Our Founder

  • IMG - Lang Our Founder

    In 1985, Eugene M. Lang's generous gift transformed a small New School undergraduate program known for its seminar-style teaching into a distinct liberal arts college within the university. In acknowledgment of his generosity and his vision for undergraduate education, this new school was named Eugene Lang College. Since then, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts has embodied the values of its founder: a strong commitment to academic excellence and to linking liberal arts education with civic engagement.

    Mr. Lang was a son of immigrant parents and grew up in New York City during the Great Depression. He attended public schools and was admitted to Swarthmore College on a scholarship at age 15. He graduated with a major in economics. While working successively as a writer of business reports and a production planner and factory manager for an aircraft parts company, Mr. Lang earned an MS business degree from Columbia University and studied mechanical engineering at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

    For more than 60 years, Mr. Lang's work focused on starting diverse manufacturing ventures based on innovative projects and technologies. He pioneered licensing and technology transfer as practical ways for small American manufacturers to extend their businesses to foreign markets. Nation's Business once described him as "a father of innovation" and Forbes magazine called him "the quintessential entrepreneur." He was also a strong public advocate of small business interests. Mr. Lang received the U.S. government's "E" Award from President John F. Kennedy and commendations for distinguished service on overseas trade development and policy missions of the U.S. Commerce and State Departments.

    After establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 1963, Mr. Lang increasingly devoted himself to philanthropy, especially the improvement of education and health. In 1981, he launched the "I Have a Dream" program, which provides sustained personal guidance and support to many thousands of low-income children (identified as "Dreamers") throughout their K-12 years, and a college opportunity. Project Pericles, another of Mr. Lang's philanthropic endeavors, is a nonprofit that encourages colleges and universities to foster social responsibility and participatory citizenship among their students. In 1997, Mr. Lang retired from the business world to dedicate himself entirely to his philanthropic endeavors.

    Mr. Lang endowed and otherwise supported facilities, scholarships, and academic and student initiatives at many colleges. He was a longstanding trustee of The New School, the chair emeritus of the Swarthmore College board of trustees, a founder and chair emeritus of the Conference of Board Chairs of Liberal Arts Colleges, and a board member of the Columbia University Business School, where he established the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship. He received many distinctions and awards for his support of education, including more than 40 honorary degrees. President George H.W. Bush designated him a "Point of Light" and President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country's highest civilian award.

    In 2012, Mr. Lang pledged a new gift to Eugene Lang College at The New School. In a letter to the university community announcing the gift, President David Van Zandt noted it was made in honor of Dean Stephanie Browner's strong leadership and her vision for the future of Eugene Lang College. Fittingly, this gift was publicly announced at a Project Pericles event at The New School.

    Mr. Lang said his biggest successes were his marriage to the late Theresa (Volmar) Lang and his family, raised in an environment of love, respect, interaction, achievement, shared values, and social responsibility.

    In April, 2017, Mr. Lang passed away peacefully in his home. The New School remembers Mr. Lang as an extraordinary educational visionary and university trustee who paved the way for the transformation of our college into a leading liberal arts school. 

    Read Dean Browner's message to the community honoring Mr. Lang's life and work.