Theodore “Bill” Lay II
Spouse name and family information: Gayle D. Lawson Lay ’71; two sons, Montgomery A. Lay and Geoffrey W. Lay, and five grandchildren.
Millikin major: Biology
Other degrees: Master of Political Science, Auburn University at Montgomery
Current employment: Retired in 2014 as chief of staff at Leidos Holdings Inc.
Why did you choose MU?
I was impressed with Millikin's size and the reputation of its pre-medical program. When I visited campus for the first time, it was comfortable since I was coming from a small town. In addition, someone I admired was a Millikin graduate who recommended I go to MU. Also, Millikin’s director of admissions was a high school classmate of my father’s, and one of my former basketball coaches was also in admissions.
What activities did you participate in as a student at MU?
I enjoyed participating in track, cross country and swimming. I was also selected to co-chair Parents’ Day during my freshman year. I was a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, serving as vice president, and was a Greek Interfraternity Council member. While in Decatur, I was fortunate enough to coach the YWCA and Decatur Park District swim teams my junior and senior year.
What are some of your accomplishments since graduating from Millikin?
I married my wife of 48 years, who is responsible for my many opportunities and success. After graduation, I joined the Air Force in December 1971 as an airman, retiring 33 years later as a Major General. One of the things you learn when you pick a military career is that you continue to go to school. Some of the programs I completed include Air Force Squadron Officer School, Air Force Fighter Weapons School, Air Command and Staff College and the National War College. As a senior officer, I also attended the Executive Program Manager’s Course, Defense Systems Management College, The Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, and the Executive Course at the Kennedy School of Government.
During my USAF career, I was fortunate to command a fighter squadron, combined group, two of the largest wings in the Air Force and a numbered Air Force. My experience includes immersion in the interagency of the U.S. government and multinational environment, including complex negotiations, hosting and leading international seminars.
While serving in the Joint Staff, I was detailed to travel around the world with Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Additionally, I had the challenge of being a lead negotiator during four- party talks between Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the United States. This was one of the most frustrating missions I had throughout my military career.
Prior to transitioning to a civilian career, I was the Deputy Director of NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway. My responsibilities included serving as the senior U.S. military officer in Scandinavia while leading personnel from 24 nations in the combined NATO and Norwegian headquarters.
During my civilian business career, I gained considerable business, management and ethics experience. Shortly after transitioning from the Air Force, I joined Science Applications International [a defense, aviation, information technology and biomedical research company] and served as an account manager and an operations manager. During the time at SAIC, I was asked to serve on the Employee Ethics Committee and later selected to be the director of ethics. When SAIC split in September 2013, I became senior vice president of ethics compliance, policy & governance at Leidos Holdings, Inc. My final move prior to retiring was to serve as chief of staff of Leidos as we merged with a portion of another contractor, doubling the size of our company.
When not supporting the Big Blue, what is your favorite thing to do?
Gayle and I enjoy visiting our family and spoiling our grandchildren and grand-dogs.
Who is your most memorable MU professor or staff member and why?
Dr. Lester Shell [former professor of biology] was a great professor, mentor, and person who always had time to listen or offer assistance.
What is your most memorable MU experience?
My most memorable experience was meeting my future wife on a yellow school bus heading to freshman camp.
What is one concept you learned at Millikin that you use regularly?
What advice do you give to current Millikin students about preparing for life after graduation?
Do the job you have to the best of your ability and you will receive the recognition you deserve.
Other family members who are also Millikin alumni or students:
Sister Roberta E. Lay Cotton ’73