service. A second celebration of life will be held this summer on Elk Lake, Michigan.

Memorial gifts can be made to an HL7 scholarship currently being created to support involvement in HL7 by individuals who exhibit Woody’s characteristics including a passion for standards and interoperability and a willingness to get their hands dirty doing what’s necessary to make things work. Details can be received by emailing hq@hl7.org. Memorials can also be designated to lymphoma research at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic is one of the leading institutions focused on researching the most aggressive forms of lymphoma and the family hopes to see this research benefit other families fighting this challenging disease.

Online condolences are welcome at www.mackenfuneralhome.com.

Obituary courtesy of Rochester Post-Bulletin