Dr. Barbara DeGrange Kieran, 70, of Moylan, Delaware County, an accomplished medical marketing researcher, and one of the first women to be admitted as an undergraduate to Yale University, died Sunday, Aug. 22, of Alzheimer’s disease at her home.
Admitted to Yale in 1969, Dr. Kieran studied Spanish and German, majored in psychology, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1973. That fall, she enrolled as a Presidential Fellow in the Ph.D clinical psychology program at Temple University and moved to Philadelphia.
She did research on personality theory at the Wharton Applied Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, interned in 1975-76 at the Irving Schwartz Institute for Children and Youth, and earned her doctorate from Temple in 1980.
Dr. Kieran joined National Analysts, a Philadelphia-based research consultancy now called Naxion, in 1982, and became a vice president focused on medical marketing research for pharmaceutical companies.
“She forged an amazing life of extraordinary achievements,” said architect Stephen Kieran, her husband of 44 years. “She always excelled, and there is no explanation for it. It’s hard to know where she came from.”
Born March 3, 1951, in Brooklyn, Dr. Kieran had an alluring soprano singing voice and began a lifelong involvement with choral music as a child at Grace Lutheran Church. She took part in youth choir exchanges, and later sang with the Yale Glee Club, the Yale Alumni Chorus, and choirs in Philadelphia. She also played the piano and accordion.
The first in her working-class family to attend college, she was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, a drama club standout, and class valedictorian at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens. She was a New York State Regents Scholar in 1969.
Dr. Kieran met her husband in 1973 through a mutual friend while attending graduate school at Temple, and, after living together on Spruce Street for a time as roommates, they married in 1977. They went on to travel the world together, living for a year in Rome, and had son Christopher and daughter Caitlin.
Dr. Kieran enjoyed crafts, weaving, sewing her own clothes, and cooking gourmet meals. Known for sharp-witted puns, she taught her less experienced classmates at Yale to iron and do laundry, and later seamlessly balanced the work and personal parts of her life.
“She was street smart and book smart, and moved with total ease between them,” her husband said.
The family lived in Moylan for 30 years, and she “set the standards high” as a parent, her husband said. “She knew what everyone needed,” he said. “She peered deeply into the souls of her children, and had a keen sense of when to step back.”
She planned most of the family’s many travels and was especially drawn to Italy. Dr. Kieran was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2005, and took part for a time in clinical trials at the Penn Memory Center.
“She made life’s everyday moments feel special,” her family said in a tribute.
Her husband said, “She built memories in our minds and hearts to be treasured.”
In addition to her husband and children, Dr. Kieran is survived by a grandchild, a sister, and other relatives.
A service is to be held Friday, Sept. 3, at 11 a.m. at Christ Church, 20 N. American St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19106, with a reception to follow. A private burial in Church Creek, Md., is to be held Saturday.
Donations in Dr. Kiernan’s name may be made to the Philadelphia Walk to End Alzheimer’s, 399 Market St., Suite 250, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.