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Laya M. Wiesner

Laya W. Wiesner, widow of former president Jerome B. Wiesner, died Monday night due to complications from polymyositis, a degenerative muscular disease. She was 79.

"I admired her for both her leadership on and off campus and the national scene and her dedication to making MITa broadly creative institution,"said President Charles M. Vest.

"Laya Wiesner was a remarkable woman with an indomitable spirit,"said Catherine M. Stratton, widow of former president Julius Stratton. "She was incredibly courageous, allocating her energy to the causes which mattered most to her - civil rights, mentoring MITwoman students in the fields of science and engineering."

While Jerome Wiesner was president, Laya took on a variety of tasks, including serving on the advisory committee on women and work and the advisory board of the child development center. In 1973, she organized the workshop on Women in Science and Technology, which discussed the challenges and opportunities for women with leaders from government, the commercial sector, and education.

Laya Wiesner also was very active outside the Institute. She was a leader of the League of Women Voters, and served as state chairwoman of its human resources committee from 1964 to 1966. She also served on the Massachusetts Governor's Advisory Committee on Child Development and the board of the Cambridge School of Weston.

"Laya Wiesner was a great first lady for MIT,"said Elizabeth W. Johnson, wife of Howard Johnson, who preceded Jerome Wiesner as president. "She had compassion, wide-ranging interests and a special concern for woman at the Institute as well as in society. Her quiet courage and bravery in her last difficult years were admired by everyone who knew her."

The Wiesners met at the University of Michigan while she was an undergraduate. When they married in 1940, she had received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and he had completed most of his doctoral work in communications engineering.

They first came to the Institute in 1942 when Jerome Wiesner joined the Radiation Laboratory. From 1961 until 1964, they lived in Washington as Jerome served as President Kennedy's science advisor. In 1964, they returned to Cambridge when Jerome Wiesner was named Dean of the School of Science.

While Jerome Wiesner served as president, the Wiesners lived in Watertown, using the President's house for informal meetings.

Laya Wiesner is survived by four children and two brothers. Memorial services were held yesterday in Brookline.

The family requests that memorial donations be sent to the Myosytis Association of America, 1420 Huron Court, Harrisonburg, Va. 22801.