FOLEY, DR. JOSEPH M. (March 9, 1916 - June 13, 2012) was a noted neurologist, gerontologist, and medical professor who helped to establish UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL's geriatric assessment center, which was renamed the Joseph Foley ElderHealth Center in 1987.

Joseph M. Foley was born to Michael J. and Hannah (Sullivan) Foley in the Boston suburb of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Both his parents were Irish immigrants with little education, but his mother emphasized the importance of his studies. He attended Boston Public Latin School, where he was class president, and earned a full scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1937. He went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1941. A Harvard professor, noting Foley’s keen intelligence and limited means, walked the student to the school’s financial aid office. Foley walked out with his expenses paid through graduation.  During WORLD WAR II, Dr. Foley enlisted in the US Navy Medical Corps and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He received a Croix de Guerre and a Bronze Star for his service. After returning from the war, Dr. Foley immediately sought out Alice Marie Corcoran, whom he had known while he was at Holy Cross. The couple were married three weeks later.

After additional training in psychology and neurology at the US Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Foley returned to Harvard, as an instructor in 1948 and assistant professor of Neurology in 1951. In 1959, he was appointed professor and head of neurology at the Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry (which later became the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry). In 1961, Foley moved to Cleveland, OH, to become professor and director of the neurology division at Western Reserve University (now CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) School of Medicine. Dr. Foley also became the director of University Hospital’s neurology division.  A passionate teacher, scholar, and clinician, he actively fostered the careers of students and considered “the people [he] trained” his proudest accomplishment.  

Dr. Foley became very active in the field of gerontology; he was one of the founders of the Cleveland area's Alzheimer's Association and helped to establish University Hospital’s geriatric assessment center, which was named after him in 1987.  Foley also had staff or consulting appointments at the VETERAN’S ADMINISTRATION MEDICAL CENTER, the CUYAHOGA COUNTY HOSPITALS SYSTEM, Heather Hill Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Hospital, the MARGARET WAGNER HOUSE, and the Rose-Mary Center.  

Foley served as president of the American Academy of Neurology from 1963 to 1965 and as president of the American Neurological Association in 1974, delivering the first Presidential Honorary Lecture for the American Academy of Neurology in 1984.  Foley also served as chair of several committees for the National Institutes of Health. He had numerous scholarly publications to his credit and lectured frequently across the US and Canada.  

Dr. Foley was often recognized locally for his many contributions in the fields of medical research, practice, and education. The Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at University Hospitals named the Foley-Nulsen Library after him and a colleague in 1982.  Honored in 1983 by URSULINE COLLEGE, where he was a longtime member of the college’s advisory board, he was also the first recipient of the Menorah Park Dr. Arnold L. Heller Memorial Award for excellence in geriatrics in 1984. The UH Department of Neurology, CWRU School of Medicine, and the CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION collaborated on a symposium in his honor in 1986, when the Cleveland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association also launched a lecture series in his name.  The Dr. Joseph M. Foley Endowment Fund was set up at the CWRU School of Medicine in 1987 to provide financial assistance to medical students. 

Dr. Foley was also a noted and charismatic wit and raconteur.  He served on the board of the Irish American Archives Society and emceed the Society’s WALKS OF LIFE AWARD dinner for its first four years, receiving the award himself in 2001.  He and his wife Alice (Corcoran) Foley were married 59 years at the time of his death.  The couple had three daughters; Celia Foley Lohr, Mara Foley, and Susan Foley Espinoza, and three sons, Stephen Foley, George Foley, and Joseph Foley. Dr. Foley’s internment was kept private, per his wishes.


Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan


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