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William Winder Laird & Mary du Pont Nursing Scholarship

Rosa Laird Hayward McDonald, CBE, Hon, established this scholarship in honor of her parents William Winder Laird and Mary du Pont Laird. The scholarship is awarded based on Delaware residency, need and academic ability. This scholarship is renewable for all four years of study if criteria continue to be met.

Family history sent to us from Rosa McDonald's son, Pierre Hayward, states William Winder Laird "was born on January 4, 1878.... Mary A.B. duPont was born on November 30, 1878. They were married on October 14, 1904 and had 5 children: Mary Belin (Molly), William WinderII (Chick), Alletta d'Andelot (Letty) and twin girls, Wilhelmina Weymss (Mina) and Rosa Packard (who created this scholarship).

When Uncle Winder was growing up, he was considered physically the strongest and most rugged of the Laird boys. When in his late teens, a runaway horse dragged him for some distance. This injured his back to the extent that it restricted his physical activities somewhat for the rest of his life. He was in no sense a cripple but did suffer from severe back pains which would lay him up for several days at a time.

He had a strong interest in the family and was most generous to his brothers and sisters. As he accumulated considerable wealth, he helped to educate practically all of the Laird nieces and nephews.

I do not know how he gravitated to Wilmington, nor how he met Aunt Mary. The family should thank their lucky stars that he did both. The financial assistance he gave made life much happier for all concerned.

His marriage in 1904 to a member of the duPont family undoubtedly helped him to get started in the financial scene here. This occurred about the same time that Pierre, Coleman and Alfred I. duPont bought the DuPont Company from the elder du Ponts who were considering selling to the Laflin-Rand Company. This transition, plus the very considerable growth of the DuPont Company during World War I years, created an atmosphere conducive to investment. Uncle Winder started Lair & Company, which under his guidance, soon grew to be the largest investment company in this area. Later, he took in George Bissell and Holliday Meeds as partners and the company became known as Laird, Bissell and Meeds.

Uncle Winder was a man of great vision, judgment and business acumen. He would have succeeded without any financial help from Aunt Mary's family.

When they were first married, they lived at 2200 Kentmere Parkway until "Windmar" was built around 1906.

It was there that the first Christmas Eve family party was held in 1908. These parties were the high spot of the Christmas season for us children. We each received a ten dollar gold piece from Uncle Winder and probably our nicest Christmas present from Aunt Mary. She would start in January of each year to buy presents for the Laird and duPont relatives for the following Christmas.

...Aunt Mary was a lovely jolly person with a delightful giggle and an abiding affection for her in-laws. She was quite domestic and, like most of the du Ponts, she deplored extravagance or anything suggesting that she was throwing her weight around because of wealth.

I remember so well the times she would take me riding in her electric car which she drove sedately at 15-20 miles per hour. This was not by design. That was the maximum speed it could attain! On many occasions we would visit members of her family. This gave me the opportunity to know many of the duPonts in the home environments.

Aunt Mary maintained intimate contact with the Lairds after Uncle Winder's death. She established a Laird Trust Fund to be operated by Chick Laird for the benefit of the family. This assured a continuation of the considerable financial aid which Uncle Winder and she gave while they were alive.

Aunt Mary was one of the finest women it has been my privilege to know.

My paternal grandfather, Winder Laird, an enormously successful stockbroker, died at age 49 in 1927. He had had a heart condition for some years. (In fact, my father often said that five of the men closest to him in his family all died at an average age of 49, mostly from heart problems. Throughout our entire childhood, my mother, brothers and I were all terrified that Daddy would also die at age 49.)

However, Grandfather Laird did not die of a heart attack; he died as a result of a hunting accident. He was out hunting duck in the marshes at the Kinloch Gun Club, in South Caroline, where he went yearly to relax with friends and relatives. A friend he was with accidentally shot a hole in the bottom of the boat they were in. the boat sand before they could get back to shore. In the icy November water, Grandfather caught pneumonia. He died five days later, the day he had planned to return home.

According to various obituaries, he had come to Wilmington in 1901 as a cashier with the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, but by 1903 he entered the newly-formed Wilmington Trust Company. He rose fast within the bank's hierarchy, winding up as Vice President, a position he held for many years. His real strength was in investing, thought, and in 1913 he formed his own firm, Laird and Company. Soon the management of the firm became burdensome, so he brought in to replace himself as president his talented friend L. Scott Townshend. When three years later Scott Townshend suddenly sickened and died, Winder asked George Bissel and Holliday Meeds to take the reins. The expanded firm, Laird, Bissell and Meeds, became one of the outstanding brokerage firms in the mid-Atlantic region. It soon had an office in New York, and Winder spend much of each week there. In addition, he was a Director of several other businesses and banks in Philadelphia and Wilmington. He was very active in civic affairs. He was therefore away a lot.

He apparently made up for it when he returned home. Chick described how Winder would sid and tell stories, play guitars with Uncle Pack and sing with the children. Molly and Chick both absorbed Winder's musicality in these sessions, and making music was important to them lifelong. When I was a young woman collecting songs, Daddy gave me hundreds of pages of words to songs Grandfather used to sing.

My grandmother spent hours reading to him and talking while he rested, which was a necessity for his weak heart and his ever-troublesome back. His older children adored him and benefited from his presence and support. The twins, being only age eleven when he died, deeply regret they never really knew him. When I asked them about him, Rosa and Mina both replied, in almost the same words, "I'm sorry I can't tell you. I was so young, and he spent a lot of time in New York."

Articles at the time of Winder Laird's death are effusive in their tributes to him and give a sense of his personality:

"At all times and in all places he was the courtly gentleman who possessed the happy faculty of fitting himself, gracefully and graciously, into any environment in which he found himself, and that, too, without doing violence to any of his cherished convictions. He had a heart which brimmed with love for his fellow-man, and when he reached a point in his wonderfully successful life in which he could indulge his generous impulses, thousands of men, women and children felt the beneficent influence and saving grace which flowed from his desire to share with others the good fortune which had come to him in such rich measure and so early in life.

Nor was Mr. Laird content with that generous giving. He accompanied it with a charming graciousness and courtliness of manner which conveyed to his beneficiary the felling that Mr. Laird was favored by the acceptance of the benefaction which he was bestowing in his effort to make life brighter and better for one of his less fortunate human fellows. ....In fact, although a wise and wide awake representative of the present day school in business, civic and social relations, Mr. Laird's courteous bearing to wear all with whom he associated savored strongly of the gentleman of the old school, who has so many admirers and so few exemplars in our present time.

....Possessed of a keen sense of right, it was characteristic of him that he should give loyal adherence to those things which he believed to be right and to cling tenaciously to them, often to his own disadvantage and when easier paths were wide open for him to follow....He was a devoted husband and father, a loyal and helpful friend, and kind and considerate neighbor, and a patriotic and useful citizen."(Wilmington Evening Journal 11/21/1927)

Mary Alletta Belin duPont Laird was known as Aunt Mary to most of the family, but her immediate family all called her Dookie (pronounced like "bookie") "because she walked like a dook (duck)" . Family films show her walking with a noticeable waddle. She grew up one of the middle children of Mary Belin and Lammot du Pont, the latter of whom was killed in an explosion when she was still very young. In that era women of all ages were expected to stay home and concentrate on "kinder, kirche, kuchen" (children, church and kitchen). This Dookie did, but she also had a wide variety of other talents and interests.

Chick and Letty both told me that Dookie loved designing buildings and was very good at it; if she were alive today she would not doubt be a professional architect. She designed the family's home, Windmar, and Letty's house, Letdown, contributed ideas for the renovation of our house at Louviers, and masterminded makeovers for many of the houses on nearby Brecks Lane, formerly lived in by DuPont powder workers.

She spent hours tending her beautiful flower garden. She needle pointed chair-seats and pillows, some of which still survive. She actively if quietly participated in the new Tower Hill School, which Winder helped found, giving emotional and financial support to single female teachers in particular. Her "Lekky" was legendary--several former neighbors of Windmar have told me how excited they were as children when, as she often did, she offered them rides home in her distinctive electric car. It steered with levers instead of a steering wheel and was altogether a fascination conveyance.

When Grandfather died, Dookie was devastated. Their marriage had been a very happy one, and in many ways she never recovered from her husband's death. Eleven years later she died at age 59 of breast cancer. Both are buried in the du Pont cemetery in Greenville."

Spring application deadline: December 1st
Fall application deadline: May 1st

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