(Following is an expanded version of the memorial published in the print edition of PAW.)
Diane E. Alington-Leaf died Jan. 4, 2008, at home in Princeton after a long illness. She was 65. Diane had successfully conquered several life-threatening illnesses during her lifetime, and some recent ones over the past several years, with significant suffering and disability, but always with great dignity and spirit.
Born in Saskatoon, Canada, her family home was in Kaleden, British Columbia. Diane had a remarkable life, starting with her early childhood in wartime Britain and followed by her teen years as a ballet dancer in Canada when she danced for the Queen of England. She left home at 17 to be a flight attendant for several years, and moved to the United States in 1962.
She graduated from Centenary College (then a two-year school) in 1971, and transferred to Princeton in the Class of 1973 (classmates may remember her under the name Diane MacKinnon). Diane was unusual in being an older, transfer student, but she was devoted to Princeton and always proud of her ties to the University. She majored in psychology and completed her thesis with Professor Charles Gross, graduating summa cum laude and with election to Phi Beta Kappa. An article based on her thesis was published in 1976. Diane went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology in 1983 from Rutgers University, where she met her husband and soulmate, Russell Leaf, a professor of psychology.
She returned to Centenary College, where she served as professor of psychology, department chair, and dean. When Rutgers University established its Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research in 1985, Diane became its first assistant director, and helped spearhead its highly successful undergraduate research-training program for minority students. After retiring from the institute in 1995, Diane became a medical writer and author and president of The Word Doctors. She continued writing until days before her last hospitalization.
Her beloved husband, Russ, predeceased her in September 1997. Daughter of the late Audrey Robertson, she is survived by her father, Geoffrey Alington; two sons, Daniel M. Leaf and Jonathan I. Leaf; a daughter, Sarah R. Leaf; three sisters, Alaine Burgess, Lynn O’Brien, and Roberta DeLuca; and two granddaughters. Her many devoted friends will miss her and remember her brilliance and her never-flagging kindness.
Classmates who wish to honor Diane’s memory may make contributions to the Class of 1976’s Spirit of Service New Orleans Public Health Fellowship. Checks should be made out to: “Class of 1976, Princeton University,” and “Spirit of Service ’76 New Orleans Public Health Fellowship” should be written on the memo line. Send contributions to Joci Spector, treasurer, 7202 45th St., Chevy Chase, MD 20815-6033.