Retirees Association

Robert Kent Finley Jr., 97, Clinical Professor of Surgery

memorial candle

Robert Kent Finley Jr., 97, died at his home on July 15, 2022, just shy of his 98th birthday.

Always an innovative influencer, he and two friends, John Herbert and Dick Christian, began working various jobs during high school for 25-35 cents/hour to save money for the purchase of a car, which they took on a trip out West. They wrote accounts of their adventure for the local newspaper.

Robert was part of the Navy's V-12 program during WWII, which provided accelerated medical education. He briefly attended Haverford and Swarthmore colleges and The Ohio State University and finished medical school at Jefferson Medical College. He married Georganne Ozias in 1949 and began surgical residency after a stint with the Navy in 1949-50 in Trinidad. While a surgical resident, he participated in the first successful open-heart surgery using the heart and lung machine with Dr. John Gibbon in 1953. He began practicing surgery with his father, Robert Kent Finley Sr., around 1956 in Dayton and continued practicing surgery for more than 30 years.

Robert was instrumental in founding the burn unit at Miami Valley Hospital. He was a teacher and mentor for countless medical students and surgical residents. Upon retirement he volunteered his services overseas in various settings including Jamaica, American Samoa, Kenya, and Rwanda. He is most remembered for more than 10 years of volunteer service at Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, China, where he helped build a surgical residency program modeled after that at Wright State University.

Mentoring young leaders, especially in surgery, was his passion, employing the motto, "give hearty praise and lavish approbation." This is found on his bedroom door printed in capitals with a very large font. He was an inspiration and a highly accomplished influencer of people for good. "Help people," he often said, though he claimed not to give advice.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Georganne. Surviving are five children, Robert Kent Finley III, Charles Devon Finley, David Ganiard Finley, Anna Finley Schroeder, and Richelle Cramer Piper, as well as 11 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, a program fund in Dr. Finley's memory is now available at Wright State University for the Boonshoft School of Medicine's Department of Surgery. Its intention is to foster mentorship among surgeons. Memorial gifts can be made online at or by mail to Wright State University Foundation, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Dayton, OH 45435. For more information, contact Nicki Crellin with Wright State at (937) 245-7634.