Melvin R. LairdMelvin R. Laird
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Melvin R. Laird

News Release

Date: July 28, 2003
Contact: Teresa Clark Derfus

Melvin R. Laird Named Wisconsin Academy Fellow

Melvin R. Laird, who has been instrumental in furthering the mission of Marshfield Clinic and contributing to the betterment of health care worldwide, was awarded the prestigious Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Fellow Award at an induction ceremony Sunday, July 27, at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton.

Laird, a Marshfield native, longtime statesman and former United States Secretary of Defense, has been a member of Marshfield Clinic's National Advisory Council since 1982.

Each year, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters honors men and women of extraordinarily high accomplishments in their fields by naming them fellows. The Wisconsin Academy, founded in 1870, brings the sciences, arts and letters together to create a world of ideas and solutions, taking an interdisciplinary approach to advancing thought and culture in Wisconsin.

Marshfield Clinic Executive Director Reed E. Hall accepted the award on behalf of Laird, who was attending a family reunion that had been planned for over a year and was unable to accept in person.

"Mr. Laird's relationship with Marshfield Clinic extends over many decades," Hall said at the ceremony. "He personally knew and worked with many of the early physicians at the Clinic. He helped to mold the Clinic to what it is today with his encouragement of research, education, high quality care and our health insurance program."

At the ceremony, Hall also noted that Marshfield Clinic is honored to be home of the Melvin R. Laird Center, which houses the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Epidemiology Research Center, Rural Cancer Research Center, Center for Medical Genetics, Robert F. Froehlke Conference Center and George E. Magnin Medical Library.

Since the 1940s when he served in the Wisconsin State Senate, Laird has played a key role in furthering the mission of Marshfield Clinic, including helping secure medical research grants. As an influential member of Congress, especially as the ranking member of the Health, Education and Welfare Appropriations Committee, Laird worked for the expansion of America's medical research programs and facilities. He shepherded many health and educational initiatives through Congress, including the present legislative authority for health maintenance organizations.

In his ongoing efforts to contribute to the advancement of health care worldwide, Laird has repeatedly confirmed his support for core areas of research at Marshfield Clinic, such as human molecular genetics, cancer molecular genetics, agricultural and epidemiological research, rural and agricultural health and safety, reproductive toxicology, and molecular and cellular biology.

Laird was elected to Congress in 1952 and represented Wisconsin's Seventh District in the United States House of Representatives until 1969. Hall said that during this time Laird played an integral role in successfully sponsoring 12 regional cancer centers, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Library of Medicine. Laird also worked tirelessly to expand the National Institutes of Health, the National Environment Center in North Carolina and many other health-related programs.

Between 1956 and 1967, Mr. Laird was appointed as an expert on the treatment of mental illness to the U.S. Delegation to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland by three Presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

President Nixon appointed Laird Secretary of Defense in 1969, a position he held until 1973. At the Defense Department, Laird was best known for the disengagement of United States combat forces in Vietnam, ending the draft and designing the All-Volunteer Service.

In 1973 and 1974, Laird served as White House Counselor to the President for Domestic Affairs, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Throughout his lifetime, he has received more than 300 honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Lasker Award for Promoting Medical Research.

After retiring from public service in 1974, he became counselor to the Reader's Digest Association, a position he holds today. He also served for many years as a Director of the Dewitt and Lila Wallace Trust, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of more than 10 nationally prominent corporations.

"I know that Fellowship in the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters will be one of Secretary Melvin Laird's most cherished awards," said Hall. "On behalf of Secretary Laird and his family, thank you."

The Marshfield Clinic system consists of 41 patient care and research and education facilities in northern, central, eastern and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.

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