PALATINE, Ill. – At the Harper College Spring Sports Banquet Wednesday night, Richard "Duke" Geary, who retired in February after 34 years at Harper, was presented with a plaque thanking him for his dedication to the college.
Spring in the Midwest is the most difficult time for a groundskeeper, but Geary was always there through rain, cold, snow, wind and ominous skies, doing everything he could to get the fields ready to play. Usually ankle deep in mud and covered in striping paint, Geary did whatever it took to get the job done.
"His joy and pride came from seeing athletes take the field," said Harper Director of Athletics and Fitness Doug Spiwak, who presented Geary the plaque along with track and field coach Renee Zellner, baseball coach Cliff Brown and softball coach Cray Allen.
Geary never complained about the early mornings and difficult conditions. Instead, he used the time to mentor students who had the opportunity to work with him on the grounds through the work study program at Harper. It was there that he contributed to student success by showing students his personal touch in preparing the fields.
"His eyes are clear and his hands are softer now that he has retired, but his heart is still the one of a man who dedicated his life's work to student success," Spiwak said.
One who is not used to getting so much attention, Geary sheepishly accepted his award in front of a room of 100 people and offered his insight about what he enjoyed about his time working at Harper.
"First, I enjoyed working with the kids. Second, I enjoyed working with the coaching and staff because I was always interacting with them. Finally, I got the most satisfaction out of seeing the kids playing that first inning," he said.
He paused and added one more thing.
"It was worth it," Geary said.