For over 60 years, Eugene M. Lang pursued a business career, creating diverse manufacturing ventures in the United States and abroad based on new products and innovative technologies. He became recognized internationally as having pioneered licensing and technology transfer as practical means for small American manufacturers to establish their business interests in foreign markets. Reflecting his accomplishments, Forbes Magazine characterized him as “the quintessential entrepreneur” and Nation’s Business “a father of innovation.” An active protagonist of small business interests, he received the Government’s “E” Award from President Kennedy — also, commendations for distinguished service on seven overseas trade development and policy missions of the Commerce and State Departments.
After establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 1963, Lang increasingly devoted himself to philanthropy, mainly in education, and in 1997 terminated all business activities. In 1981, he created the now nationwide “I Have a Dream” Program that provides sustained personalized guidance and support to many thousands of under-served children (identified as “Dreamers”) throughout their K-12 years, plus a college opportunity. The Program’s success has inspired federal and state legislation that has benefited millions of children.
In 2001, Lang established Project Pericles, an organization that engages colleges and universities to encourage the effective participation of young Americans in the processes of our democracy. He has also endowed and otherwise supported facilities, scholarships, academic projects and student initiatives at many colleges.
Mr. Lang had service relationships with many institutions. He was Chair Emeritus of Swarthmore College, founder and Chair Emeritus of the national “I Have a Dream” Foundation, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Conference of Board Chairs of Liberal Arts Colleges, board member of the Columbia University Business School where he established the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, and emeritus board member of The New School whose undergraduate liberal arts college bears his name. He received many distinctions and awards, including over forty honorary degrees. Recognizing his services to education, President Bush designated him a “Point of Light” and President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country’s highest civilian award.
Born of immigrant parents in 1919, Lang grew up in New York City. During the Great Depression, he attended public schools and, at age fifteen, was admitted as a scholarship student to Swarthmore College. An economics major, he graduated in 1938 and was employed successively as a writer of business reports and production planner for an aircraft parts company while earning an MS business degree from Columbia University and taking mechanical engineering courses at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Married for more than 62 years to his beloved Theresa (Volmar) Lang, they had three children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He claimed that his biggest success has been his marriage and the strong sense of family that has grown continuously within an encompassing environment of love, respect, interaction, achievement, shared values, and social responsibility.
Eugene Lang passed away on April 8, 2017 at the age of 98. His life was celebrated in national and international media outlets and by organizations that he profoundly influenced: