Dr. Karl Menninger, who towered over American psychiatry from his Topeka clinic and changed how the nation views the mentally ill and criminals, died Wednesday of cancer, four days before his 97th birthday.
Menninger died about 8:15 a.m. at Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center, said Menninger spokeswoman Judy Craig. He was admitted to the hospital June 12 and diagnosed with abdominal cancer.Pat Norris, a clinical director of the Biofeedback and Psychophysiology Center at the Menninger Clinic, said he was "sending messages and signals to people" during the night and asked her to sing to him.
Menninger was once hailed by the American Psychiatric Association as the nation's "greatest living psychiatrist." A forceful, outspoken maverick, he jolted popular thought with his theories on crime, prisons and child abuse.
He was credited with convincing the American public that mental disorders could be treated and cured. And he wrote "The Crime of Punishment" in 1968 to argue that "you don't rehabilitate a man by beating him."
The Menninger Clinic, which he founded with his father, is one of the world's most famous hospitals for the mentally ill. He co-founded the Menninger Foundation, a major non-profit organization for training, research and public education in psychiatry and psychology. Its name was shortened to just Menninger in 1989.
Menninger received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1981.
Karl Augustus Menninger was born July 22, 1893, in Topeka, the eldest of three sons of Dr. Charles F. Menninger. He considered newspaper work or banking, then decided to join his father in medicine and in 1917 graduated with honors from Harvard Medical School.
His greatest ambition was to do what he could to help mankind.
"Dr. Karl," as he was affectionately known around the Menninger Foundation, listed among his proudest accomplishments the establishment of The Villages, homes for wayward youth in Kansas, Indiana and Michigan.
Survivors include his second wife, Jeanetta Lyle Menninger, whom he married in 1941; a son, Dr. Robert G. Menninger, a Topeka psychiatrist and official of the Menninger Foundation; and three daughters, Julia Gottesman, Santa Monica, Calif., Martha Nichols, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Rosemary Menninger, Topeka. Also surviving are nine grandchildren.