Medical Research Advocate, Lawmaker Weicker Is Mourned
The only person for whom two NIH buildings have been named, Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., died June 28 at age 92. The former governor of Connecticut who had also served as a U.S. representative and senator was best known in the biomedical research community for championing scientific investigations into understanding HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s and backing up his stance by advocating in Congress for additional resources.
“Buildings come and buildings go, but reputations—and sometimes, solidly built historic buildings—actually endure; this one does. So for all these reasons, the pairing of the Lowell P. Weicker personality and impact on history with Bldg. 4 is a very good fit,” said then-NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in May 2015, when Bldg. 4 was rededicated in Weicker’s name. In 1991, Dr. Bernadine Healy, NIH director at the time, had named Bldg. 36 in honor of the Republican senator; that structure later gave way to the newly constructed neuroscience research center on campus, leading NIH to dedicate one of its original edifices as the new Weicker Bldg.
“My wish for this building is that generations bring their skills, their talents together in the interest of life,” Weicker said at the ceremony.
Weicker was one of the first senators to hold congressional hearings on AIDS and led the call in the Senate for funding to address the disease. When he served as chair of the Senate Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee, NIH’s budget grew from $4.3 billion to $6.7 billion—56 percent—in just 5 years.
“Very few politicians were courageous enough to support the scientific and public health measures necessary to address a newly recognized disease that affected mostly the disenfranchised,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the Bldg. 4 ceremony. “Sen. Weicker was one of the few and the brave. At that time, the leadership on Capitol Hill was desperately needed and Lowell provided it.
“Lowell has been truly a unique, visionary leader and a loyal friend to NIH.”