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Archives & Manuscripts

Eugene M. Lang papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG6-R3-009

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of letters between Eugene M. Lang and his wife Theresa, from 1944 (shortly before their marriage) into the 1960s, while Eugene was travelling extensively internationally for business; as well as the text of speeches given by Eugene Lang from 1970 into the early 2010s. There are also a large number of letters between Eugene and his parents while he was a student at Swarthmore College, 1934-1938, and coursework from Swarthmore classes. The collection contains some additional correspondence and a small amount of other material, including drawings by Eugene, newspaper clippings, a few photographs, and other documents. There are also 6 reels of 8-mm film.

Series I. "Correspondence with parents" primarily consists of letters sent between Eugene Lang and his parents while Eugene ("Len") attended Swarthmore College from 1934-1938. Eugene writes in some detail about his life at college, discussing student groups, pranks, and other aspects of campus life as well as reporting on his classes. He receives criticism from his parents who express concern that he may not be focusing enough on his studies, that he may be too worried about fitting in, and that he may be neglecting his Jewish identity at the Quaker college. There is also some discussion of other family members and family matters.

In series II. "Letters to Theresa," Eugene ("Gene") writes to his wife Theresa ("Terry") while travelling for business in locations across the world. He write most frequently from Asia (Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc.) and Europe (Geneva, Paris, London, etc.) as well as locations in South America and the South Pacific. He writes of family matters, travel and cultural experiences, and, to a limited extent, his business dealings.

In series III. "Letters from Theresa," Theresa writes to Eugene primarily about household affairs, the children, and her social engagements.

Series IV. "Other (Miscellaneous)" includes Eugene and Theresa Lang's letters with other correspondents (besides each other and Eugene's parents), as well as some miscellaneous notes, drawings, and other documents. Notably, there is a file of writings by Eugene Lang, a file of clippings about his philanthropy, and a file of information about his businesses (Heli-Coil and REFAC).

Series V. Films and Photographs consists of 6 reels of 8-mm film and a few photographs. The films, which date from 1947-1954, depict scenes of family life, particularly the children of Eugene and Theresa Lang. The photographs are copies mounted to foam core, and depict Lang at various stages of his life.

Series VI. "Coursework" consists of class notes, blue book exams, and essays written for courses Lang took at Swarthmore, 1934-1938. There is also a copy of his B.A. thesis for Swarthmore, and his M.S. thesis for Columbia Business School.

The final series, Series VII. "Speeches" consists of speeches given by Eugene Lang from 1970 into the early 2010s.

Dates

  • 1919 - 2012

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is available for research use. Access to the films is limited due to the fragility of the films.

Copyright and Rights Information

Literary rights and copyright have been assigned to Friends Historical Library. Inquire with the Friends Historical Library Curator for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Eugene M. Lang (1919-2017) was an American businessman and philanthropist, known for founding an innovative intellectual property firm and for his support of higher education. A 1938 graduate of Swarthmore College, Lang served on the Board of Managers for decades and was one of its most generous donors.

Daniel Lang (1894-1982) came to the United States from Hungary in 1913 and settled in New York City, where he worked as a machinist. In 1917 he married Ida R. Kaslowitsky (1895-1966), also an immigrant to the United States, and she found work as a schoolteacher. Their son, Eugene M. Lang (“Gene”) was born March 16, 1919, and their daughter Barbara was born two years later.

In 1934, Eugene M. Lang was working as a waiter when one night he was called to fill in for a coworker who was out sick. He served George B. Jackson, a New York Quaker businessman, a graduate of Swarthmore College (class of 1921) and member of the College’s Board of Managers. Impressed by Lang, Jackson encouraged him to apply to Swarthmore despite the tuition seeming unaffordable for the son of Jewish immigrants. Lang applied and was admitted with a scholarship that enabled him to attend. He earned a B.A. in economics from Swarthmore in 1938, followed by an M.S. in business from Columbia University in 1940, then he studied business at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1940-41.

In 1946 Lang married Theresa “Terry” Volmar (1918-2008). She was born in New York City in 1918 to Albert and Lucy Volmar. In 1942 she began volunteering as a nurse's aid on evenings and weekends at the Queens General Hospital, and throughout the rest of her life would remain active in hospital philanthropy. She and Eugene had three children together: Jane, David and Stephen.

Eugene M. Lang is best known for founding REFAC Technology Development Corporation (in 1951), an intellectual property firm that held patents relating to numerous products such as ATMs, bar code scanners, VCRs, and spreadsheets. REFAC has won acclaim from some segments for protectecting small-time inventors and for pioneering the use of licensing and technology transfer to help small American manufacturers establish businesses in overseas markets. At the same time, others have criticized REFAC’s tactics.

Because of his insights into foreign trade, Lang became a consultant to the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and served on official trade and investment missions throughout the world.

A 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Eugene M. Lang is also well known for his philanthropy. In 1981, he made headlines when he promised a class of sixth graders in Harlem that he would pay their college expenses if they graduated high school; this promise was formalized into the now nationwide "I Have a Dream" Foundation. Lang has supported higher education in other ways, founding Project Pericles (2001), a national not-for-profit organization that encourages colleges and universities to teach social responsibility and participatory citizenship; establishing the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia University (1996), and the Eugene Lang College at New York's New School (1985).

Eugene Lang joined the Swarthmore College Board of Managers in 1970, serving as chair from 1982-88 and chair emeritus since 1989. Lang has a long history of philanthropic engagement with Swarthmore. In addition to the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility (2001), his gifts to the College included support for the Lang Music Building (1975), the Eugene and Theresa Lang Performing Arts Center (1991), 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 community service in more than 70 cities in 30 countries. Each student's experience reflects Lang's commitment to prepare each of them for lifelong leadership in civic engagement and social responsibility. In December 2012, Lang made a $50 million gift to the College--the largest in the history of the institution.

Eugene M. Lang passed away in 2017.

Sources Consulted:

Andrews, Edmund L. “A 'White Knight' Draws Cries of 'Patent Blackmail.’” New York Times, January 14, 1990. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/14/business/a-white-knight-draws-cries-of-patent-blackmail.html

Obituary of Theresa Lang, New York Times, July 2 to July 3, 2008. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?pid=112622050.

Swarthmore College, Board of Managers biography for “Eugene M. Lang '38,” http://www.swarthmore.edu/board-managers/eugene-m-lang-38.

Wood, Daniel B. “Tuition Isn't the Purpose Here, the Dream Is.' Christian Science Monitor, December 10, 1985. http://www.csmonitor.com/1985/1210/dlang.html.

Extent

3.33 Linear Feet (8 document boxes)

Language

English

Overview

Eugene M. Lang (1919-2017) was an American businessman and philanthropist, known for founding an innovative intellectual property firm and for his support of higher education. A 1938 graduate of Swarthmore College, Lang served on the Board of Managers for decades and was one of its most generous donors. This collection consists primarily of letters between Eugene M. Lang and his wife Theresa, from 1944 (shortly before their marriage) into the 1960s, while Eugene was travelling extensively internationally for business; as well as the text of speeches given by Eugene Lang from 1970 into the early 2010s. There are also a large number of letters between Eugene and his parents while he was a student at Swarthmore College, 1934-1938, and coursework from Swarthmore classes. The collection contains some additional correspondence and a small amount of other material, including drawings by Eugene, newspaper clippings, a few photographs, and other documents. There are also 6 reels of 8-mm film.

Arrangement

Folders are organized chronologically within seven series: I. Correspondence with parents, II. Letters to Theresa, III. Letters from Theresa, IV. Other (Miscellaneous) letters and documents, V. Films and photographs (photographs are stored with the collection and films are stored separately), VI. Coursework, and VII. Speeches (in chronological order).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Jane Lang, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Separated Materials

Original drawings by Eugene M. Lang were returned to the donor at her request; photocopies were made and retained with the collection.

Processing Information

The collection was received in three batches. Letters and films were received in 2015; coursework was added in 2017; and speeches were added in 2018.

Prior to donation, the letters were roughly sorted by the donor. During processing, the items were organized in chronological order to the item level.

Prior to donation, the speeches were sorted by the donor into alphabetical order, together with a list/index by subject. This order was retained.

Original drawings by Eugene M. Lang were returned to the donor at her request; photocopies were made and retained with the collection.
Author
Celia Caust-Ellenbogen
Date
2018 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

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