Alexandra Coulter "Alex" Manfull

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alexandra "Alex" Coulter Manfull – prolific writer, voracious reader, artist, photographer, New York Times crossword whiz, television/film buff, fashionista, runner, financial analyst and daughter extraordinaire -- died Tuesday, Aug. 7, in Washington, D.C. She was 26.

Alex succumbed to PANDAS, an autoimmune condition linked to streptococcal infection that affects the brain. Until recently, it was generally thought to be a pediatric disorder but is now recognized as one that may also occur in adolescence and young adulthood.

Born in Portsmouth, N.H., the only child of Susan Newman Manfull and William "Towny" Manfull, Alex attended Little Harbour School, École Philippe de Girard in Lourmarin, France, Berwick Academy, and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy with High Honors and the Prize for the Study of History at the Senior Level. At PEA, Alex was the Managing Editor of The Exonian and was proud to be a tri-varsity athlete (soccer, squash, crew). Closest to her heart was crew, where her male teammates elected her the Boys' Varsity Crew Co-Captain and named her Most Valuable Player.

Alex studied history – with an emphasis on financial history – at Princeton University and graduated with a B.A. degree in U.S. History and a Certificate in American Studies. She was the coxswain for the Men's Varsity Lightweight Crew. Memberships included Pi Beta Phi and Ivy Club.

Alex forged an unusual career path for a history major: into finance. A summer analyst with Updata Partners in New Jersey and then with Morgan Stanley in New York City, Alex moved to Manhattan after college and worked at Morgan Stanley, Apollo Global Management, and Blue Ridge Capital. She moved last winter to Washington, D.C. to work again with Updata Partners as an associate. A rising star, people said. To which Alex would observe, in her characteristically humble manner, that her liberal arts background, coupled with a heavy dose of perseverance, served her well in finance.

Growing up, Alex's home was once referred to as her Petri dish of creativity. The ever-precocious Alex was so industrious that she kept her parents hopping with her projects. While in elementary school, her artwork (printed on notecards) was selected for inclusion in the annual juried Button Factory show; Alex was the youngest participant ever selected. In third grade, a story she wrote and illustrated, entitled "Miss Tubby Doesn't Eat Cheddar," received first place in New Hampshire Public Television's Reading Rainbow contest and was turned into a televised cartoon.

Still in elementary school, Alex engaged several friends (and some of their parents) in a little homespun newspaper called The Animal Tribune which grew to over 100 paid subscribers and a long list of advertisers. This venture took her twice to a live national broadcast of "Imus in the Morning;" to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, covering it for The Portsmouth Herald; and into a scrape with the New Castle, N.H. Police when her "Doggie Easter Egg Hunt" fundraiser unexpectedly welcomed over 60 dogs and one goat. The local police told her she should have gotten a permit to hold such a large public event on the New Castle Common.

Alex loved animals. She grew up in a house inhabited by several cats, a rat, a succession of goldfish, and a Glen of Imaal Terrier named Bilbo. She fell in love with a stray beagle-mix in the South of France and, when her parents drew the line at taking the dog home, she saved her money to buy a second family dog from a local breeder, a beagle she named Pal. Abby, the rat, originally part of a middle-school science experiment, joined the family menagerie when her research stint was over, scurrying around the living room in her own private mesh hallway for years afterward. Three years ago, Alex adopted Penny, a rescue Chihuahua whom she often referred to as her daemon in a reference to a series of Philip Pullman books she loved.

With her affinity for foreign languages, Alex spoke fluent French, an impressive amount of Arabic, and had just begun studying Swedish to more fully enjoy her favorite Swedish crime dramas. Alex also squeezed in three years of Latin classes.

Alex loved traveling the world with her parents, who took her at four months old to Buenos Aires where she was baptized. In her short time on this planet, she later returned to Argentina and other parts of South America as well as to North Africa, China, and much of Europe. The family was particularly drawn to a small village in Provence where they lived for six months and continued to visit regularly. On her own, Alex traveled widely, including trips to Dedougou, Burkina Faso, where she volunteered in a local school and a "sick house" teaching English; to Amman, Jordan where she studied Arabic at the University of Jordan on a U.S. State Department scholarship; and to southwestern U.S. on a sojourn between jobs. But, most of all, as Alex told everyone, she loved to be home.

While the number of accomplishments to which Alex can lay claim in so few years is remarkable, it was her kindness and her ability to relate to others – whether they be CEOs or orphaned children – that many people remember most. In letters and comments following Alex's death, stories abound about how truly good she made people feel. In the eyes of her parents, this characteristic is her legacy.

In addition to her devastated parents, Alex leaves numerous family members including her grandmother Marilyn Newman of Portsmouth and her godmother Lisa Manfull Harper of Rockville, Md.; many close family friends whom Alex always described as her family; and her beloved rescue dog Penny.

SERVICES: A service celebrating Alex's life will be held at South Church, 292 State St. in Portsmouth on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m.

Donations may be made to the Alex Manfull Memorial Fund supporting Research, Education, and Treatment of PANDAS in Adolescents and Young Adults. The Alex Manfull Memorial Fund has been established in the hope that other families and their children shall have greater treatment options and that never again will another life be cut short due to PANDAS. Please mail donations to: PANDAS Network/Alex Manfull Fund, 655 Oak Grove Ave #1373, Menlo Park, CA 94026 or donate online:

Published in from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, 2018