Timothy Geithner Biography

Civil Servant (1961–)
Timothy Geithner is best known as the 75th U.S. Sercretary of the Treasury, under President Barack Obama. As the CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank, he was responsible for several crucial decisions during the 2008 financial crisis.


Timothy Geithner is the 75th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, serving under President Barack Obama. Born to a pianist and international development official for the U.S. government, he spent most of his childhood traveling to different foreign countries. He spent time in Zimbabwe, India and Thailand during his adolescence, and soon became interested in international relationships. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1983 with a B.A. in government and Asian studies, he attained his master's degree in international economics and East Asian studies from John Hopkins University. After working for the International Monetary Fund and Federal Reserve Bank as CEO, he was accepted into Obama's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury. He played a key role during the 2008 financial crisis.

Early Life

Politician, economist. Born Timothy Franz Geithner on August 18th, 1961, in New York City to Deborah and Peter Geithner. His mother was a pianist and piano teacher. His father's job as an international development official for the U.S. government had Geithner and his family traveling and living in foreign countries for most of his childhood.

His family moved from the United States to Zimbabwe, India and Thailand during his early adolescence. Fascinated by international relationships even as a youth, Geithner used his interests as an amateur photographer during high school at the International School of Bangkok to travel to Cambodia and take black-and-white photographs of refugees.

Geithner continued his pursuit of photography when he attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he worked as an event photographer. His professors felt he had a natural talent for language. During his studies there, he learned Japanese and worked as a drill instructor for the Chinese language to help students with their oral and aural language skills. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1983 with a B.A. in government and Asian studies.

Work in Washington

After graduation from Dartmouth, Geithner attended the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where he earned a master's degree in International Economics and East Asian Studies in 1985. Geithner married his college girlfriend, Carole Marie Sonnenfeld, that same year at his parents' summer home in East Orleans, Massachusetts. She was working as a research associate for Common Cause, a public-affairs lobbying group in Washington, D.C., at the time. Geithner began work as a consultant for Kissinger and Associates in Washington, D.C., soon after.

Geithner worked as a consultant until 1988, when he joined the International Affairs division of the Treasury Department as an assistant financial attache for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. He held several jobs during his tenure at the Treasury, and was the first career civil servant to be appointed to the position of Under Secretary of International Affairs in 1998. In this post, he worked under Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers during President Clinton's administration. He was a principal adviser and member of the executive branch's senior team.

Geithner moved to the International Monetary Fund in 2001 as director of the Policy Development and Review Department. In this role, he approved the fund's financial programs and worked on its crisis management.

Federal Reserve Bank CEO

He assumed his position as the ninth president and chief executive officer of the New York Federal Reserve Bank on November 17th, 2003. He served as the vice chairman and permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the group responsible for formulating the nation's monetary policy and determining the national interest rate.

In this post, he played a key role in responding to the financial crisis, working closely with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. Geithner was involved in many of the most pivotal financial decisions of 2008, including the rescue of one of the largest global investment banks and brokerage firms, Bear Stearns, as well as the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Those decisions have both supporters and critics.

Other Notable Roles

In addition to his role at the Federal Reserve, Geithner served as the chairman of the G-10s Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems of the Bank for International Settlements; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Group of Thirty; a trustee of the Economic Club of New York; a member of the board of directors of the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.; and a member of the board of trustees of the RAND Corporation.

Secretary of the Treasury

On November 25, 2008, he accepted president-elect Barack Obama's nomination to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury in his cabinet. Geither weathered many economic upheavals during his tenure, including the 2011 European debt crisis. Around this time, however, Geithner began to talk about leaving the administration. Geithner then decided to stay until the end of Obama's first term. He has not expressed exactly what he will do after stepping down from his treasury post, but he has pledged to leave by late January 2013.

Geithner and his wife have two children, Elise and Benjamin.

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