Michael R. Leaveck

WASHINGTON D.C. — Michael R. Leaveck, long-time advocate for Vietnam veterans and their families and a specialist in fine art, died on April 2, 2020 in Washington, DC as a result of a traumatic brain injury. He was 73 years old.

A native of Gay, Michigan in the upper peninsula, Michael graduated from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in 1964 and enlisted in the US Navy, where he served from 1964 to 1967 as a crypto technician aboard three different ships operating in Vietnamese territorial waters. He then moved to California, where he received a BA degree from California State University, Stanislaus in 1973 and immediately joined Cal State Stanislaus as its first Coordinator for Veterans Affairs. In this position, Michael created a program that provided specialized services to over 900 returning veterans at the peak of their enrollment at the university. In 1980, Michael moved to Sacramento to become the staff specialist on veterans policy for the California Legislature’s Assembly Select Committee on Veterans Affairs and drove significant policy changes for veterans, including strengthening California’s veterans home loan program and passing legislation authorizing the building of California’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

After 17 years in California, Michael moved to Washington, DC in 1984, becoming the Legislative Director and later Director of Public Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), where his legislative strategies led to establishment of the right to court review of veterans benefits claims and preservation of the VA store-front counseling program, known as the Vet Centers. Michael then served from 1989 to 1996 as Deputy Director of the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, established by a US District Court to manage part of the $240 million Agent Orange class action lawsuit settlement, and oversaw the distribution of over $70 million in grants to 73 agencies in 100 communities in the 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

From 1997 to 2000, Michael managed the campaign mounted by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) to pressure the US to join the international effort to ban landmines, which resulted in VVAF receiving the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as the coordinating agency of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. In 2002, he directed VVAF’s initiatives to raise awareness of the impact of landmines on war-ravaged countries and to push for the US to sign the Mine Ban Treaty that bans anti-personnel land mines.

As part of his advocacy for veterans, Michael was the co-author of The Legacy of Vietnam Veterans and Their Families: Survivors of War, Catalysts of Change in 1995 and was a contributor along with Colin Powell, Stanley Karnow and others to Why Vietnam Still Matters: The War and the Wall published by The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in 1996.

Michael’s other passion was collecting, restoring and selling fine art and he operated a small business in Washington, DC from 2003 until his death. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Nancy Glick of Washington, DC, his great niece, Tara Nooyen and her family in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and his cousin Frederick Michael (Mick) Jarvi and his family in Gay, Michigan.