In Memoriam: Francis de Marneffe, MD, McLean Director Emeritus

April 22, 2022

McLean Hospital Director Emeritus Francis de Marneffe, MD, a member of the McLean community for 70 years, passed away late last week. He was 97.

de Marneffe first arrived on the McLean campus in January of 1953, when he came to the hospital as a second-year resident. His intelligence, compassion, and operational acuity enabled a rapid rise through hospital leadership roles, and in 1960, he was appointed assistant to Hospital Director and Psychiatrist in Chief Alfred Stanton, MD.

Two years later, at the young age of 38, de Marneffe was appointed McLean’s general director, a position in which he served from 1962 to 1986. His 24-year tenure as director of the hospital was the longest in McLean’s more than 200-year history.

In a recent interview, de Marneffe discussed his love for McLean and its mission:

“There is something about the dedication of the people who work at McLean…It’s about their passion and sense of duty. It feels as though doing whatever they can to help others is part of their DNA,” he said.

B&W photo of man in front of building

de Marneffe in front of the building named in his honor

Though de Marneffe formally retired more than 30 years ago, he continued to have a strong relationship with McLean and was a frequent attendee of Grand Rounds lectures and other hospital events.

Until his death, he actively participated in Zoom lectures and programs hosted by McLean—including the annual Veteran’s Day gathering, where he would recount his service to the Royal Air Force during World War II.

“Francis was an incredible person of courage, adventure, insight, caring, and commitment,” said Scott L. Rauch, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief. “His dedication to McLean and our mission was unsurpassed and remains inspirational. He led the hospital with exceptional vision. I am eternally grateful for his many contributions to our institution and community, including his eagerness to share his wisdom through his stories and mentorship.”

After escaping to England when the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, de Marneffe trained with the Royal Air Force before becoming a British citizen and attending medical school at the University of London.

After graduating, he decided to head to the United States for a year of medical training. One year later, however, he was still not ready to leave the U.S.—and was also unsure about what clinical specialty he wanted to pursue.

Fascinated by people’s life stories and fueled by a drive to help people in a different way, de Marneffe chose to come to McLean and specialize in psychiatry.

“Dr. de Marneffe’s contributions to McLean are truly historic,” said McLean Hospital Historian Terry Bragg. “From his instrumental role in the construction and development of the Hall-Mercer Children’s Center and the Rehabilitation Center, which expanded services to the community, to overseeing the process that led to the renovation of existing patient buildings and construction of new buildings such as the de Marneffe Building and the Admissions Building, as well as spearheading the founding of the Arlington School, of which he was most proud, he has helped to make McLean Hospital the marvel that it is today.”

A memorial service for de Marneffe is being planned for the fall.

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