Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Eugene M. Lang
1988 Businessman and Philanthropist

Eugene M. Lang is a prominent American businessman and philanthropist who has donated more than $150,000,000 to many worthy causes. Born to immigrant parents in New York City in 1919, he attended Swarthmore College as a scholarship student. He later went on to earn his MS business degree from Columbia University. In 1951 he founded REFAC Technology Development Corporation, where he helped create diverse manufacturing ventures in the United States and abroad, to great success and commendation. Since 1997 he has ceased all business ventures and focused on his charitable efforts.

One of Lang’s many philanthropic projects is the I Have a Dream Foundation, which he started in 1981. Like many of his efforts, this foundation focuses on education – a program to support and guide disadvantaged students academically from kindergarten through college. Through state and federal support for this project, Lang’s foundation now benefits thousands of American children. Another of his education related organizations is Project Pericles, which he founded in 2001 to encourage American college students to be politically active and engaged.

Mr. Lang’s interest in education has also led him to make large monetary contributions to different universities, such as The New School in New York City, whose undergraduate liberal arts college now bears the name Eugene Lang College. Similarly, he is Chair Emeritus of Swarthmore College and a board member of the Columbia University business school through his generous gifts to both those institutions. Lang’s dedication to education earned him a special recognition from President Bush, who designated him a “Point of Light.”

Mr. Lang’s other honors include the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President Clinton in 1996. However, he claims his greatest success was his marriage to his late wife, Theresa, and their family, which now comprises of three children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.