Denis McLean

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Denis McLean
Born (1930-08-18)18 August 1930
Napier, New Zealand
Died 30 March 2011(2011-03-30) (aged 80)
Wellington, New Zealand

Denis Bazeley Gordon McLean, CMG (18 August 1930 – 30 March 2011), was a New Zealand diplomat, academic, author and civil servant.


The eldest son of Gordon McLean, a newspaper editor, and Ruahine Smith, McLean was born in Napier; his family later lived in Auckland and Wellington. He attended Nelson College from 1944 to 1948,[1] took an M.Sc (1st class) in geology at Victoria University of Wellington and won a Senior Scholarship in 1953 and a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in 1954. At University College in Oxford he studied politics, philosophy and economics. He played rugby at both Victoria and Oxford Universities, and was a member of the Victoria team that won the Jubilee Cup three times in the early 1950s.

After graduating from Oxford, McLean joined the New Zealand Department of External Affairs in 1957. He was posted to Washington DC (1960–63), Paris (1963–66), Kuala Lumpur (1966–68) and London (1972–77), where he studied at the Royal College of Defence Studies and was Deputy High Commissioner. He was Secretary of Defence from 1979 to 1988 and Ambassador to the United States from 1991 to 1994.

After his retirement from government service in 1995, he served as the Joan and James Warburg Chair of International Relations at Simmons College in Boston. His distinguished career as a public servant, writer, historian and commentator on international relations also led him to be a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic & Defense Studies Centre, the Australian National University in Canberra, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. He also served for several years on the New Zealand Press Council.

He wrote three books: The Long Pathway, Te Araroa (1986), about walking the East Coast of the North Island with his family; The Prickly Pair (2003), on Australian-NZ relations; and Howard Kippenberger: Dauntless Spirit (2008), a biography of military commander Sir Howard Kippenberger. The common theme underlying the apparent diversity of McLean's writing was a fascination with New Zealand's evolving national identity.

In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours, McLean was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.[2]

He married Anne McLean in 1957, and had three children. McLean died on 30 March 2011 at his home in Wellington.[3]


  1. ^ Nelson College Old Boys' Register, 1856–2006, 6th edition
  2. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 51774, 16 June 1989. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  3. ^ Schouten, Hank (31 March 2011). "Our former man in Washington, Denis McLean, dies". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Tim Francis
Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
John Wood