William M. Layson
William M. Layson, 86, died peacefully on December 8, of dementia and lymphoma. He was born on September 24, 1934, in Millersburg, Kentucky, to Zed C. and Louise McIntyre Layson. Bill grew up working on the family’s tobacco farm and had a lifelong devotion to the people and land of Bourbon County. He attended Millersburg Military Institute, then went on to MIT, where he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and, in 1963, a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Bill held a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Sydney and research positions at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland; the University of California, Berkeley; and Pan American’s space flight program at Satellite Beach, Florida. In 1970, he joined a fledgling, San Diego–based defense contractor, Science Applications International, and led the opening of the company’s Washington DC office with an initial focus on space and missile systems work. He spent the next three decades helping SAIC grow into a diversified, Fortune 500 company with over 13,000 employees in the DC–area at the time of his retirement as Senior Vice President in 1999.
While Bill strongly identified as a scientist, he had a wide-ranging intellect and loved to explore philosophical, theological, and political questions. He was an active member of Falls Church Presbyterian Church, where he served as an Elder and Deacon and, for many years, led the adult Sunday School class. He was a strong supporter of education and greatly enjoyed the arts, particularly ballet and opera. Among the many institutions he supported are: the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Arena Stage, Langley School, the Nomadic Kenyan Children’s Educational Fund, Madeira School, and MIT, where he endowed a Presidential Fellowship in physics for beginning graduate students.
Throughout his life, Bill welcomed an ever-expanding family, embracing everyone with warmth and love. He always said, “My family is my greatest joy.” We will remember his immense love, his relish for life, and the passion and intellectual vigor that he brought to all aspects. Bill is survived by his children Jacqueline (J.D.) Somers, Jason (Alexis Wolfe) Briceno, Erik (Karen) Briceno, Hana (Adam Davis) Layson, Felicia (Tony) Evans, Scott (Diane) Burson, and his late wife Lex’s children, Ingrid Kramer and Neil (Amy) Kramer; ten grandchildren; his brothers Charles (Diane) Layson and Zed (Pam) Layson; and many beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Friends and family are welcome to attend a graveside service at Millersburg Cemetery, Kentucky, at 10:00 AM on Friday, December 18. Contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church, Millersburg, Kentucky. A memorial service will be held at Falls Church Presbyterian Church, Virginia, at a future date.