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​​​​​​​​​​​Melvin R. Laird

Image of Melvin Laird

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Melvin R. Laird's career in government spanned nearly thirty years, as a member of the Wisconsin State Senate, as a Congressman and as a Cabinet Officer. As a legislator, he took a special interest in medical research, and his work in that area has been of historic importance.

Throughout the United States, facilities for medical research are a legacy of his skill and foresight as a legislator. He co-authored legislation to finance the construction of the National Library of Medicine, and important centers for medical research on many university campuses, (Among them the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research and the University of Wisconsin Cancer Center in Madison, Wisconsin) and the major institutes of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. With Congressman John Fogarty (D - Rhode Island) and Senator Lister Hill (D - Alabama) he also provided for the building of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Between 1956 and 1967, Congressman Laird was appointed a member of the U.S. Delegation to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland by three U.S. Presidents - Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.

Melvin R. Laird's commitment to medicine did not end with his congressional career. As Secretary of Defense, he innovated Project MAST which utilizes one of the logistical lessons he learned in Vietnam: use of helicopters to evacuate the wounded. He also instituted MEDIHC, Military Experience Directed in Health Careers, a program to help medically-trained servicemen to find meaningful civilian careers in health professions. He gave his full support to the establishment of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland.

As Marshfield Clinic Health System and Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation grew in researchers and resources, Melvin Laird was instrumental in helping secure many research grants from both the federal government and private sector.

Mr. Laird has received many awards in honor of his long-standing and effective service in support of health-related issues and objectives. Including the medical profession's highest recognition for the promotion of medical research, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.​​​

Melvin R. Laird Biography

Melvin R. Laird served as U.S. Secretary of Defense, 1968-73; Counselor to the President for Domestic Affairs, 1973-74; and nine terms in the U.S. Congress representing Wisconsin's Seventh Congressional District, where he was Chairman, Republican House Minority, member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Republican Coordinating Council. 

Prior to this service, he was a member of the Wisconsin Senate, 1946-52; Chairman, Wisconsin Legislative Council and served in the U.S. Navy, 1942-1946 in the Pacific Fleet with Task Force 38 and 58. He also was Senior Counselor for National and International Affairs for the Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Mr. Laird was a member of the Director's Advisory Council of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He performed disti​nguished service on the following Boards of Directors:

  • Public Oversight Board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Vice-Chairman, 11/97 to 10/99)
  • American Express/IDS Mutual Funds Group
  • Communications Satellite Corporation (Chairman 1992-1996)
  • Martin Marietta
  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Phillips Petroleum Company
  • Purolator Company
  • The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
  • DeWitt and Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds
  • Science Applications International Corp.
  • Staff Leasing, Inc.
  • T-COM, LLP.

He was active on some 27 nonprofit organizations, which include:

  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • The George Washington University
  • Airlie Foundation
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America
  • Laird Youth Leadership Foundation
  • Laird Foundation for Historic Preservation
  • The Wolf Trap Farm for the Performing Arts (Chairman 1974-75)
  • World Rehabilitation Fund
  • Advisory Board to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)
  • Chairman, President Reagan's 1987-88 Moscow Assessment Review Panel
  • Chairman, National Election Commission, 1986
  • Co-Chairman, Platform Committee of the Republican National Convention, 1960, Chairman, 1964.

Mr. Laird was the recipient of over 300 awards and honorary degrees. These include:

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1974
  • Decorated Order of Merit - First Class, Federal Republic of Germany
  • Commander, National Order Legion of Honor, France
  • 15th Annual Albert Lasker Public Service Award
  • Doctor of Philanthropy and Human Services, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Lincoln College
  • Doctor of Political Science, University of the Pacific
  • Doctor of Laws, University of Wisconsin
  • Doctor of Military Medical History, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences
  • Man of the Year awards, American Cancer Society, National Association of Mental Health
  • Humanitarian Award, John E. Fogarty Foundation for the Mentally Retarded, 1974
  • The Harry S. Truman Award for distinguished service in defense, 1985

Mr. Laird received a BA from Carleton College and authored 'A House Divided: America's Strategy Gap', 1962. He was also Editor: The Conservative Papers, 1964 and Republican Papers, 1968.

He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans; Order of the Purple Heart; 40 and 8; American Legion; Veterans of Foreign Wars; 33rd Degree Mason; Elder of the Presbyterian Church; Burning Tree Club; and Augusta National Golf Club.

Mr. Laird was born September 1, 1922. In 1945, he married the late Barbara Masters Laird. He had four children (John O. Laird, Alison Laird-Large, David Laird, and Kimberly Dalgleish), and five grandchildren (Rady Large, John David Large, Connor Laird, Harrison Laird, and Carly Dalgleish). In 1993, he married Carole Fleischman.​

About the Laird Center for Medical Research

The Laird Center for Medical Research, named after health care advocate, former statesman and U.S. Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, is a world-class medical research and education facility that houses Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. 

It is located on the campus of Marshfield Medical Center in Marshfield, which is part of Marshfield Clinic Health System, a not-for-profit multispecialty practice in Wisconsin.

Conducting medical research that directly benefits patients has been the goal for the Laird Center for Medical Research since the dedication of the original building in September 1997. The expanded building is a physical expression of the collaborative efforts by researchers and clinicians to bring research results to patient care. Clinical and research laboratories share many resources, creating both operational efficiencies and an environment for the development of new ideas among multiple scientific disciplines

In fulfilling a vision of cooperation and integration of clinical care, research and education, the expansion of the Laird Center for Medical Research creates an ideal setting, enhancing Marshfield Clinic Health System's ability to:

  • Discover and share scientific knowledge that substantially improves human health and well-being
  • Provide local and regional access to laboratory services, promoting high standards of patient care and medical practice
  • Advance academic medicine through the development and delivery of education leading to best practice, health care workforce training and development, and state-of-the-art conferencing
  • Achieve greater integration of medical research and clinical practice
  • Improve patient care and protect public health
  • Honor Melvin R. Laird's accomplishments in health care, medical research and education

Located within the Laird Center for Medical Research are: