Mary Jeanne Kreek (born February 9, 1937) passed away comfortably in her home at the age of 84 on Saturday, March 27th.
She was born in Washington D.C. to parents Louis F. Kreek and Esperance Agee Kreek. Her father was the Examiner-in-Chief at the United States Patent Office. She was raised in Washington D.C. and embraced a love of both dance and science from a very young age. Struck with polio at the age of 11, she took to ballet to overcome the physical consequences and through her teenage years and danced with the Washington Ballet Company. During her high school years, she shone in her scientific endeavors and was a Westinghouse finalist.
She attended undergraduate at Wellesley College and graduated as Durant Scholar and then proceeded onwards to medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she was one of two women in her graduating class. She then became the only woman in her internal medicine residency class and gastroenterology fellowship Cornell Medical College. It was during this training that she was given the opportunity to pursue a research fellowship at Rockefeller University, which proved to be the formative moment in her life’s work and contribution to medicine. She worked with Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander to develop the use of methadone for opiate addiction. She forged onwards towards innumerable groundbreaking advances in the study of addiction medicine. Her professional accomplishments have been beautifully detailed in several obituaries, including The Scientist and on Rockefeller University’s website.
She married Dr. Robert A. Schaefer on January 24th, 1970. Together, Bob and Mary Jeanne were life-long patrons of the arts, and held subscriptions to the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City ballet. In her extensive work-related travels, they also were able to experience Opera across the globe, including a memorable evening at the Drottningholm Palace Theatre in Stockholm. Mary Jeanne and Bob also loved the fine dining in New York City, and Mary Jeanne was well known for her annual anniversary and birthday dinners at La Grenouille and innumerable other family and work celebrations at Barbaresco. French red wines were her favorite to accompany these meals. She loved flowers, and until the day that she passed, her house was always adorned with arrangements of cut flower and live orchids. She was a devoted mother and adoring grandmother. She raised her children, Robert and Esperance, as citizens not just of their New York City community, but indeed of the world. They accompanied her on work travels and because of her, saw much of the world from a young age. Bob and Mary Jeanne both taught at St. George’s University in St. Vincent and Grenada from 1980 until 2019, and Mary Jeanne mentored students at the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation as they pursued MPH and PhD degrees.
She was exceedingly proud of the accomplishments of her children, and her children-in-law, Heather Fain Schaefer and Karl Welday. Her four grandchildren (Merrill and William Schaefer, and Bobby and Francine Welday) were the light of her life, and their regular visits brought her immense joy even as her health failed.
We will miss her dearly. We hope that you will join us in thinking of her whenever you sit at Lincoln Center, open a bottle of Bordeaux wine, sniff a fragrant flower, or watch a beautiful sunset. A visitation will be held at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on Thursday, April 8th from 3-7pm. A small funeral service will be live-streamed at Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek | Welcome to Memorial Stream Online on Friday, April 9th at 11am. Her family plans a larger memorial service and celebration of her life once COVID restrictions permit.
Donations in her honor can be made to two fellowships that are being established in her name. One will be through Rockefeller University’s Women and Science initiative, to support the career development of a female scientist. Contributions can be made online here to establish the Mary Jeanne Kreek Women & Science Fellowship at the university. Dr. Kreek was passionate about the Women & Science initiative. Esperance and Robert, believe that this will be a meaningful way to recognize the remarkable trail she blazed for women scientists.
The second fellowship will be at the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), an organization for which she served on the board for 15 years, to support a student from the OECS countries (Grenada and St. Vincent) to study in the field of addictive diseases. Link for this fellowship will be forthcoming, or you can reach out to Esperance directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.