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Joseph Anthony Leistyna '52

Feb. 26, 1931-Jan. 6, 2006

Joseph Anthony Leistyna ’52, for 42 years a dedicated pediatrician concerned especially for children at risk, was born on February 26, 1931, in New York City. The son of Arthur Leistyna, also a physician, and the former Margaret Ann Maresh, he grew up in Ilion, NY. In 1948, Joe Leistyna was graduated from Ilion High School as valedictorian of his class. He entered Hamilton that year, determined to prepare for a future career in medicine. He joined ELS, went out for track, in which he lettered, and became active in the Camera Club (photography would remain his lifelong hobby) as well as the Chess and Debate clubs. Known for his “quick and ready wit” as well as his “nightly ukulele concerts” at ELS, he also excelled academically, winning the Holbrook Prize in Biology, and was graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with honors in chemistry and biology in 1952.

Joe Leistyna went on to the University of Rochester School of Medicine, where he acquired his M.D. degree in 1956. After a year as a pediatric intern at Grace-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, he entered the U.S. Air Force for a three-year hitch as a medical officer. He was assigned to the Air Force hospital at Rhein-Main in Germany as chief of pediatric services. Released from the Air Force in 1960 with the rank of captain, he took up a residency at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. In 1963, after a year as a clinical fellow in pediatric endocrinology at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, he returned to central New York and established his private practice
in Oneida.

While in Oneida, Dr. Leistyna began specializing in the care of developmentally and physically challenged children and young adults. He became medical director of Madison County’s physically handicapped program and pediatric consultant to the birth defects unit of Children’s Hospital in Utica. He was chief of pediatrics at Oneida City Hospital in 1972 when he relocated his practice to Culpeper, VA. There he chaired the department of pediatrics and family medicine at Culpeper Memorial Hospital while also serving as clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

In 1975, Dr. Leistyna relocated once again when appointed as an assistant professor and director of pediatric ambulatory services at the University of Connecticut Health Center and School of Medicine in Farmington. While in Connecticut, he was also a consultant on child abuse to the state’s Department of Children and Youth Services and project pediatrician for the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Demonstration Center in Hartford.

In 1979, Dr. Leistyna joined the staff of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and School of Medicine in Worcester as an assistant professor of pediatrics. He later became an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry as well. During his years in Massachusetts he also served as medical director at Belchertown State School and director of medical support services in the department of psychiatry at Worcester State Hospital. Active on numerous professional committees and the recipient of fellowships as well as awards for his medical contributions, he concluded his highly active and productive career as medical director of the Western Carolina Center in Morganton, NC, beginning in 1991.

Joseph A. Leistyna moved back to Massachusetts upon his retirement in 1998. He was residing in Hatfield, near Amherst, when he died on January 6, 2006, following a long illness. He was predeceased in 1988 by his wife, the former Rita R. Geoffrion, whom he had wed on July 30, 1957, in Ilion. Surviving are three daughters, Lori M. Leistyna, Tracy A. Casey, and Kara M. Leistyna; two sons, Jeffrey A. and Joseph A. Leistyna, Jr.; and five grandchildren and a sister, Sylvia Lahvis, wife of W. Frederick Lahvis ’52.

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Note: Memorial biographies published prior to 2004 will not appear on this list.

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