For more than 40 years, Fran Lair dedicated himself to cooperation. He was instrumental in the creation of Universal Cooperatives and served as its first President and CEO. He continuously extolled the virtues of cooperatives, emphasized the importance of co-ops working together, and encouraged international cooperative trade to levels not previously reached.
He served on the board of MSI Insurance, helping to launch the Mutual Service Fund to provide financial assistance to co-ops for education and development. He also served for 22 years on the National Cooperative Business Association board, and helped organize the Farm Credit Leasing Corporation.
Lair reached out beyond co-ops themselves to promote cooperation. Early in his career he organized “town meetings” to encourage area residents to become acquainted with their local and regional cooperatives. He was one of the early leaders of the Group Health Mutual Insurance Company (now HealthPartners), a cutting edge Health Maintenance Organization. He was also active in the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives’ youth education and training programs.
Perhaps his most lasting contribution, however, was the development of an effective Co-op label that is the pre-cursor to today’s nutritional food labeling.