George “Buck” Lee Irvin III ’53

Dr. George Lee Irvin III, or “Buck” as he was known to friends and family, passed away peacefully at the age of 92 in his Coral Gables home on the morning of September 18, 2023 with his beloved wife Mary Frances by his side. He lived a long, beautiful life that was marked by exceptional professional achievement, thrilling adventures around the globe, and boundless love, both given and received, from scores of cherished family and friends.

He was born in Winston Salem, NC on March 22, 1931 to George Lee Irvin Jr. and Virginia Reynolds Lasater, who raised him with his younger brothers Ed and Dave. After elementary school, he attended Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, where he played football, golf, and wrestled, before moving on to Davidson College, from which he graduated in 1953. At Davidson he discovered his professional calling in life to become a doctor and subsequently enrolled in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. After graduating from medical school in 1957, he remained in Chapel Hill to complete his internship and residency at UNC. From 1962 to 1966, George served in the U.S. Military as Lt. Commander and Commander, where he was based out of the United States Public Health Service National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland while concurrently serving as senior investigator in the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute. During his time in Bethesda, George met the love of his life, Mary Frances Gibbs. They were married on December 30, 1966 and moved to South Florida when George was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. They settled in Coral Gables and children soon followed, George Lee IV in 1969 followed by Mary Catherine in 1975.

Over the next four decades, George went on to a distinguished career as surgeon, scientist, and educator at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital. He held a series of increasingly prominent appointments including Professor of Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Chief of the Surgical Service for the VA Medical Center, Attending Surgeon at the VA Medical Center and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Chief of the Endocrine Surgery Section in the Department of Surgery. His many achievements include groundbreaking research into the treatment of patients with hyperparathyroidism and the pioneering development of a technique to measure parathyroid hormone serum levels during an operation to avoid unnecessary surgery. His innovative work led his colleagues to consider him “the father of minimally invasive parathyroidectomy.” John Lew, M.D., a fellow surgeon at the University of Miami noted that George “was ahead of his time and changed the way we look at this disease.” Always humble, George credited his discovery and innovation to “a collaborative effort and support from UM, Jackson Memorial and the VA.”

He received numerous awards and honors over the course of his career including the University of North Carolina School of Medicine Distinguished Service Award, the University of Miami School of Medicine Teaching Award, the Duane G. Hutson Appreciation Award, Association of VA Surgeons Distinguished Service Award, the Raymond H. Alexander Award, and the Oliver Cope Meritorious Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

Outside of medicine, George had many hobbies and passions including flying, fishing, boating, golf, reading about history, and following Miami Hurricanes football. He obtained his pilot’s license as a young man and even had his own small airplane for a time before he started his family. He was a wildly enthusiastic boater and fisherman from a very early age and his move to Miami in the 1960s allowed him to pursue this passion with increasingly bigger boats and bigger fish in the open waters of South Florida and the Bahamas. He imbued both of his children with his love of the water and boating, which they have since passed along to their children to ensure it will endure in his family for generations to come.

While he came to love his adopted home of Miami, George was at his happiest in Roaring Gap, North Carolina, where 5 generations of his family have spent their summers from the early 1900s. He will return there one last time this autumn to be buried beside his brother, relatives, and friends.

There was nothing George enjoyed more than his family, and he was especially proud of his grandchildren Julia, Sena, Sander, and Annabelle. He cherished watching them grow up and keeping up with their many accomplishments over the last 22 years of his life.

George was predeceased by his father George Lee Irvin Jr., who died November 6, 1978, his mother Virginia Reynolds Lasater, who died March 13, 1974, and his brother Edward Lasater Irvin, who died on October 6, 2018.

He is survived by his wife Mary Frances Irvin, son George Lee Irvin IV and wife Caroline Hooper Irvin; daughter Catherine Irvin Block and husband Christopher Block; his brother David Alexander Irvin and wife Robbie; and his grandchildren Julia Catherine Irvin, Sena Graham Irvin, Jon Sander Block, and Annabelle Lybrook Block.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested gifts be made in his memory to The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (