Dr. Morgan Delaney, former GW doctor, HAF president, dies at 77

Dr. Morgan Delaney, former GW doctor, HAF president, dies at 77
Gretchen Bulova and Dr. Morgan D. Delaney at the Historic Alexandria Foundation’s garden party in 2013. (Photo/Louise Krafft)

By Wafir Salih | wsalih@alextimes.com

Dr. Morgan D. Delaney, who had a distinguished career as a leading pulmonologist at George Washington University Hospital and president of the Historic Alexandria Foundation, died April 24. He was 77.

Delaney served as the president for the HAF for more than 40 years where he and the foundation promoted historic preservation with buildings and artifacts related to Alexandria.

Osborne Mackie, the long-time partner and husband of Delaney, said Delaney was deeply committed to keeping the historical fabric of the city intact.

“He wanted what’s important about Alexandria to be protected and not be destroyed. He fought development pressure for years and years and years, because he realized that the historic core of Alexandria is what makes Alexandria special, and [if] you destroy that, you’ve killed the goose that laid the golden egg,” Mackie said. “He could be very tenacious and enter a fight if he had to, to save architecture, to save the historic skin of the city.”

Delaney was born in Alexandria on July 16, 1946, into a family with deep roots in the city. An ancestor on his father’s side settled in the city shortly after the Civil War. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and uncle – who were all physicians – Delaney and his three brothers pursued careers in medicine.

Delaney attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and pursued both his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Virginia. His academic and professional journey eventually led him to the George Washington University School of Medicine, where he served as an associate professor and practiced as a pulmonologist for 45 years.

Delaney was honored with the American College of Physicians Walter Lester Henry Jr. Memorial Award for a Lifetime of Excellent Teaching. He was also recognized with a best faculty teacher of the year award at GW. He retired in June 2023.

Mackie met Delaney over 30 years ago at a Christmas party at Tudor Place, a historic house museum in Georgetown, which Mackie was the director at the time. The couple later married on Feb. 10, 2011.

“We had a top donor group and he joined that. … I already knew him by reputation as a serious collector of antique furniture, chiefly of the classical period,” Mackie said.

Mackie highlighted Delaney’s professionalism as a physician and noted his commitment to maintaining patient confidentiality.

“I would not know that one of our best friends was his patient. I would have never learned that from him. He was so discreet. I would only know that when people come up to me and they say, well, ‘Morgan saved my life.’ It’s happened many times,” Mackie said.

Mackie described Delaney as having an inquiring mind and being filled with enthusiasm, calling him “utterly charming and tireless.”

And Mackie said that Delaney was steadfast in his efforts of preserving historic buildings and sites in the city. He would often attend public hearings to testify.

“If something needed to be said he would say it, and he was never daunted,” Mackie said.

Colleagues and friends remember Delaney as a true renaissance man.

Mary Sterling, current executive director of the HAF, said she knew Delaney for more than 28 years and would carry on his mission of promoting preservation in the city.

“Morgan was a renowned pulmonologist, architectural historian, intellectual, remarkable writer, gourmet cook and always a gentleman. … He simply knew more about the history of Alexandria than anyone I know. He has been my mentor and friend for over 28 years, and it is my ‘raison d’etre’ to carry on Morgan’s mission to promote historic preservation in Alexandria,” Sterling said in an email statement to the Times.

Laura Dowling, former White House floral designer for the Barack Obama administration, said she will always remember Delaney’s warmth and kindness.

“As an Old Town friend and neighbor, I remember Morgan as the quintessential Virginia gentleman who embodied the very essence of refinement, culture and keen intellect. In addition to his many professional achievements and contributions to historic preservation, I appreciated his zest for living a full and vibrant life, filled with adventure and excitement. He loved celebrating with friends, cooking gourmet meals and traveling to exotic locations around the world, often regaling us with witty stories about his adventures. What set him apart was his generous spirit and great sense of humor. I will always remember his wonderful laugh and the warmth and kindness he extended to me and to all who had the privilege of knowing him,” Dowling said in an email statement to the Times.

Mackie echoed the sentiments of Delaney being a great cook. Delaney’s signature dish was duck breast and risotto, a meal Mackie said his husband perfected over the years.

Bud Adams, a local architect who’s been friends with Delaney for more than 30 years, said he was sincere, dedicated and thoughtful. He also reminisced on a memorable dinner at Delaney and Mackie’s home and the historic touches throughout.

“[I recall] having dinner at his house and it appeared so authentic because he only used candlelight, and these rooms [were] filled with beautiful antiques. You felt like you were going back in time,” Adams said.

Mason Montague Bavin said she’s known Delaney since she was a child. She met him through her parents, who were active preservationists in the city. She later worked with Delaney on many projects related to the HAF starting back in the 1990s with the foundation’s antique show.

“He was just the most amazing person with a sincere interest in historic preservation and the decorative arts, while being a very talented medical doctor and educator as well,” Bavin said. “He was super creative, super dedicated to his causes, and just a lot of fun.”

Bavin, who served on the board of trustees at the HAF for more than 25 years and assumed emeritus status a year ago, said Delaney played an integral role in the foundation’s work with providing grants to recipients.

“Every year, the HAF gives preservation grants to different historic sites throughout the city that apply for it, and he was involved with that process and the selection of the grant recipients. There was a committee, but he was a part of that,” Bavin said. “These ranged from sites like the Athenaeum and St. Paul’s Church, or the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop, and the Lloyd House being different sites throughout the city.”

Bavin said Delaney was quite knowledgeable about the city’s history.

“His passing is a real loss to the Alexandria community. It really is. I think it’s going to come as a shock to people. … He really was a walking encyclopedia about Alexandria,” Bavin said.

Twig Murray, who serves as president of the board of the Historic Athenaeum, said she’s known Delaney for 30 years and partnered with him on multiple projects as a graphic designer.

“He was a great client because he’d say, ‘What do you think we should do?’ And I’d come up with something and he’d say, ‘That’s perfect.’ So, there was very little back and forth. We had a good meeting of the minds. I enjoyed working with him. I liked the heck out of him. I think he was a funny, irreverent, delightful person to sidle up to at a cocktail party,” Murray said.

Murray said the Athenaeum has been the recipient of many grants from HAF, which helped fund a variety of restoration projects. She emphasized that Delaney was instrumental in this process.

“I don’t know if there would have been an HAF were it not for Morgan’s guidance. … When you walk by the Athenaeum and you notice that it’s in very good condition, a great deal of that is due to the generosity of the HAF. I know they have a board that addresses grants, but I’ve got to say, Morgan’s got to be responsible for a fair amount of that,” Murray said.

Liza Chapman, a longtime friend of Delaney, highlighted how much she appreciated him.

“A gentleman to the core! [I] loved Morgan. He was temperance personified,” Chapman said in a text relayed to the Times.

Delaney is survived by his spouse Osborne Mackie, two brothers, four sisters, a sister-and brother-in-law and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on May 17 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.