Renowned philanthropist and member of Swarthmore College’s 1938 graduating class member Eugene Lang is man of many firsts, including founding the REFAC Technology Development Corp. in 1951, which holds crucial patents on elements essential to ATM machines, camcorders, electronic keyboards and other technology.
However, his recent gift of $50 million to his alma mater may outdo even Lang’s heralded generosity. According to officials at Swarthmore, the school will use the money to construct new engineering and science facilities and help to extend connections between the college’s engineering program and many of the other disciplines that comprise liberal arts education.
“Gene Lang has once again shown us that his vision is as boundless as his generosity,” said Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp. “He continues to support and inspire the heart of our campus. Through his generous contributions, Mr. Lang has helped better connect the arts to the core of our liberal arts program, strengthen the college’s curricular and fundamental commitment to social responsibility, and now, through this extraordinary gift, he will help assure Swarthmore’s future as a model of innovation and leadership in all of the liberal arts.”
Lang’s philanthropy has stretched across generations. He has established several pro-education foundations, including establishing the “I Have a Dream” foundation in 1981. That was followed by Lang’s “Project Pericles,” in 2001, and the Lang Youth Medical Program in 2003.
“Higher education in the 21st century will serve its students – and society – best if it focuses on knowledge design, real-world problem solving, and basic research,” Lang said through a statement released by the college. “Because Swarthmore combines engineering with a strong liberal arts education, the college is uniquely situated to meet those contemporary needs. It is deeply rewarding to be able to steward Swarthmore’s strong commitment to the creation of knowledge and the use of that knowledge to improve the lives of others.”
Lang is also the namesake of The New School’s undergraduate liberal arts college – “The Eugene Lang College,” – and has also lent his name to Columbia’s University’s Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship.
But Swarthmore College remained Lang’s main benefactor, and Lang and the school have a long and enduring relationship, as Lang has supported the college for more than four decades. Currently, Lang serves as chair emeritus of Swarthmore College’s board of managers.
According to the college, Lang, a 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, has a long history of philanthropic involvement with Swarthmore. In addition to the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, his gifts have included support for the Lang Music Building, the Eugene and Theresa Lang Performing Arts Center, endowed professorships, support for faculty research and student financial aid, and programs that support students who design and carry out innovative service projects.
In the more than 30 years of the Lang Opportunity Scholars Program, more than 200 students have completed projects to promote the common good in more than 70 cities and 30 countries.
“I find it inspiring to be at Swarthmore and to be able to talk with students and to respond to their interests and ideas,” Lang said. “The spirit of Swarthmore and the role of Swarthmore in our society is that of a progressive, creative social force. I feel very proud, but also fortunate, in thinking of things that would add to the college.”