In Memoriam Eugene Lang

Eugene M. Lang

Eugene M. Lang, founder of “I Have a Dream” Foundation, died at his home in Manhattan at the age of 98 on April 8, 2017. We send our condolences to his family, friends and the thousands of Dreamers, staff members, mentors and volunteers whose lives he has touched.

Said Debra Fine, CEO, “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles (IHADLA), “Very sad but so historic. Eugene Lang started what has become helping to end the cycle of inter-generational poverty by having those who are impoverished, our dreamers, graduate from high school and go on to live better lives! Nationwide, the foundation has helped more than 17,000 at-risk youth and their families. In Los Angeles, we have served over 7,200 people because, in addition to sponsoring Dreamers, we also help Dreamers’ siblings, parents, schools, and local communities.”

Elda Villecillos-Sawyer is an “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles alum who came back to work with IHADLA as a member of the Executive Office staff, as well as a Program Coordinator.

“Meeting Mr. Lang was one of the greatest honors I was able to experience. His legacy will carry on through generations. Thank you Mr. Lang for making so many dreams come true, and for inspiring hope and impacting change in the education of so many Dreamers.” ~ Elda Villecillos-Sawyer

Eugene Lang with I Have a Dream Foundation - Los Angeles Elda Villecillos-Sawyer
“I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles’ Elda Villecillos-Sawyer with Eugene Lang at IHDF’s National Convention in 2008

Eugene Lang contributed more than $150 million to charities and institutions during his lifetime.

“Giving should not be mechanical, it should be the fruit of one’s feeling, love and sense of responsibility. Giving is not giving back. There is no quid pro quo. Giving is self-fulfillment.” ~ Eugene Lang

“Nothing you do will ever go to waste. The ripple effects can be beyond imagination.” ~ Eugene Lang

Eugene Lang with original Dreamers in 1985.

“We honor the passing of Eugene Lang, the founder, 35 years ago, of ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation. He leaves a legacy of empowering thousands of low income students to become high school graduates and go to college. May his legacy live on for all of our ‘Dreamers’. It is a time to pull together for the good of all of our youth in need.” ~ I Have a Dream Foundation – Los Angeles CEO, Debra Fine

From I Have a Dream Foundation National:
“The ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation family deeply mourns the loss of our founder, Eugene M. Lang. Mr. Lang’s visionary leadership and steadfast determination forever changed the lives of the 18,000 plus Dreamers who have been part of “I Have A Dream” since the program was launched. Mr. Lang had a belief that was ahead of its time: given the opportunity and encouragement, all children have the innate ability to reach their educational potential and realize their goals in life. Mr. Lang’s example of developing a personal relationship with Dreamers, offering a full range of support services beginning in elementary school and continuing through college and providing tuition assistance for college has not only become the bedrock of the “I Have A Dream” program, it has also served as the inspiration for dozens of other programs whose work follow in the footsteps of Eugene Lang. All of us at the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, and especially our remarkable Dreamers, will forever be indebted to Eugene Lang for the indelible impact he had on our lives. We will continue to carry out his legacy until every child in America has an equal opportunity to realize their dreams and fulfill their aspirations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lang family who we know will continue to pursue the passion for equality and justice that were so much a part of what made Eugene Lang the extraordinary person he was. J. Ronald Terwilliger, Board Chair Donna A. Lawrence, President & CEO”

From Eugene Lang’s New York Times obituary:
‘A life-long New Yorker, Lang was born in 1919 to Daniel and Ida Kaslow Lang, immigrants from Hungary and Russia. He attended P.S. 121, and at the age of 15, entered Swarthmore College on a scholarship. He graduated in 1938, and subsequently added degrees from Columbia University in Business and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in Engineering. In later years, he was awarded 45 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities across the country. Lang pursued his business career through REFAC, an international company he founded in 1952, 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 extend their business interests to include 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, as well as commendations for distinguished service on seven overseas trade development and policy missions of the U.S. Commerce and State Departments. He gradually wound up his business activities in order to focus on his philanthropic work, after establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation.
Commentators often described Lang as the “most creative philanthropist in America.” The combination of entrepreneurial instincts and creative imagination that fueled his diverse business ventures around the world characterized his philanthropic ventures as well.  He initiated education, health and arts enterprises that are recognized for their ingenuity and transformational accomplishments. The recipient of many honors, he was deeply honored to receive the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton. President George H.W. Bush also designated him as a “Point of Light.” In 2008, the National Conference on Citizenship named him “Citizen of the Year.”
In 1981, Eugene Lang created the “I Have a Dream” Program, inspiring hands-on philanthropy nationwide. Following Lang’s example, “I Have a Dream” Foundation sponsors collectively provide sustained personal support to many thousands of low-income children during their K-12 years, plus college scholarships. I Have a Dream Foundation – Los Angeles was created in 1987.’ For more on the story please see our History.

Stephen Lang and Stephanie Andujar with Eugene Lang at the 2010 I Have a Dream Foundation Spring Gala
Stephen Lang and alum Stephanie Andujar with Eugene Lang at the 2010 I Have a Dream Foundation Spring Gala

‘In 2001, Mr. Lang founded “Project Pericles” to encourage and help colleges and universities to incorporate education for social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential parts of their educational programs.  He also endowed and otherwise supported facilities, scholarships, academic projects, and student and faculty initiatives at many colleges. His initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History and New York- Presbyterian Hospital have exposed scores of underserved middle school and high school students to science and health careers, taught them study and research skills, and helped make them leaders in their schools and communities. The development of a community-based health research center at New York Hospital-Queens is among his most far-thinking projects and his support of the renovation and operation of the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC helped transform a community.
Mr. Lang 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 Independent Liberal Arts Colleges and Project Pericles, board member of the Columbia University Business School, where he established the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, and lifetime trustee of The New School. He founded the undergraduate school of the New School, Eugene Lang College, which is known, like its founder, for creative innovation and excellence in higher education in New York. 
A funeral service will be held at Congregation Emanu-El of New York, Fifth Avenue at 65th Street, New York, NY on April 12, 2017 at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to any of the many organizations Mr. Lang supported.

Eugene Lang with son Stephen Lang and grandson Daniel Lang at 2009 I Have a Dream Foundation Spring Gala
Eugene Lang with son Stephen Lang and grandson Daniel Lang at 2009 I Have a Dream Foundation Spring Gala

New York Times April 9 Story: Eugene Lang, Investor Who Made College Dreams a Reality, Dies at 98
October 1985 New York Times Story About Eugene Lang and the Original Dreamers
Original Dreamer Story

We welcome you to share your Eugene Lang story in our comment section.