Mary Jeanne Kreek

February 9, 1937March 27, 2021
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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. The 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 in Science, to support the career development of a female scientist. The second 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. Links for these will be forthcoming, or you can reach out to Esperance directly at


  • Public Visitation

    Thursday, April 8, 2021

  • Private Funeral Service - Please use link for virtual attendance

    Friday, April 9, 2021



Mary Jeanne Kreek

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kiran Kumaran

May 4, 2021

Mary Jeanne was a lovely and kind neighbor in addition to being a trail blazer and an inspiration. She will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to the entire family.

Linda Gillcrist

April 9, 2021

I first met Dr. Kreek at a dinner in Singapore. Esperance was accompanying her parents and they were running a bit late. By the time they arrived, all the tables were occupied so the three of them were seated at a table next to our table of 8. Having chatted a bit with the vivacious Esperance, I figured I would do her a favor and offered to switch places with her so she would have some people other than Mom and Dad for company. Well, the favor got switched and I spent a most enjoyable dinner with the Doctors and was then enrolled in the Mary Jeanne fan club. She was so entertaining...witty and quick...
and the dinner flew by. Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting up with her on several occasions afterward and Mary Jeanne was always so welcoming. We all know how well regarded Dr. Kreek is/was in her professional field but
you could tell she was a person who really embraced life. She was a joy to know.

Marie Brown

April 9, 2021

To the Family... I send my condolences as I, too, knew your Mother as a very nice and kind person. I met her when I was a secretary for the CPDD for Dr. Martin Adler out of Temple University in Philadelphia in the 80's. She made such an impact on my mind and heart with her friendliness, Expertise as a Doctor, and ability to include everyone around her as welcome. Although I was only a secretary, she always greeted me well and remembered my name even though she knew hundreds of people (smile). I remember telling her that I was going back to school to become a registered nurse and she encouraged me that I was doing the right thing in expanding my life. I found out that she has passed away by thinking of her often and keeping up with her through searching her name and always wishing I could tell her that I did become a (BSN, RN) as it has been a career now of nursing for 25 years. I never forgot "Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek." I can still hear her voice and see her face. I honor Dr. Kreek and am saddened that the time had come for her to pass away. I send her and you, the family, my sincere thanks for her life.

Luis Rivera

April 9, 2021

I smile as I remember that a small gift can impact a person in a big way. This pass summer during the pandemic as I, was guarding the front gate I, see Professor Kreek, approach the gate with a look of curiosity, she asked me we're can I get one of those beautiful bandanas she asked? I replied no worries Doc, I'll get you bandana. A week later I fulfilled my promise as she emailed me a picture of herself wearing it. She was so awesome we love Dr. Kreek,

Laura Bohn

April 9, 2021

One thing that strikes me as I read the remembrances and watched the services is that we all seem to have known the same Mary Jeanne. I think this speaks to her honesty of self and how openly caring she was with each of us. Mary Jeanne would introduce me as her adopted mentee, and I always felt loved as one of her large lab family (and wasn’t she so great at introducing? you’d hear your entire CV in 30 sec in the best light!). I am so glad for every dinner, every conference, every visit that we were able to share. Her words stick with you and I hear them often pushing me onward, encouraging and expecting the best. Her life is an example of not just how to do research, but how to live. I will miss her so much.

David Novick

April 9, 2021

Dear Esperance and Robert,

It is hard to imagine life without Mary Jeanne. She was truly an inspiration to me and many others. She had great love for her family, her colleagues, and patients with addiction. She loved mentoring the next generation of scientists. My career benefited tremendously from her encouragement and wise advise. Also, she was a part of so many of our family celebrations. Jane and I will miss her.

David Novick

Chris Evans

April 9, 2021

What a sad loss. Mary Jeanne was a giant in our field, always with strength of opinion and willingness to act, always with kindness and generosity. She was inspirational to students and she was dedicated to building the next generation. I cant really envision an INRC meeting without her - with questions for nearly every speaker, her translational insights, her advising of students and her never shying away from center stage - even the entertainment (picture attached). Mary Jeanne was a foundation stone for opioid research and will never be forgotten for her contributions and leadership. I will miss her deeply...Chris

Kurt Welday

April 9, 2021

To the Schaefer family,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you today as you celebrate the life of your loving mother and lay her to rest. Mary Jeanne Kreek truly enjoyed a life well lived.

Love Kurt and Patti Welday

Andrew Talal

April 9, 2021

Esperance and Robert

Your mother was a tremendous inspiration to me in many aspects. I will remember her tremendous generosity and guidance fondly.

May she rest in peace.

Andrew Talal, MD

Brigitte Kieffer

April 9, 2021

To Mary Jeanne's children and grand children: she was a true light all along my career, we were close and I terribly miss her. She was a true pionneer, a model for women scientists, and in a way, stays as alive as ever in our hearts, live paths and future. With all my support. Brigitte Kieffer


Mother’s Day in NYC


Birthday Dinner in NYC


With Baby Merrill


Schaefer ladies


Esperance’s engagement brunch


With the Chapin Girls in London


With fellow female pioneer, Anna Lok


With baby Bobby